May’s education policies are Fawlty – so how about these instead | Lola Okolosie

May’s education policies are Fawlty – so how about these instead | Lola Okolosie

Politics

From Nordic-style funding to getting rid of Gove’s free schools, here’s how to revive the demoralised teaching profession

A breakfast for every primary pupil that costs an unappetising 6.8p per meal is not the stuff of teachers’ dreams. Rather, it’s another example of the sheer chutzpah of the Conservatives who have a tendency to serve up policy gruel while maintaining it’s a luxury.

The Tory education pledges have been Basil Fawlty-like in their execution: there is the frenzied, futile attempt to appear controlled in the midst of a crisis sparked by cuts to school funding. One can only guess that the £4bn promised to schools over the next four years is a figure meant to entrance, leaving us in some kind of communal stupor so we forget that the sum barely plugs the gaps created by Tory austerity. When we factor in the cuts that have already been made, the additional £1bn a year still equates to a real-terms cut to per-pupil spending of about 7% by 2021-2022, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies.

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In mourning the daring, charismatic John Noakes, we also grieve for our childhood | Janet Ellis

In mourning the daring, charismatic John Noakes, we also grieve for our childhood | Janet Ellis

The Guardian

It wasn’t just his heart-in-mouth antics, Noakes’s enthusiasm and childlike curiosity made him an inspiration to those of us who presented Blue Peter after him

There is a legendary tale about John Noakes’s approach to appearing on Blue Peter. In the early days of the programme, before the advent of the autocue, the script was hand-delivered to the presenters’ homes the night before transmission. The more nerdy or nervous presenter (ie me) would attempt to learn their lines, ready for a hectic day of rehearsal, which led to a terrifyingly immovable deadline: the live show.

Noakes would allegedly arrive in the studio with his envelope still sealed. Then he’d open it, tear out all the pages where his name didn’t appear and get to work. Whether that’s true or not (and I rather hope it is), he was never less than professional on screen. He never short-changed the audience or presented an item lazily.

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How trees can teach us about our own lives | Patrick Barkham

How trees can teach us about our own lives | Patrick Barkham

The Guardian

Across the country, people are waking up to the importance to our very humanity of urban foliage – and taking on those who chop it down

A Sheffield street is lined with plane trees planted in honour of pupils from the local school who died in the first world war. When you walk along this living memorial and touch each trunk, it sparks a strange feeling of intimacy with historic events. These trees help us to remember, creating a powerful sense of continuity with past lives.

This avenue has deservedly won the Great Trees of Sheffield contest, which celebrates this uniquely green city’s trees. I’ve written before about the struggle by Sheffield residents to stop healthy trees from being felled, after the council signed a 25-year deal with Amey to maintain its roads. So Rob McBride, who tirelessly works to protect notable trees, asked me to help judge this contest alongside Sheffield luminaries such as Richard Hawley and Jarvis Cocker.

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Corbyn and May feel the burn as Paxman lets rip with flamethrower

Corbyn and May feel the burn as Paxman lets rip with flamethrower

Politics

Party leaders will feel their campaigns can continue on already-set trajectories after grilling on Sky News/Channel 4 special

The danger with our embrace of the televised election debate is that we have all come to expect too much from them. Theresa May was reportedly keen to stay clear of any head-to-head confrontation with Jeremy Corbyn.

He, presumably looking for a gamechanger, was enthusiastic to look her in the face. But John F Kennedy versus a fatally sweaty Richard Nixon was more than 50 years ago. Pendulum swings on that scale have barely occurred since.

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Whatever the result, this election has pushed the centre ground to the left | Steve Richards

Whatever the result, this election has pushed the centre ground to the left | Steve Richards

Politics

The Labour and Tory manifestos both accept the need for tax rises and market regulation. Even Blair at his peak didn’t achieve that consensus

Electoral patterns in the UK are wild and unruly. Since the financial crash in 2008 the UK has elected a coalition, and delivered David Cameron a tiny majority only for the triumphant prime minister to resign a year later: a speedy departure without precedent.

Related: What happens if nobody wins the election? 1974 is a warning | Steve Richards

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Forget party loyalty, voters would rather flirt than marry | Anne McElvoy

Forget party loyalty, voters would rather flirt than marry | Anne McElvoy

Politics

With a complex and contradictory electorate, Labour and the Tories are both struggling to remain broad churches

It used to be so easy. There was Worcester woman and her public-sector cousin Holby City woman – malleable creatures for strategists hunting for swing voters. Alongside was their male avatar, Mondeo man (a coinage timed just ahead of a major Mondeo sales slump). All of these were demographic types that election planners reckoned could be pulled over the line from Tory to Labour, or vice versa, by figuring out their key concerns and pandering to them.

But the anthropology of current politics is far more muddled, and political tribes more fissile, than those heady days of Bun-the-Bakers. To the anxiety of party strategists and pollsters, human beings in 2017 are turning out to be irritatingly complex and often contradictory. This is why the result next week defies accurate prediction and is a calculated gamble for the prime minister, rather than a settled coronation.

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Tell us what we need to pay for good public services | Letters

Tell us what we need to pay for good public services | Letters

Politics

Readers respond to the Institute of Fiscal Studies’ criticisms of the parties’ general election manifestos

Like a lot of people, I was very interested in the Institute for Fiscal Studies’ criticisms of the parties’ policy proposals – given that the latter would no more than somewhat ease the position of our severely cash-strapped health and social care services (Report, 27 May). Could the IFS now do us all a favour before this election gets underway and tell us once and for all what they think it would cost to “fully meet our public care needs” (viz, the figure which would meet all major needs, fully cover ongoing costs, and ultimately repay borrowing for associated capital expenditure) – as, for example, “a percentage increase on existing direct tax rates”. Would, say, another 10% in all rates (2p on the 20% rate, 4p on 40% and 4.5p on the 45% rate) meet the bill? Or would the figure be more like 20% on all rates? Or some yet higher figure?

At least we would then reach square one in deciding what we should do to fully sort this out, at and beyond this election: pay the estimated direct tax increases; find other ways of raising revenue; get people to take out more private insurance; or contemplate continued strain on our ill and our frail old people till kingdom come?. I’m surprised that none of the reporters at the IFS presentation actually raised this. Come to think of it, the Guardian’s own economic commentators may have their own estimates. In any event could someone, somewhere please enlighten us, preferably before we take to the booths?
Bernard Cummings
Erith, Kent

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Hilary Mantel was right – some academics dislike novelists. But why? | Rebecca Rideal

Hilary Mantel was right – some academics dislike novelists. But why? | Rebecca Rideal

The Guardian

Hostility between academics and popular historians has a lengthy history of its own. Yet it doesn’t make sense – nonfiction and fiction nurture each other

“Historians hate me”, runs the latest headline about Booker prizewinning novelist Hilary Mantel. Only she didn’t quite say that. Mantel is one of a small band of successful female writers who are often quoted out of context, whose views make headlines, and whose very presence seems to frighten the living daylights out of people. What was in fact said was a response to a specific question about why some historians might dislike historical fiction. Mantel suggested: “Perhaps they think we are parasites and that we steal their sales.”

Related: Historical fiction and ‘alternative facts’ … Mantel reveals all about retelling our past

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