Proposed Guidelines to protect both Music Teachers and Students – a starting point for discussion

Yesterday saw the horrendous news of the conviction of and 11-year jail sentence for Philip Pickett on charges of rape and sexual assault of students while he was teaching at the Guildhall School. Here is the original list of charges against Pickett from last year; I do not wish to say much more specific to this case, not least because of the possibility of further trials; suffice to say that I believe a good deal more will be made public about both actions and the complicity of others.

If anything good is to come from this case, I hope it may help to put pressure for a proper international debate about the nature of music education and the possibilities for abuse and exploitation therein. I blogged in some detail about this last December, in response to an excellent article by Damian Thompson in the Spectator. Yesterday I published an article on the film Whiplash in terms of its representation of bullying and abuse in teaching, on The Conversation , and a wider article in The Telegraph about abuse and elite music teaching, in particular raising the controversial question of whether self-regulation is ever likely, and whether that a system which places enormous powers of patronage in a few people’s hands needs a greater degree of external accountability (which would mean political/governmental intervention). Naturally, I would expect there to be and would welcome a range of different opinions on these subjects, but feel strongly that the debate needs to be had amongst music educators worldwide, and more widely in the profession.

With this in mind, I wanted to post here a set of draft guidelines for instrumental and vocal teachers and students at a tertiary level (generally 18 or over) in terms of their dealings with one another, as a starting point for discussion. I drafted these around 18 months ago (which included other guidelines on such things as when it is/is not appropriate to cancel a lesson, not so relevant here), and whilst they have not yet been taken up, I hope very much at some point they or something like them will be.

I would welcome all thoughts on the below, including new suggestions, disagreements, and so on. I accept some will disagree with my views on physical touching (I suggest this is OK so long as one asks permission) and whether student-teacher relationships or sexual encounters are ever permissible (I argue that where they happen, or one or other party demonstrates agency with the intention of inducing such a thing, then both parties should act like adults and report things, their formal teacher-student relationship brought to an end without other negative consequences, then they are free to continue like any other two adults). But I think we should be talking about these things, in order to arrive at a humane system which protects both students and teachers.


Guidelines for Teachers

• In general, treat your student with respect as a human being, independently of your reflections on the quality and extent of their achievements as a performer. This should be borne in mind at all times.

• Remember that you are there to help the student, rather than their being there in order to enhance your own reputation.

• It is your choice how you wish your student to address you, whether by first name or title and surname. It is advised to clarify this to the student at the beginning of a lesson.

• Where there are serious problems concerning a student and their progress, you should try and discuss these with the relevant member of staff as soon as possible.

• It is accepted that teachers will naturally need to voice criticisms of a student’s playing or singing, sometimes severe criticisms. This should always be framed in such a way as to make clear that the criticisms relate solely to the student’s achievements (or lack of) specifically in terms of their work as a performer, not to their wider qualities as a person. Criticisms should be balanced with encouragement in the form of positive steps forward in order to improve.

• Use language which makes the above clear: for example, instead of saying ‘You are a very poor player’, say ‘You really do need to do considerable work in order to improve’, followed by suggestions of what form that work might take, or (if necessary) ‘It will be very difficult in the time available to you here to attain the level necessary in order to gain a high mark in your recital’. Similarly, avoid other generalities such as ‘You have no technique’ or ‘You are profoundly unmusical’, in favour of the likes of ‘I have to tell you that a good deal of work is necessary if you wish to achieve a higher technical level’, or in the second case, focusing on specific things the student needs to consider in order to be able to produce a more musically satisfying performance.

• You should always avoid any type of deliberately demeaning or belittling language of a personal nature towards a student, especially that designed to undermine their confidence. This can include undue and harsh sarcasm, deliberate aloofness and coldness, ignoring a student, negative comparisons with others, insensitive jokes, setting unrealistic demands, malicious rumour-mongering, threats, sexual or racial harassment, or anything which might be construed as ‘bitchy’. It is no justification for this to argue that such talk and attitudes are commonplace in the professional musical world.

• A student’s personal life is their own business, and discussions of this should generally only be undertaken when personal issues have a direct impact upon their performing. If a singer or other musician’s lifestyle – in terms of problems to do with sleep, maintaining good health, and so on – is impinging upon their singing, then it is legitimate to raise this issue. If a student raises the issue of difficulties arising from family, health or relationship issues, and wishes to talk about it, this is fine, but you should not feel under any obligation in this respect. In general, such matters are better discussed with the appropriate member of staff, who has pastoral responsibility, and who can communicate directly with you about them.

• When teaching a student, avoid befriending them on social media. [Personally I believe this is a principle worth observing for undergraduates, but which can be more flexible with postgraduates.]

• If you wish to make physical contact with a student in order to demonstrate some matter relating to performing, you must first ask their permission to do so. This can be done at the beginning of a series of lessons in order to facilitate so doing in general (but this must then be made clear to the student), or separately on individual occasion. If the student is unhappy with such physical contact and declines, this must be respected, and physical contact must then be avoided.

• Under absolutely no circumstances should there be any touching which can be construed as being of a sexual or unduly intimate nature.

• However, it is accepted that much music – especially for singers – relates to matters of an intimate and sometimes sexual nature, and it is legitimate to discuss this in lessons. But please always respect boundaries here, and be clear that you are talking about the music or the role, not directly about the student.

• Whilst in general conservatoire students are aged 18 or over and are technically adults, remember that they are still in a very early stage of adulthood, likely to be dealing with many pressures due to being away from home for the first time, having to negotiate possible loneliness, homesickness, coping with a degree of independence likely to be unprecedented for them, and of course a demanding course. It is best to work with the assumption that they are thus likely to be at a vulnerable stage in life, and should be treated with corresponding sensitivity.


Guidelines for Students

• You should always treat your teacher with respect and courtesy, be punctual for lessons, and acknowledge the help they are able to give you.

• Your teacher can choose how they wish you to address them, whether by first name, title and surname, or otherwise, and you should respect this. It is advised that this is clarified in the first lesson.

• Whilst you are certainly encouraged to solicit your teacher’s advice concerning the extent of your progress, or on future study, avoid asking such questions as ‘Do you think I can make it as a performer?’ or other such things which might put your teacher in a difficult position.

• If asking your teacher what they imagine would be your likely mark for a recital, on the basis of how you are performing at the time of asking the question, bear in mind that their answer will be an approximation, and is in no sense binding.

• Avoid flirtatious or overly ‘forward’ behaviour towards your teacher such as might place him or her in an awkward situation.

• Teachers may wish to make physical contact in order to demonstrate some matters relating to performance. They are required to ask your permission before so doing, either at the beginning of a series of lessons in order to establish that this is generally acceptable, or on individual occasions. If you do not wish this, you are entirely within your rights to refuse. Such physical contact should never be of a sexual or unduly intimate nature, nor should you respond to it in such a fashion.

• Never use any abusive or offensive language towards your teacher.

• When there are personal matters – for example relating to family, health or relationships – which might affect your performing, you are advised first to speak to your personal tutor, who can discuss these sensitively with your teacher.

• Your teacher often has a life and career outside of their work at your institution. Avoid gossiping about them, even amongst other students, including with respect to the nature of their other activities, as this can have the potential to be hurtful and demeaning. Any form of rumour-mongering, sexual or racial harassment, aggressive behaviour or threats towards your teacher will be treated with the utmost seriousness.

• Your teacher is not your friend on social media, and you should not request that they befriend you on there. [Personally I believe this is a principle worth observing for undergraduates, but which can be more flexible with postgraduates.]

• If you wish to record lessons for other reasons (so as to have a more permanent record for your own study purposes), you must ask your teacher first, and must also respect their wishes if they decline this request. (But see also Guidelines for both Teachers and Students below)


Guidelines for both Teachers and Students

• In the event of any serious worries about the nature of the relationship between teacher and student as made manifest verbally in lessons, either the teacher or student can request that the lessons be recorded. In this situation, the appropriate individual should be informed of this.

• In the event of any type of romantic or sexual liaison between a tutor and student – which can include any form of agency on either part with the intention of inducing such a thing, whether or not this is fulfilled – it is an essential requirement that both teacher and student report this to an appropriate individual. As a general rule it will be considered that in such a situation the relationship has assumed a degree of intimacy which is no longer compatible with a normal teaching relationship, and the student will be assigned to a different teacher, but without further consequences for either party.


Index of articles

The articles presented on this blog fall into four categories: those on music and musicology, politics, abuse-related material, and other articles. The articles on abuse are indexed separately here. Here I index the rest of my blog articles.


MUSIC AND MUSICOLOGY

Yefim Golyshev, Arnold Schoenberg, and the Origins of Twelve-Tone Music (2/9/14)

Musicological Observations 1: Björn Heile, Lauren Redhead and myself on the relationship between scholarship and new music (18/9/14)

Musicological Observations 2: Do some musicologists really like music? (12/4/15)

Musicological Observations 3: Multicultural Musicology for Monolingual Academics? (22/4/15)

Musicology is not Musical PR (25/8/13)

A comprehensive and brilliant critique of Taruskin’s Oxford History of Western Music (28/10/12)

Second part of Franklin Cox’s critique of Taruskin’s Oxford History of Western Music now available (15/11/13)

Hierarchies in New Music: Composers, Performers, and ‘Works’ (29/9/13)

The fetish of the ‘contemporary’ (5/11/13)

In Praise of Mic Spencer (2/5/15)

Interview from International Piano, Nov-Dec 2006 (3/12/14)

Interview between Ian Pace and Michael Finnissy on English Country Tunes, February 2009 (3/12/14)

Remembering Bob Gilmore (1961-2015) (3/1/15)

TEMPO – the bankrupt musical journal slashing items relating to composers accused of abuse (3/3/15)

The Johannes Kreidler protest at Donaueschingen about the fusion of the radio orchestras at Baden-Baden/Freiburg and Stuttgart – a discussion (from Facebook!) (7/11/12) (more readable version here)

Statement from the Gesellschaft für Neue Musik concerning the Kreidler protest at Donaueschingen (30/11/12)

Musical Patronage – A Question from Marc Yeats and an invitation to others to debate this here (14/5/15)

The British Composer Awards have been criticised in terms of gender. But what about race? (14/12/13)

The whiter-than-white world of published British composers, and some wider thoughts (15/12/13)

British Composer Awards – updated figures in terms of ethnic representation (3/12/14)

Students taking A and AS-Level Music – declining numbers (13/11/14)

Siegfried at the Royal Opera House, October 2012 – some reflections (8/10/12)

Proposed Guidelines to protect both Music Teachers and Students – a starting point for discussion (21/2/15)

Article from Music Teacher Magazine on Safeguarding, with Guidelines for Teachers and Students (27/4/15)

Clifford Hindley: Pederasty and Scholarship (3/3/14)

Research Paper at City University, November 12th, on ”Clifford Hindley: The Scholar as Pederast and the Aestheticisation of Child Sexual Abuse” (3/10/14)

Marcel Gazelle and the Culture of the Early Yehudi Menuhin School (7/5/13)

Robert Waddington, Former Dean of Manchester Cathedral, and Chetham’s School of Music (12/5/13)

Alan Doggett, first conductor of Joseph and Jesus Christ Superstar, and the Paedophile Information Exchange (28/3/14) (an updated version of original post from 7/3/14)

Peter Righton’s Diaries: Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears and Michael Davidson (11/5/14)

Benjamin Britten and Peter Righton – A Response from the Britten-Pears Foundation (12/9/14)

Geoff Baker on El Sistema: sexual and other abuse in an authoritarian, hierarchical, archaic music culture (15/11/14)

Reported Cases of Abuse in Musical Education, 1990-2012, and Issues for a Public Inquiry (30/12/13) (this post is in need of some updating to mention other cases during the period in question)

The Trial of Michael and Kay Brewer and the Death of Frances Andrade, and the Aftermath, 2013 (12/8/14)

New article on abuse and classical music by Damian Thompson in the Spectator, and some wider reflections on classical music and abuse (5/12/14)

Abuse minimisation as an example of the writing of history as kitsch (14/7/13)


POLITICS

How well or badly did the parties really do, in terms of votes, in the 2015 General Election? (9/5/15)

The rises and falls of the centre parties in the UK since 1918 (9/5/15)

Predictions for the 2015 UK General Election (27/1/15)

To the metropolitan, academic and cultural left – who do you know who thinks these things? (11/5/15)

MPs in terms of gender, ethnicity and state/private education – some figures and reflections (9/2/14)

Blairite Lord Adonis attacks MPs who send their children to private schools – and Mehdi Hasan calls for the banning of private education altogether (7/9/12)

Be very sceptical about online communications laws which protect the powerful – social media and the right to offend (20/10/14)

Judith Butler responds to the hate campaign following her being awarded the Adorno Prize (29/8/12)

Tuition Fees for Higher Education in the UK lead to a record drop in applications (9/8/12)

Petition for Amnesty for Students at London Metropolitan University (3/9/12)


ABUSE-RELATED MATERIAL

See separate index here.


OTHER

The Working of Cultural Studies (11/4/15)

Forthcoming Study Day on Counter-Hegemonic Play and Ageism (11/4/15)


Index of major original articles on abuse

I am in the process of preparing longer bibliographies of both published and online articles relating to issues of institutionalised abuse, specifically the areas on which I have concentrated – abuse in music schools and private schools, the Paedophile Information Exchange, and abuse involving politicians. Having recently reblogged a large number of articles from the Spotlight blog, I realise my site may not be so easy to navigate, so I am providing here a list with links of all my significant original articles.


General

New Cross-Party Group of MPs calling for Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (3/6/14)

Please contact your MP to ask for their support for a national inquiry into child abuse (5/6/14)

The stock government reply to queries about a national inquiry into organised child abuse (15/6/14, also regularly updated)

Peter McKelvie’s response to Sir Tony Baldry MP (9/7/14)

British Association of Social Workers contacts its 14K members calling for them to support organised abuse inquiry (20/6/14)

Published Articles on Geoffrey Dickens, Leon Brittan, and the Dossier (2/7/14)

Dickensgate – Guest Blog Post by Brian Merritt on Inconsistencies in Leon Brittan’s Accounts (6/7/14)

House of Commons debate 26/6/14 following publication of Savile reports (26/6/14)

On the Eve of Possible Major Revelations – and a Reply to Eric Joyce (1/7/14)


Abuse in Musical Education and the Music World

Reported Cases of Abuse in Musical Education, 1990-2012, and Issues for a Public Inquiry (30/12/13) (this post is in need of some updating to mention other cases during the period in question)

The Trial of Michael and Kay Brewer and the Death of Frances Andrade, and the Aftermath, 2013 (12/8/14)

Proposed Guidelines to protect both Music Teachers and Students – a starting point for discussion (21/2/15)

New stories and convictions of abuse in musical education, and the film of the Institute of Ideas debate (11/1/14) (also in need of updating)

Petition for an inquiry into sexual and psychological abuse at Chetham’s School of Music and other specialist institutions (original version – each version has a different long list of comments) (16/2/13)

Petition for an Inquiry into Sexual and other Abuse at Specialist Music Schools – The List of Signatories (19/2/13)

Re-opened until May 31st, 2013 – Petition for an Inquiry into Abuse in Specialist Music Education (9/5/13) (the final version)

A further call to write to MPs to support an inquiry into abuse in musical education (26/11/13)

In the Aftermath of the Brewer Sentencing – A Few Short Thoughts and Pieces of Information (27/3/13)

Michael Brewer – a powerful Director of Music, not just a provincial choirmaster or music teacher (28/3/13)

Chris Ling’s Views on Sexing Up Classical Music (11/2/13)

Robert Waddington, Former Dean of Manchester Cathedral, and Chetham’s School of Music (12/5/13)

Contact details for Greater Manchester Police relating to Chetham’s (11/4/13)

Publication of Reports into Chetham’s by ISI and MCC – Senior Management and Governors should consider their position (3/4/13)

New Surrey Safeguarding Report on suicide of Frances Andrade draws attention to dangers of music education (10/4/14)

Marcel Gazelle and the Culture of the Early Yehudi Menuhin School (7/5/13)

Craig Edward Johnson, the Yehudi Menuhin School, Adrian Stark, and wider networks? (8/4/14)

Contact Details for Surrey Police, in relation to the Yehudi Menuhin School (11/5/13)

Philip Pickett arrested on 15 charges, and interview with Clare Moreland in The Times (14/2/14)

The case of Ian Lake, and reflections on the year (30/12/13)

Clifford Hindley: Pederasty and Scholarship (3/3/14)

Abuse minimisation as an example of the writing of history as kitsch (14/7/13)

New article in Times Educational Supplement on abuse in musical education – and public debate on October 19th, Barbican Centre (3/10/13)

A message from another victim of abuse at a UK music school, calling for others to come forward (25/11/13)

Call to speak out on bullying and psychological/emotional abuse in music (9/1/14)

Alan Doggett, first conductor of Joseph and Jesus Christ Superstar, and the Paedophile Information Exchange (28/3/14) (an updated version of original post from 7/3/14)

New revelations on Alan Doggett, and Colin Ward’s 1981 article on Doggett and Tom O’Carroll (25/3/14)

Further on Alan Doggett – child prostitution and blaming victims at Colet Court School (28/3/14)

Peter Righton’s Diaries: Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears and Michael Davidson (11/5/14)

Benjamin Britten and Peter Righton – A Response from the Britten-Pears Foundation (12/9/14)

Geoff Baker on El Sistema: sexual and other abuse in an authoritarian, hierarchical, archaic music culture (15/11/14)


The Paedophile Information Exchange (PIE) and associated areas

NCCL and PIE – documentary evidence 1 (25/2/14)

NCCL Documentary Evidence 2 – Sexual Offences – Evidence to the Criminal Law Revision Committee 1976 (7/4/14)

PIE – documentary evidence 2 – from Magpie 1-8 (trigger warning – contains disturbing material) (26/2/14)

PIE – documentary evidence 3 – from Magpie 9-17 (trigger warning – contains disturbing material) (26/2/14)

PIE – documentary evidence 4 – UP, ‘Childhood Rights’, and Paedophilia – some questions and answers (27/2/14)

PIE – Documentary Evidence 5 – Contact Ads (9/3/14)

PIE – Documentary Evidence 6 – Chairperson’s Report 1975/76 (16/3/14)

PIE – Documentary Evidence 7 – Steven Adrian Smith’s History of the Movement (31/3/14)

PIE – Documentary Evidence 8 – Mary Manning in Community Care and Auberon Waugh in The Spectator, 1977 (16/7/14)

The PIE Manifesto (6/3/14) (link to Spotlight blog from 18/4/13)

PIE and the Home Office: Three+ members/supporters on inside, funded, magazine printed and phone line (15/3/14)

PIE and the Gay Left in Britain – The Account by Lucy Robinson – plus various articles newly online (29/6/14)

Antony Grey and the Sexual Law Reform Society 1 (26/8/14)

Antony Grey and the Sexual Law Reform Society 2 (29/9/14)

Tim Tate – Chapter on Paedophiles from book ‘Child Pornography: An Investigation’ (4/8/14)

Mary Whitehouse and Charles Oxley on PIE – and another letter to Leon Brittan (8/7/14)

Published Articles on Geoffrey Dickens, Leon Brittan, and the Dossier (2/7/14)

Dickensgate – Guest Blog Post by Brian Merritt on Inconsistencies in Leon Brittan’s Accounts (6/7/14)

The File on Peter Hayman in the National Archives (30/1/15)

Two Obituaries of Peter Hayman, Senior Diplomat, MI6 Officer and PIE Member (6/3/14)

Clifford Hindley: Pederasty and Scholarship (3/3/14)

Peter Righton – His Activities up until the early 1980s (21/8/14)

Letter to Guardian from 1963 from a Peter Righton on Books dealing with Sex for 14-year olds (20/8/14)

Peter Righton’s Articles for Social Work Today (5/6/14)

Peter Righton and Morris Fraser’s Chapters in ‘Perspectives on Paedophilia’ (5/6/14)

Peter Righton, Antony Grey and Kevin O’Dowd in conversation on therapy (26/8/14)

Peter Righton was questioned about child sex offences in May 1993 and November 1994 (21/8/14)

The Larchgrove Assessment Centre for Boys in Glasgow that even Peter Righton found to be cruel (20/8/14)

Brian Taylor and Ken Plummer’s Chapters, and Bibliography, from ‘Perspectives on Paedophilia’ (29/6/14)

Peter Righton’s Diaries: Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears and Michael Davidson (11/5/14)

Benjamin Britten and Peter Righton – A Response from the Britten-Pears Foundation (12/9/14)

Peter Righton – Further Material (12/6/14)

Peter Righton obituary in Ardingly College magazine (16/7/14)

From the memoirs of John Henniker-Major, 8th Baron Henniker (1916-2004) (3/3/15)

Dr Morris Fraser, Belfast, Long Island New York, Islington (17/10/14) (This is a link to a post on Charlotte Russell’s blog, but so important I wanted to include it here)

The Love and Attraction Conference (1977) and Book (1979) (7/7/14)

Betrayal of Youth (1986) – including the contributions of Middleton, Owens, Faust, Tatchell (5/7/14)

Academia and Paedophilia 1: The Case of Jeffrey Weeks and Indifference to Boy-Rape (29/9/14)

The Uranians #1 – the nineteenth/early twentieth century PIE? (24/5/14)


Public Schools

Alan Doggett, first conductor of Joseph and Jesus Christ Superstar, and the Paedophile Information Exchange (28/3/14) (an updated version of original post from 7/3/14)

New revelations on Alan Doggett, and Colin Ward’s 1981 article on Doggett and Tom O’Carroll (25/3/14)

Further on Alan Doggett – child prostitution and blaming victims at Colet Court School (28/3/14)

Craig Edward Johnson, the Yehudi Menuhin School, Adrian Stark, and wider networks? (8/4/14)

Extraordinarily powerful article by Alex Renton on the abusive world of British boarding schools (4/5/14)

Colet Court School and St Paul’s: A Collection of Articles from The Times (8/5/14)

Benjamin Ross’s account of Colet Court School (8/5/14)

Criminal abuse in the classroom as portrayed by D.H. Lawrence (4/5/14)


Politicians, Government and Abuse

General

What leading UK politicians should pledge about organised child abuse (17/10/14)

The Meeting with the Abuse Inquiry Secretariat at Millbank Tower, Friday October 31st, 2014 (1/11/14)

Labour’s nominees for inquiry chair, and a left ‘establishment’ (6/11/14)

Elm Guest House: Vigil, September 15th, 2014, and Links to Newspaper Reports (16/9/14)

New Cross-Party Group of MPs calling for Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (3/6/14)

Please contact your MP to ask for their support for a national inquiry into organised child abuse (5/6/14, regularly updated).

The stock government reply to queries about a national inquiry into organised child abuse (15/6/14, also regularly updated)

British Association of Social Workers contacts its 14K members calling for them to support organised abuse inquiry (20/6/14)

Peter McKelvie’s response to Sir Tony Baldry MP (9/7/14)

House of Commons debate 26/6/14 following publication of Savile reports (26/6/14)

On the Eve of Possible Major Revelations – and a Reply to Eric Joyce (1/7/14)

A few good politicians – Becky Milligan at the office of Simon Danczuk, with Matt Baker, and the personal impact of abuse campaigning (18/7/14)

Ed Miliband should be leading the calls for a wide-ranging abuse inquiry (3/5/14)

Article from Telegraph – Simon Danczuk on child sex allegations involving senior Westminster figures (15/5/14)

PIE and the Home Office: Three+ members/supporters on inside, funded, magazine printed and phone line (15/3/14)

Who are the Mystery Liberal MPs Des Wilson refers to? (27/4/14)

Sir Maurice Oldfield, Sir Michael Havers, and Kincora – guest blog post from Brian Merritt (10/7/14)

William Malcolm, the murdered paedophile who may have been about to expose a VIP ring (21/7/14)


Leon Brittan and Geoffrey Dickens

Published Articles on Geoffrey Dickens, Leon Brittan, and the Dossiers (2/7/14)

Dickensgate – Guest Blog Post by Brian Merritt on Inconsistencies in Leon Brittan’s Accounts (6/7/14)

Leon Brittan – A guest post by Tim Tate on the investigations into and evidence relating to him (23/1/15)

Leon Brittan – Interview with Tim Tate on BCFM, 23/1/15 (24/1/15)

Leon Brittan, Special Branch and the creation of a surveillance state (25/1/15)

Douglas Hurd on Leon Brittan at the Home Office (5/7/14)


Peter Morrison

Peter Morrison and the cover-up in the Tory Party – fully updated (6/10/14)

Yes, Labour politicians need to answer questions about PIE and NCCL, but so do the Tories about Morrison, and the Lib Dems about Smith (25/2/14)


Fiona Woolf

Fiona Woolf, Leon Brittan and William Hague – conflicts of interest (11/9/14)

Fiona Woolf – the untruth in her letter to the Home Secretary (21/10/14)

Moira Gibb – her views on physical punishment, response to Kensington and Chelsea abuse, and child deaths in Camden under her watch (25/10/14)


Scottish networks

Colin Tucker, steward to Fiona Woolf, Fettesgate and the Scottish ‘Magic Circle’ Affair, and Wider Networks – Part 1 (28/10/14)

Colin Tucker, steward to Fiona Woolf, Fettesgate and the Scottish ‘Magic Circle’ Affair, and Wider Networks – Part 2 (20/11/14)

A new transcription of the audio tape of the interview with the customs officer – and some comments on the recording (29/7/14) (relates to allegations against a former cabinet minister)


Lambeth and the New Labour Politician

Abuse in Lambeth, Operation Ore, and the Blair Minister(s) – Press Reports so far (16/7/14)


Greville Janner and Frank Beck

Judge in 1991 Leicestershire sex abuse case on ‘people in high places’ (24/5/14)

Full set of reports from the 1991 Frank Beck Trial #1 (24/5/14) (these reports say much about the allegations against former Labour MP Greville Janner which were made in court)

Full set of reports from the 1991 Frank Beck Trial #2 (24/5/14)

Full set of reports from the 1991 Frank Beck Trial #3 (10/7/14)

Full set of reports from the 1991 Frank Beck Trial #4 (10/7/14)

Full set of reports from the 1991 Frank Beck Trial #5 (10/7/14)

Decision not to arrest Greville Janner in 1991 – then Attorney General and DPP need to answer questions (8/8/14)

The documents in the Andrew Faulds archives on Greville Janner (4/10/14)

Greville Janner was very drawn to children – some press clippings (16/4/15)

Greville Janner’s view on a 1997 case of Nazi War Criminal with dementia (16/4/15)

And another case with Janner calling in 2001 for extradition of war criminal with dementia (16/4/15)


Other

Child abuse and identity politics – the normalisation of abuse on such grounds (18/7/14)

Gore Vidal – paedophile, literary lover of child rape (11/8/14)

Germaine Greer’s Apologia for Child Abuse (27/6/14)

More pro-child sexual abuse propaganda from Germaine Greer (12/11/14).

Academia and Paedophilia 1: The Case of Jeffrey Weeks and Indifference to Boy-Rape (29/9/14)

The Uranians #1 – the nineteenth/early twentieth century PIE? (24/5/14)

Simon Callow on the paedophile exploits of André Gide, Oscar Wilde, Lord Alfred Douglas and others (31/7/14)

Liz Davies’ Open Letter to Margaret Hodge (3/8/14)

Paul Foot on Kincora Boys’ Home, and Recent Kincora Articles (1/8/14)

Paul Foot on Kincora – Appendix with Colin Wallace documents, and mention of Morris Fraser (9/8/14)

Claire Prentice in 1998 on Jimmy Savile, Cyril Smith, and Mummy’s Boys (30/6/14)

Mary Whitehouse’s Favourite TV Programme – Jim’ll Fix It (7/7/14)

Elm Guest House: Vigil, September 15th, 2014, and Links to Newspaper Reports (16/9/14)

Abuse in Lambeth, Operation Ore, and the Blair Minister(s) – Press Reports so far (16/7/14)

Full set of reports from the 1991 Frank Beck Trial #1 (24/5/14)

Full set of reports from the 1991 Frank Beck Trial #2 (24/5/14)

Full set of reports from the 1991 Frank Beck Trial #3 (10/7/14)

Full set of reports from the 1991 Frank Beck Trial #4 (10/7/14)

Full set of reports from the 1991 Frank Beck Trial #5 (10/7/14)

Decision not to arrest Greville Janner in 1991 – then Attorney General and DPP need to answer questions (8/8/14)

The documents in the Andrew Faulds archives on Greville Janner (4/10/14)

Be very sceptical about online communications laws which protect the powerful – social media and the right to offend (20/10/14)


Labour can and must win in England alone – and has done so several times before

The loss of all but one Labour seat in Scotland to the SNP appears to have sent shockwaves down the political establishment, as if Scotland were a much larger part of the United Kingdom – in terms of population and seats – than it actually is. It’s time for some perspective in terms of figures:

There are currently 650 seats in the whole of the United Kingdom. 18 of these are in Northern Ireland and are generally uncontested by the major parties in the mainland. This leaves 632 for England, Scotland and Wales. Of these, 533 are in England, 59 are in Scotland, 40-in Wales. England has nine times the number of seats of the next largest region.

In 2015, the breakdown of seats in the three constituent parts of the mainland were as follows:

Total: Conservatives 330, Labour 232, SNP 56, Lib Dems 8, UKIP 1, Green 1, Speaker 1

England: Conservatives 318, Labour 206, Lib Dems 6, UKIP 1, Green 1, Speaker 1
Scotland: SNP 56, Labour 1, Conservatives 1, Lib Dems 1
Wales: Labour 25, Conservatives 11, Plaid Cymru 3, Lib Dems 1

Labour continue to have a clear commanding lead in Wales; there is not at present any sign of Plaid Cymru making major advances comparable to the SNP, though of course this situation may change. The Conservatives, however, have an overall majority in England of 107 seats. Were Labour to recapture 20 seats in Scotland (which would now be a significant gain), say, they would still be a long way from denting the Conservatives majority in England.

But Labour have achieved this before. Consider these results in England alone:

1945: Labour 331, Conservatives 159, Liberals 5, Labour Independent 1, Independent Conservative 1, Common Wealth 1, Communist 1, Independent 3
1950: Labour 251, Conservatives 242, Liberals 2, National Liberals and Conservatives 4, Conservatives and Liberals 2, Conservatives and Natural Liberals 2, Liberals and Conservatives 1, National Liberals 1,
1951: Conservatives 259, Labour 233, Liberals 2, Conservatives and Liberals 2, Conservatives and National Liberals 2, Liberals and Conservatives 3, National Liberals and Conservatives 5
1955: Conservatives 279, Labour 216, Liberals 2, Conservatives and Liberals 2, Conservatives and National Liberals, Liberals and Conservatives 3, National Liberals and Conservatives 5
1959: Conservatives 302, Labour 193, Liberals 3, Conservatives and Liberals 2, Conservatives and National Liberals 6, Liberals and Conservatives 2, National Liberals and Conservatives 3
1964: Conservatives 255, Labour 245, Liberals 3, Conservatives and National Liberals 4, National Liberals and Conservatives 2, Speaker 1
1966: Labour 285, Conservatives 216, Liberals 6, Conservatives and National Liberals 2, National Liberals and Conservatives 1, Speaker 1
1970: Conservatives 292, Labour 216, Liberals 2, Speaker 1
February 1974: Conservatives 267, Labour 237, Liberals 9, Independent Labour 1, Social Democrat 1, Speaker 1
October 1974: Labour 255, Conservatives 252, Liberals 8, Speaker 1
1979: Conservatives 306, Labour 203, Liberals 7
1983: Conservatives 362, Labour 148, Liberals 10, SDP 3
1987: Conservatives 357, Labour 155, Liberals 7, SDP 3, Speaker 1
1992: Conservatives 319, Labour 195, Lib Dems 10
1997: Labour 329, Conservatives 165, Lib Dems 34, Independent 1
2001: Labour 323, Conservatives 165, Lib Dems 40, Independent 1
2005: Labour 286, Conservatives 194, Lib Dems 47, Respect 1, Independent 1
2010: Conservatives 297, Labour 191, Lib Dems 43, Green 1, Speaker 1
2015: Conservatives 318, Labour 206, Lib Dems 6, UKIP 1, Green 1, Speaker 1

(Figures taken from the UK Politics Resources site)

In five of the eight elections since 1945 in which Labour won a majority nationwide, they also won an overall majority in England. The exceptions are 1950, when the Conservatives together with associated conservative parties had a total of 252 to Labour’s 251 in England, and Labour’s overall majority in the country was just 6 seats; 1964, when Labour had a nationwide majority of only 5, excluding the Speaker; and October 1974, when Labour had a nationwide majority of only 4. Attlee in 1945 and Blair in 1997 and 2001 won commanding three figure overall majorities in England alone; Wilson in 1966 had a respectable majority of 59, and Blair in 2005 also had a perfectly serviceable majority of 45.

Furthermore, in 1945, 1997 and 2001 Labour had an overall majority in the whole of the country on the basis of its English seats alone; in 1966 it would have scraped one from its seats in England and Wales (317 out of 630). 2005 was different, however; then the total of seats in England and Wales was 315, which would still have made it the largest party by a comfortable margin, but not able to command an overall majority in the UK if the SNP had performed like they did in 2015.

Labour can win, and win decisively in England; being able to do so is key to their winning a comfortable overall majority in the country again.


Musical Patronage – A Question from Marc Yeats and an invitation to others to debate this here

The process by which musical patronage is exercised has long been somewhat shrouded in mystery, and certainly very far from open and transparent, at least as far as the most elite and prestigious forms of musical opportunities are concerned. Personally I believe this is a highly unsatisfactory state of affairs which affords far too many possibilities for favouritism, nepotism, old-boy and other informal networks, or sometimes corruption and exploitation (as I alluded to in a recent article for Music Teacher). In the UK and elsewhere in Europe, classical music is a field of activity reliant in large measure upon public money, and I believe that the processes by which some are able to advance within this field thus deserve a degree of public accountability and scrutiny. But that is just my view, others may sharply differ.

The composer Marc Yeats has framed an excellent question, previously posted on social media, which is a good starting point for discussion of this. This is as follows:

Musical Mysteries: An open question. I believe that the BBC orchestras are publicly funded. How then are composer-in-association posts advertised; is this an open and transparent process, is there opportunity for any qualified composer to apply? I only ever see the posts announced and filled, never requests for applications. Am I missing something?

I would like to invite all those in the music world (and others) to give their thoughts on this question and the associated issues in the comments section below.


To the metropolitan, academic and cultural left – who do you know who thinks these things?

I am addressing this blog post to those on the left based in London, maybe working in journalism or the media, or in academia, or in a creative or cultural field. I want to know how many people you know who think two or more of the below?

(a) Labour’s heart is in the right place, but they can’t be trusted with the economy – especially after Gordon Brown sold off our gold last time.
(b) Immigration is not necessarily bad, but has to be carefully controlled to protect British people’s jobs.
(c) The system is too soft on criminals, and tougher sentencing is needed.
(d) Terrorists and child killers deserve the death penalty.
(e) Muslims in the UK need to demonstrate their allegiance to this country.
(f) The current benefits system rewards those who are work-shy and penalises hard-working people.
(g) We should be allowed to be proud of being British again.
(h) Too many decisions are being taken for us in Europe.
(i) Multiculturalism was an experiment which failed.
(j) I work hard for my salary, as do many others, and it is wrong for the government to take it away from us.
(k) Parents and schools cannot maintain discipline with one hand tied behind their back.
(l) There are too many Scots dominating politics and the media.

Because of the nature of my work as a musician and academic, a large number of the people I see quite regularly do belong to the categories mentioned at the top of the post; my wife’s circles are a little broader. Amongst my own family and their circles I would encounter many if not all of the above often; amongst hers much less frequently.

But if you have never or extremely rarely encountered anyone who thinks two or more of the above, I would suggest you have moved in narrow circles. Enlightened ones, perhaps, but narrow nonetheless.

It is easy, all too easy, for metropolitan liberal left figures to spend so much time in the company of fellow believers so as to imagine anyone who thinks otherwise is some type of a freak. Amongst academics working in the arts, humanities and social sciences (other than economics) I could probably count on at most two hands the numbers I know of (not just have met) who would agree with several of the above. In so many of those circles, whiteness is associated almost solely with racism and the need for post-colonial guilt, maleness is about little more than macho violence and at best sublimated urges towards gang rape. The white working classes in particular are imagined to epitomise both of these things, and are one step away from storm troopers; previously they were associated with the BNP (any sign of an England flag, even during World Cup time, would be read as an unequivocal signifier of such a thing; one reason that Emily Thornberry’s notorious tweet momentarily revealed some of the toxic beliefs at the heart of a Labour establishment), nowadays a UKIP vote is assumed to betoken the same.

I am not disingenuous and would hate to minimise the severe nature of racism or sexual violence. But I am less convinced that a serious attempt to combat these things is the real motivator for many in metropolitan liberal circles; rather, they are a means for demonstrating their own sense of superiority, in a manner which is as elitist as any, combined with a dehumanising fear of any group who they can safely see as a dangerous ‘other’ without transgressing certain liberal articles of faith.

I do not believe in any of the views above, and have sometimes despaired of those who do, especially those relating to crime and capital punishment. But I do recognise that many do hold them, and that Labour needs to win some of these people over. In some ways they have done this – in the part of the country from which I hail, the North East, a previously solid Labour area though in which UKIP have made serious inroads, one will certainly encounter views on crime and immigration which would horrify many metropolitan Labourites. But a future Labour party needs to accept that at present their ideologies do not necessarily command widespread approval, and work constructively with people who might be persuaded towards their arguments. Trade Unions have not always supported campaigns for equal pay, and were sometimes actively hostile; this was not a reason for the left to abandon trade unionism, but to work constructively to try and persuade these organisations and their members to change their view, an aim which was ultimately in large measure successful.

A great many liberal intellectuals, however, preach a doctrine of identity politics which postulates absolute differences and total irreconcilabilities between groups on the basis of ethnicity, gender, and various else (drawing upon a Marxist model of the antagonistic relationship between classes – but that was about economic position, not identity). An ideology, using hideous academic buzzwords such as ‘intersectionality’, which treats with suspicion all except those who tick every box of oppression, is no basis upon which to formulate a mass movement.

The modern Labour Party is not as bad as this, but there are some similarities. There are plenty within the party who want simply to stigmatise and shame large numbers of people for their views, and would view opinions on race and immigration of many of the population as requiring little less than ‘re-education’, with all the Stalinist implications of such a term. Under the last Labour government, measures were recommended involving the keeping registers of young children who had committed any sexist, racist or homophobic transgression, even when as young as 4; this is Labour politics at its most authoritarian, eager to stigmatise anyone who steps out of line. Certainly serious prejudice, hate or bullying in schools need to be addressed, and education is needed where they are found, but all these types of measures will achieve is to alienate and breed resentment in large numbers of children and their parents.

I am deeply disappointed with last weeks’ election results, and still passionately hope for a future Labour government. My own ideological preferences would be for policies very much associated with the left of the party, or in some ways to the left of anything represented within Labour, but I am realistic enough to realise this is a small minority view unlikely to gain serious traction in the foreseeable future. I have as much as anyone decried Blairites, and Tory voters, but now see the futility and counter-productivity of this; I think they are wrong, but demonising such people is hardly the way to convince them. I was very angry in 2010 about many in my own circles who went weak at the knees about the figure of Nick Clegg during the campaign, genuinely believing him to offer an alternative to the left of Labour, but with hindsight the foolishness of such a belief has been more than demonstrated, and the party has paid a terrible price for it. These people may not have been typical Liberal Democrat voters, though, more than a few of whom might have been as inclined towards the Conservatives as towards Labour.

For now, I do not believe it is impossible to have a Labour government who will commit and deliver on progressive approaches to taxation and public spending, proper funding of health and education, strong child-care provision, a fair benefits system which provides a safety net for those at the bottom and does not consign others to poverty and misery if they need to draw on benefits, decent affordable housing, positive and productive measures to reduce sexual inequality and build mutual racial tolerance, protect civil liberties and human rights, tackle crime whilst realising its social roots, make the UK play a positive role within the EU, and work to reduce extremes of inequality. Not all of these things might be able to be achieved in one or two parliaments, but if some progress can be made towards some of them, that is much better than leaving it to the Conservatives to decimate the welfare state, the public sector and much else, as I believe they will, as well as taking Britain back to a mean-spirited, aggressive xenophobic Little Englanderism which I had forlornly hoped New Labour had consigned to history.

Labour needs to move away from a certain dominance of a metropolitan faction which achieved some prominence around the leadership of Ed Miliband, and start both talking and listening with a wider section of the population, without feeling the need to hector and preach towards them, or make amply clear that they feel the need to hold their noses. Left-wing politicians, commentators, academics and other metropolitan fellow travellers have as much to learn as to teach, though many of them cannot imagine this. The party should reject for leader representatives of their authoritarian control-freak wing, such as Yvette Cooper, and could do worse than give prominent positions to Tom Watson and Simon Danczuk, most immensely respectable MPs who have done invaluable campaigning work on the issue of VIP abuse of children (an issue about which I am absolutely sure that the wider public would share a level of revulsion that would drown out the denials from senior figures in all political parties).

There is no reason, I believe, why Labour could not win round many to at least some of the arguments above. But this will never happen until those who are not yet won round, and who think some of the views above, are treated with some respect rather than contempt.


The rises and falls of the centre parties in the UK since 1918

It is quite informative to look at the plight of the Liberal Democrats in the 2015 General Election and compare it with previous elections since 1918.

During World War One, the Liberal Party split between the mainstream party, led by Herbert Asquith, and a breakaway faction run by David Lloyd George, who was much closer to Conservative thinking on the war and headed a coalition as Prime Minister from 1916, mostly made up from Conservatives. In the 1918 election, two rival parties fought: the Coalition Liberals (Coalition Lib) under Lloyd George, and the Liberals under Asquith. The two Liberal Parties won 163 seats between them, as follows:

1918: Coalition Con, 332; Coalition Lib (Lloyd George), 127; Labour 57, Con 47, Lib (Asquith) 36, Sinn Fein 73.

In the next election, in 1922, the Coalition Liberals became the National Liberals, and together they won in total 115 seats; at the same time Labour significantly increased their representation. Labour under Ramsay MacDonald did even better in 1923, though a reunited Liberal Party under Asquith went back up to 158, at the expense of the Conservatives. The following year, following a successful motion of no confidence against a Labour minority government, the Conservatives made massive gains, with a cataclysmic loss of 118 seats for Asquith’s Liberals. No centre party have ever made a really significant come-back from this 1924 result. Labour took a great many Conservative seats in 1929 and then the reverse situation happened in 1931, with Labour suffering the worst ever defeat in its history, losing 241 seats and reduced to a rump of just 46. But Labour was able to come back and win a moderately respectable 154 seats in 1935 under Clement Attlee, who would of course lead the party to historic victory in 1945. 1931 for Labour was not like 1924 for the Liberals, who made only modest gains to 59 seats in 1929, and split again over the calling of an election at the outset of the Great Depression. The Liberals under Herbert Samuel chose to remain within the National Government, whilst Lloyd George split from it, and another grouping under John Simon was formed in support of Conservative protectionist policies as against free trade from the other two factions. Between the three factions a total of 72 seats were won. In 1935 the Liberal vote plummeted again to 21, with Samuel himself losing his seat (a precedent, also matched by Archibald Sinclair in 1945, of which Nick Clegg is sure to have been aware, and must have been glad to have avoided).

1922: Con 344, Lab 142, Lib (Asquith) 62, National Lib (Lloyd George) 53
1923: Con 258, Lab 191, Lib (Asquith) 158
1924: Con 412, Lab 151, Lib (Asquith) 40
1929: Lab 287, Con 260, Lib (Lloyd George) 59
1931: Con 470, Lab 46, Liberal National (John Simon) 35, Lib (Herbert Samuel) 33, National Labour (MacDonald) 13, Independent Liberal (Lloyd George) 4
1935: Con 386, Lab 154, Lib (Samuel) 21

The first four decades after World War Two saw a long period in the wilderness for the Liberals, never rising to more than 14 MPs prior to 1983, and in several elections falling to just 6. Archibald Sinclair, who served in the wartime government, oversaw the fall of the party to 12 seats in 1945 and the loss of his own seat (like Samuel before him), but his successor Clement Davies did even worse in three miserable elections with 9, 6, and 6 seats. Jo Grimond did little better after taking over the leadership in 1956; the most he could muster was 12 seats in 1966, but then Jeremy Thorpe, who took over the following year, took the party back down to 6 seats again. However, the uncertain elections of 1974, only the second of which produced a wafer-thin majority for Labour, benefited the Liberals a little, gaining 14 and 13 seats respectively. David Steel managed to avoid the complete disintegration of the party following Thorpe’s resignation and subsequent trial for conspiracy to murder, and they held onto 11 seats in 1979.

1945: Lab 393, Con 197, Lib (Archibald Sinclair) 12
1950: Lab 315, Con 282, Lib (Clement Davies) 9
1951: Con 321, Lab 295, Lib (Davies), 6
1955: Con 344, Lab 277, Lib (Davies) 6
1959: Con 365, Lab 258, Lib (Jo Grimond) 6
1964: Lab 317, Con 304, Lib (Grimond) 9
1966: Lab 364, Con 253, Lib (Grimond) 12
1970: Con 330, Lab 288, Lib (Jeremy Thorpe) 6
Feb 1974: Lab 301, Con 297, Lib (Thorpe) 14
Oct 1974: Lab 319, Con 277, Lib (Thorpe) 13
1979: Con 339, Lab 269, Lib (David Steel) 11

The achievements of David Steel, Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy should not be underestimated in terms of building a solid third force in British politics. Not only did Steel manage to hold the Liberal Party intact following the Thorpe resignation, but he also formed an electoral alliance with the new Social Democratic Party which broke away from the right wing of Labour in 1981. Together, the SDP-Liberal Alliance won 25.4% of the vote in the 1983 election, not much less than the disastrous 27.6% achieved by Labour under Michael Foot, but the first-past-the-post electoral system translated this into 23 seats for the SDP-Liberals as compared to 209 for Labour. Running as a tighter alliance under the joint leadership of Steel and David Owen in 1987, they nonetheless did not gain seats and lost one.

1983: Con 397, Lab 209, Lib (Steel) 17, SDP (Roy Jenkins) 6
1987: Con 376, Lab 229, SDP-Liberal Alliance (David Owen, David Steel) 22

Very soon after the 1987 election, Steel proposed a merger between the parties, which was supported by the vast majority of Liberals but bitterly split the SDP, with their leader David Owen amongst those most strongly opposed. Nonetheless, the merger went ahead, and Paddy Ashdown became the new leader, the party eventually deciding upon a name of Liberal Democrats (previously Social and Liberal Democrats). A rump SDP of anti-merger members, led by Owen, continued for two years and contested various by-elections (including an important one in 1989 in Richmond, Yorkshire, caused by the appointment of Leon Brittan to the European Commission; the Social Liberal Democrats and Owenite SDP between them gained more votes than the Conservative winner, future leader William Hague), but eventually wound themselves up in 1990 during financial difficulties, whilst a smaller rump of anti-merger Liberals never achieved any real profile.

In the 1992 election, won with a small majority by John Major’s Conservatives against the predictions of pollsters, Ashdown actually lost two seats (and vote share fell from 22.6% to 17.8%), taking the party down to 20, much bruised by the previous five years, the wounds they had created and a good deal of ridicule in the media. However, Major’s government went from crisis to crisis from the withdrawal of sterling from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism on ‘Black Wednesday’, September 16th 1992, onwards, and then was mired in a series of scandals, sexual and financial, as well as major party division, with a small anti-EU faction holding great power as Major’s majority dwindled. In 1997, despite the immense popularity of Labour leader Tony Blair, the combination of massive Tory unpopularity with the experience of four Tory election victories made many extremely cautious, and thus prepared to take part in an unprecedented amount of anti-Tory tactical voting. Ashdown’s Liberal Democrats actually fell in terms of percentage share of votes (from 17.8% to 16.8%), but this tactical concentration led to a near doubling of seats. Exactly how much this is down to Ashdown, how much to wider political trends essentially independent of his particular leadership, is unclear, but certainly the party’s position rose during his leadership. His successor, Charles Kennedy, achieved an increase to 52 seats (and 18.3% of the vote) in 2001, and an enviable 62 (with 22.0% of the vote) in 2005. Kennedy’s tenure has been marred by his resignation in 2006, at the age of 47, with reports of his drinking problem (though that was never a problem for Winston Churchill), and now he has ignominously lost his seat to the SNP. But it should not be forgotten that, even in the face of a seemingly impregnable Labour Party under Blair, he took his party to a representation they had not seen since the 1930s. Furthermore, he was the one senior Lib Dem figure to oppose the coalition in 2010, a position which with hindsight looks extremely wise.

1992: Con 336, Lab 271, Lib Dem (Ashdown) 20
1997: Lab 418, Con 165, Lib Dem (Ashdown) 46
2001: Lab 413, Con 166, Lib Dem (Charles Kennedy) 52
2005: Lab 355, Con 198, Lib Dem (Kennedy) 62

Kennedy’s successor Menzies Campbell was found to be uninspiring, and only remained leader for a little over 18 months, before being succeeded by Eurocrat Nick Clegg (with Campbell’s deputy Vince Cable acting in a transitional leadership role for two months). Following a strong media campaign in support of Clegg, and performance in television debates which was widely admired, certainly in comparison to an unpopular Labour incumbent in Gordon Brown, Clegg achieved a smaller than expected 1% rise in votes, whose distribution actually meant a loss of five seats to 57. But this was little commented-upon as the hung parliament led to the Tory/Lib Dem coalition. But the result from this week took his party to just 14.0% of their seats in 2010.

2010: Con 306, Lab 258, Lib Dem (Nick Clegg) 57
2015: Con 331, Lab 232, Lib Dem (Clegg) 8, SNP 56

Nick Clegg has completely undone the achievements of Steel, Ashdown and Kennedy, and pulled off the unenviable feat of a percentage loss of seats which exceeds even that achieved by Arthur Henderson for Labour in 1931, and a worse percentage loss for the centre parties than in any other election since 1918. In terms of numbers of seats, he has taken the party back to the types of numbers associated with Clement Davies in the 1950s or Jeremy Thorpe in 1970. He can at least console himself with the fact of holding onto Sheffield Hallam and thus avoiding the fate of John Samuel and Archibald Sinclair when they were Liberal leader (and Henderson as Labour leader in 1931).


How well or badly did the parties really do, in terms of votes, in the 2015 General Election?

My predictions from January for the election results turned out to be significantly out; but then so did almost everyone else’s, including those of Iain Dale and Peter Kellner which I cite in the above link. One small consolation, in predictive terms, is having forecast a bigger collapse in the Liberal Democrat vote than many others did; it always appeared to me that with the loss of the major tactical vote which had doubled the Liberal Democrat representation in Parliament in 1997 from what it had previously been, the party would fall away to less than 20 seats, though it is still shocking to see them fall to 8.

But in the midst of an emotional aftermath and a large amount of disappointment and disillusionment for many on the left following the unexpected result, have a look at the actual results in terms of votes and percentages, compared to 2010:

Conservatives: 10,806,015, 36.4% in 2010; 11,334,920, 36.8% in 2015.
Labour: 8,609,527, 29.0% in 2010; 9,344,328, 30.4% in 2015.
Liberal Democrats: 6,836,824, 23.0% in 2010; 2,415,888, 7.9% in 2015.
UKIP: 919,471, 3.1% in 2010; 3,881,129, 12.6% in 2015.
SNP: 491,386, 1.7% in 2010; 1,454,436, 4.7% in 2015.
Greens: 265,243, 0.9% in 2010; 1,154,562, 3.8% in 2015.
Plaid Cymru: 165,394, 0.4% in 2010; 181,694, 0.6% in 2015.
Turnout: 29,687,604, 65.1% in 2010; 30,691,680, 66.1% in 2015.

So in 2015 there was a very small increase in both Conservative and Labour votes. UKIP and the Greens had the biggest success in votes terms, both quadrupling their numbers (though UKIP started out from a much bigger base and are a very much more significant force); the SNP trebled theirs. The Liberal Democrats had by far the worst result of the above, falling to almost one-third of what they had before. Plaid Cymru achieved a very small increase.

But then look at the results in Scotland:

Conservatives: 412,655, 16.7% in 2010; 434,097, 14.9% in 2015.
Labour: 1,035,526, 42.0% in 2010; 707,147, 24.3% in 2015.
Liberal Democrats: 465,471, 18.9% in 2010; 219,675, 7.5% in 2015.
SNP: 491,386, 19.9% in 2010; 1,454,436, 50.0% in 2015.
UKIP: 17,223, 0.7% in 2010; 47,078, 1.6% in 2015.
Greens (Scottish Greens): 16,827, 0.7% in 2010, 39,205, 1.3% in 2015.
Turnout: 2,465,722, 63.8% in 2010; 2,910,465, 71.1% in 2015.

The Conservatives slightly upped their number of votes, but fell in terms of proportions by about one-eighth; Labour fell drastically, to almost half of their percentage votes, and the Liberal Democrats even more so. The SNP had a massive rise to two-and-a-half times the percentage their received in 2010, and interestingly the Greens doubled their vote, and UKIP did even better (doing better than the Greens by all measures in Scotland).

So if we therefore look at the votes for the five major national parties in England and Wales alone, we get the following figures:

Conservatives: 10,393,360, 38.2% in 2010; 10,900,823, 39.2% in 2015.
Labour: 7,574,001, 27.8% in 2010; 8,637,181, 31.1% in 2015.
Liberal Democrats: 6,371,353, 23,4% in 2010; 2,196,213, 7.9% in 2015.
UKIP: 902,248, 3.3% in 2010; 3,834,051, 13.8% in 2015.
Greens: 248,416, 0.9% in 2010; 1,115,357, 4.0% in 2015.
Turnout: 27,221,882, 65.2% in 2010; 27,781,215, 65.6% in 2015.

So here the patterns are similar to those for the UK as a whole, except for the fact that Labour gained 3.3% in England and Wales (compared to just 1.4% in the whole UK) and the Conservatives 1% (0.4% in the UK). UKIP and the Greens’ increases were both larger in England and Wales compared to the UK as a whole.

In terms of seats, in 2015 Labour gained 10 seats from the Conservatives, but the Conservatives in turn gained 8 from them, a net gain for Labour of just 2. Labour won 12 from the Liberal Democrats, but the Conservatives won 27 (their net gain in the election of seats from any other parties was 29). The Liberal Democrats had previously had a strong presence in Scotland with 11 seats; with all but one of these falling away.

Without the loss of 40 seats in Scotland, Labour would have a total of 272, 16 more than in 2010; without the huge gains from the Liberal Democrats, the Conservatives would have had 304, just 2 more than in 2010. Labour fell because its gains from the Liberal Democrats (12 seats) and Conservatives (2 net) were too modest to match their losses to the SNP (40 seats). The Conservatives lost no seats to the SNP at all and scraped a majority primarily through winning seats from the Liberal Democrats.

So the pattern appears as follows: in England and Wales Labour upped its vote by 3.3%, respectable but nothing like enough to make a real difference, largely through the collapse of the Liberal Democrat vote, but this benefited the Tories much more, either through directly taking votes or the collapse of an anti-Tory tactical vote. Labour were thrown back immensely above all by their drastic fall in Scotland. The Conservatives are very far from having won over a decisive section of the UK population; they have around 8% more than Labour in England and Wales, but have not hit 40% of those who vote. They are in a similar position to Harold Wilson after the October 1974 election, and a worse one than John Major after the 1992 election.

But for Labour, consider the percentages of the vote they have received in elections since 1964:

1964: 44.1%
1966: 48.0%
1970: 46.4%
1974a: 43.1%
1974b: 39.2%
1979: 36.9%
1983: 27.6%
1987: 30.8%
1992: 34.4%
1997: 43.2%
2001: 40.7%
2005: 35.2%
2010: 29.0%
2015: 30.4%

After the massive losses in 1983, Neil Kinnock was able to get the party almost to their 1979 levels by 1992. Ed Miliband has achieved considerably less than this. Tony Blair did not achieve the share of the vote of Harold Wilson in the 1960s (or even when Labour lost to the Conservatives in 1970) but benefited from a Conservative Party which had moved considerably to the right and lost a significant vote to the Liberal Democrats, who were also prepared to help Labour defeat the Conservatives through tactical voting. These factors have now changed; few would now appear to vote Liberal Democrat tactically against the Conservatives, and David Cameron has just about managed to convince wavering voters that the party is less toxic than it was during the Blair years.

Labour have not lost their key base of around 30% of the vote which translates into somewhere between 200 and 250 seats – though inevitable boundary changes will hurt the number of seats they can gain with the same votes. To win again, they need to regain a significant amount of their seats in Scotland (which may be the biggest challenge) and also make some inroads into that Conservative 8% lead in England and Wales. The apparent difficulty seems to lie in the fact that these aims seem mutually incompatible. However, I do not believe that the Scottish vote represents a significant move to the left and would ask how many would have voted for the SNP if they had the same programme except for the demand for independence, or any other rhetoric about being ‘Scottish’ or ‘national'; their performance might then be more comparable to that of the Greens. A situation of full financial autonomy, and its economic consequences (let alone those of full independence) might change the view of a great many Scottish people towards nationalism, though either such move would be very difficult to undo. Personally I find it extremely sinister when 50% of the people of an area unite under a flag, and find ludicrous suggestions that Labour would surge forth to victory if they became more like the SNP; they might find themselves closer to the position of the Greens.

Without the charismatic figure of Farage at the helm, the UKIP vote may wither away, but the consequences of this remain to be unseen. It will take a great deal for the Liberal Democrats to rebuild themselves; their decline may be terminal. Nick Clegg has returned them to their situation under Clement Davies in the 1950s, and completely undone the efforts of Paddy Ashdown and Charles Kennedy to make them into a major third party force (see this post for a wider analysis of the results for the Liberal Democrats in historical perspective). But this just might offer an opportunity for Labour to reclaim some of the previous centre ground, but this would take a major cultural shift in the party such as they have only taken previously under Blair (and would have done under Gaitskell had he survived) in times of desperation following successive defeats. I will always resent deeply much of Blair’s foreign policy, but still acknowledge that New Labour did make possible some genuinely progressive social policies on the home front (as much because of others around him as Blair himself) and made the UK into a more internationally-minded and European country than that to which it has slipped back since. To achieve what Labour achieved under Blair, at least in the first term, may be as much as Labour could hope for now. This would still be a good deal better than what we have now.


In Praise of Mic Spencer

Last night I went to a concert at Clothworkers’ Centenary Concert Hall, at the School of Music for the University of Leeds. The programme included postgraduate student Allanah Halay‘s Energy Cannot Be Created II, as well as world premieres of Scott McLaughlin’s an infinity of traces, without an inventory and Wieland Hoban’s Wyrdlines, Michael Finnissy’s 1984 Câtana, inspired by Romanian folk music. It was a fantastic opportunity to hear four very fine pieces in strong performances given by student musicians; the concert can be viewed complete online here. for now I want however to write about the conductor and director of the ensemble – and also extremely fine composer – Michael (known to all as Mic) Spencer, whose work at that university, making the department into the finest of its type for new music, has been to my mind insufficiently recognised. On another occasion I would like to write about Mic’s compositions, but here I want to describe the seminal work he has done at Leeds.

Mic Spencer

I first met Mic in 2005 (at the premiere of Richard Barrett’s orchestral work NO) and soon afterwards became keenly aware of his activities at Leeds, after going to give a talk there the following year, performing on three occasions at the university, playing his piano piece The Eemis Stone and more widely getting to know the important community of people intensely dedicated to new music which would never have come about without Mic and his efforts.

Whilst many in academia spend as little time as possible on students, concentrating instead primarily on whatever will gain maximum prestige and the quickest advancement to the top jobs, Mic is the very opposite, and one of the most selfless figures I know. I know of few others so utterly devoted to helping to make available and accessible to his students, in full knowledge that the most complex or challenging new music is absolutely graspable by all who are open-minded and receive the type of guidance and encouragement that Mic can uniquely give. And I have seen for myself just how much time he devotes to students, how he wouldn’t hesitate to help them have access to any number of recordings, scores, or texts by many in the French and German intellectual and philosophical traditions to which he is so strongly attached.

The music of Helmut Lachenmann, Brian Ferneyhough, Hans-Joachim Hespos, Gérard Grisey, Emmanuel Nunes, Mathias Spahlinger, James Dillon, Beat Furrer, Richard Barrett, Chaya Czernowin and many others have become like Mozart and Beethoven to composers, performers and scholars at Leeds all because of Mic. In other contexts, academics dismiss all work in this type of European modernist tradition out of hand (sometimes in an underhand manner, using language of identity politics which makes others reluctant to challenge such a view), or simply preach it in a didactic way. Everything I have heard suggests a quite different approach from Mic: teaching as an enthusiast, with a passion for this music, but in such a way as allows students to find their own way in.

But equally important is what Mic has achieved with the ensemble LSTwo, which he ran and conducted over an extended period, for a period jointly with composer and conductor Adam Fergler. They have been able to perform well works almost unimaginable for a student new music ensemble in a UK university department, including Lachenmann’s “…zwei Gefühle…”, Musik mit Leonardo, Harrison Birtwistle’s Trageodia, Grisey’s Vortex Temporum, Nunes’s Improvisation I, Furrer’s Gaspra, Dillon’s Zone (…de azul), James Clarke’s Delmenhorst, and much else. In November there will be a major feature, the most significant of its type to date in the UK, of the music in Hespos, which I for one would not want to miss.

Amongst those who have passed through Leeds and either already gone onto great things or in the process of so doing are Lauren Redhead (who I remember Mic describing to me, when she was an undergraduate, as someone with an unnatural obsession with Spahlinger(, Roddy Hawkins, Eleri Angharad Pound, Adam Fergler, Vicky Burrett, Caroline Lucas, Marcello Messina and many others. Not that these are simple acolytes or devotees; many have strong differences and have taken quite different paths in terms of their own music or ideas. I certainly wouldn’t agree with Mic on lots of things musical, aesthetic or otherwise – I cannot remotely share his taste for the likes of Kaikhosru Shapurij Sorabji or writer Aleister Crowley, for example – but there is no such topic about which I would not be intensely interested in his thoughts. But I do not believe it would be too exaggerated to talk about a Leeds School of New Music, for which Mic is undoubtedly the central figure.

But when reading this I’m sure Mic will end up acting self-effacing and maybe a bit embarrassed, so I’m going to end up in his own language and tell the fucker to get a move on with writing his piano piece for me!

But do all raise your glasses (an activity with which he is intimately familiar) to Mic.


Article from Music Teacher Magazine on Safeguarding, with Guidelines for Teachers and Students

An article I wrote calling for conservatoires to take the lead in ensuring a new safe environment for students, in the wake of the Philip Pickett trial, was published in the April issue of Music Teacher magazine, accompanied by my proposed guidelines for students and teachers at tertiary level. With permission from the magazine, I reproduce the article here.

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