On Theresa May’s departure as Prime Minister, 24 July 2019

As all will know, Theresa May met with the Queen yesterday to resign as Prime Minister. Mrs May has spent 3 years at the helm of her government, during which time her plan was to ‘Build a better Britain’. On her accession back in July 2016, I wrote an open letter to her, which I commenced with the following words:

Firstly, on behalf of the Claires Court community, may I congratulate you on becoming the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.  You have been Maidenhead’s only MP ever, since 1997; before then, the constituency used to be shared with Windsor, whose castle of Royal residence for reasons of history and heritage somewhat overshadows our larger suburban town to its north. I watched you speak on the TV on Wednesday night.  You called our country to attention, you asked us to believe that your government will show it has listened to the outcomes of the recent referendum.  Central to your message, you had this to say:

“We will do everything we can to help anybody, whatever your background, to go as far as your talents will take you.”

You can read the whole letter here on a previous blog https://jameswilding.blog/2016/07/14/building-a-better-britain. On reflection, I am quite proud of my writing this time, in so far as I highlighted what I felt could be the key issues for us in our sector over the forthcoming years.

I concluded the letter with these thoughts;

In conclusion, as with so many things, it’s an ill will that blows no good, and the circumstances leading to the self-destruction of both the Cameron administration and the Corbyn opposition have opened the door for your ‘kind’ of administration.  The news tells us you are building a very new government, and we have every faith that you will take this opportunity.  We wish you good luck and God’s speed. You’ll need both of course, and some extra friends in addition from time to time. You know where to find us if you need our help.

3 years on, and it’s difficult not to conclude that whilst there has been much huffing and puffing, actually little has moved on. It may be that Brexit and its works have just consumed so much time to nil effect, hence Boris Johnson and his new team coming in to deliver same in 100 days. Firstly, as is conspicuously noticeable, our own plans to relocate onto one site have still to be heard by the local Maidenhead Planning Committee.

Secondly, education was impressed to have gained Justine Greening as Secretary of State for Education in your first cabinet. To lose her after just 18 months, and shortly after her launch of a plan to enhance social mobility through education ‘Unlocking Talent, Fulfilling Potential’ was as sad a sign of the ‘wrong people being listened to’ as any. None of us could find fault with Ms Greening’s core plan to boost social mobility, indeed her covering statement back in November 2017 says it all still:

“Talent is spread evenly across this country; the problem is that opportunity isn’t. We need systemic change and we need everyone – government, employers, education professionals and civil society – to work together so that social mobility runs through everything we all do.”

Because the evidence still shows that opportunity is not there for all, it’s led a growing number of Labour councillors to call for the nationalisation of our sector into the government’s own schools. Under the #AbolishEton banner, Labour continues to highlight just how over-represented our sector is in the higher walks of life. I’m not going to comment on the suitability of Boris to be our new prime minister, but with 70% of his cabinet independently educated, clearly politics in parliament needs to look for itself anew at the issue of #opportunitiesforall.

It’s fair to say that over the past 3 years, the Labour party itself has not got a grip on itself to good purpose, most notably on its take on Europe and antisemitism. And as it too has chosen to take a tighter grip on its members, spreading further divisions at shadow cabinet level, Shadow justice minister Gloria De Piero resigning last week from Corbyn’s frontbench team over party’s ‘lack of tolerance’. Ms De Piero is like Greening a shining example of social mobility in action, and one whose career is worth watching for the future.

3 years in politics is of course a long, long time. Sadly, in the history of Crossrail, it’s not long enough. We had been promised that our speedy links to the city would open last year in December 2018, and we now await its opening by 2021. We were also promised its budget would also stick to initial announcements (£15.4billion), though sadly, at least a further £2.2 billion pounds needs to be found to ensure the project is completed. What might £2.2 billion pounds buy if only the contractors had kept on budget? I’ve become a fan of the National Numeracy website, and via one of their articles understand perhaps we could have 4 more frigates to enhance our Navy. It’s certainly the case that over the past 3 years, the national estate has sadly deteriorated further, with the military, judiciary, education, health and social care all crying out for additional spending on this scale now.

I welcome Theresa May’s attention back on our constituency solely once more. To her enormous credit, she has not ignored Maidenhead at all during her premiership, but it sadly has ignored her ambition of 3 years ago, to build a better Britain here in SL6. We still don’t have a borough plan (due 2013), and whilst the town centre is now being rebuilt, we don’t have the housing, highways and social infrastructure needed to support a town of such importance where so much more physical growth is required. The council is still of Conservative hue, but it has a narrow majority only, and we will need all of her experience acquired over her time in Downing Street to build a consensus here for the future.

About jameswilding

Academic Principal Claires Court Schools Long term member & advocate of the Independent Schools Association
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