One of ConservativeHome's big themes for the run up to the General Election will be ideas to renew pride in Britain. David Cameron has already responded to this theme and Donata Huggins has discussed a Sunday evening slot on BBC television dedicated to great historical figures and also a British national day.
Tomorrow Jeremy Hunt MP will write about British sport.
Today the Labour MP for Birkenhead addresses the teaching of British history in schools.
‘It is the day they strung him up’ was the nearest answer I gained from the question ‘what was Good Friday?’. There were no takers from the class on who was the main character in the Gun Powder Plot. Most of the class had no idea whatsoever on the plot either.
Most of the class knew – rightly – who Hitler was although no-one had much idea on why we had spent six years fighting him. Most had not the slightest comprehension of Hitler’s link to World War Two. None of them knew the dates of either World War.
All the school children were bright so their appalling lack of knowledge about their country cannot be dismissed on grounds of intelligence. All of them from varying degrees had lots of ideas about the school and what they liked about Britain. None of them appeared embarrassed by their lack of knowledge about Britain and some, for example, did not even know that the Windsors came after the Tudors. None were angry that their school was robbing them of any collective memory of their past and how Britain came to be what it is.
Here then is the great opportunity for the next reforming administration. Once the votes are counted the serious business will begin to bring order to the chaotic public accounts. All government departments will receive smaller budgets. It is insulting to the electorate to be pretending the necessary cuts to balance the chaotic public finances will come from savings.
Big rewards should go to those public servants who begin to win productivity increases in line with what the private sector has delivered over the past decade. Over the last decade for which records are published productivity fell three per cent in the public services while at the same time increasing by twenty three per cent in the private sector. If the same productivity had been delivered by ministers over the past ten years, we would have the same output but something like £160bn would have been returned to taxpayers.
Cutting budgets could give voters the radical changes they were promised and which have been poorly delivered by doubling the key budgets. So while delivering the same while taking less money from taxpayers will be the order of the day, political rewards will also go to the Secretary of States who initiate serious reforms without spending a penny more. It is easy to think of a dozen such programmes, but teaching history properly should come high on anyone’s list.