You have pulled into a polling station carpark. You’ve walked inside, volunteered your address and confirmed your name. You have been handed two slips of paper, been advised that one is for local elections, whilst the other is for the general election. You have approached a booth, scanned the list of candidates and deliberated your options. After you have selected/defaced your entry, you swagger up to the ballot box and post your vote. You strut out of the polling station, high on the sense of influence you posses, all the while sharing with the world the fact that #IVoted. Job done. Lord it over those who can’t quire be bothered to toil as you have today. You are a hero!


Except, you’re not. And I, certainly am not. To quote Russell Brand, politics isn’t something to be involved in once every five years, democracy is for every day; the election is the beginning, not the end. Which is why I am pledging – no, too much commitment – why I intend to undertake a more active role within my community. The vote I have placed today is not for David Cameron, Ed Miliband or Nick Clegg after all, it’s for my local Member of Parliament; for the conditions my neighbours, family and friends will experience over the coming five years. I should therefore make an actual contribution to those conditions, rather than delegating that responsibility solely to the MP/councillor of my choosing, who based on prior experience, can/will do very little to alter our circumstances.

This sudden thrust was brought about today by the realisation that I can, but opt against, supporting and contributing to those around me. Although I think I’ve kept abreast of the various commentary and rhetoric flying around about the general election: the latest polls, potential alliances between parties and countless other soap-operatic aspects, I am truly disgusted that I hadn’t the faintest clue of enormous social warfare happening on my own doorstep, here in Manchester. The Central Library opposite St. Peter’s Square, described upon opening by King George V as providing ‘inhabitants of the city magnificent opportunities and pleasant use of leisure’, is currently the setting of an anti-austerity demonstration and has been since 15th April. Brilliant. However, the library is now declining entry and the use of facilities to homeless people part of this demonstration; the very people most harshly impacted by austerity, those most entitled to protest against the conditions they are exposed to, and those whose population has increased by almost a third over the last five years. Unable to access public facilities, including the privilege of a toilet, people at the scene are left branded as ‘second-class citizens’ and ‘members of the underclass;’ this is happening HERE and NOW, and more alarmingly, there is no mark you can place on today’s ballot paper that will alter this.


Outside Manchester’s Central Library

Whilst there has been an emphasis on encouraging the youth vote, with extensive measures such as blocking access to The Big Bang Theory and Charmed (thanks a lot E4!), Twitter campaigns such as #generationvote, and projecting Brand as the beacon of the young, and although it is encouraging that such factors seem to have had an impact, is it really enough? Should we be commending ourselves for the manner in which we diligently ‘x’ed that box? It is the youth I aim this article at; those with perhaps the most apathy towards politics, who had their tuition fees trebled, those fluent in social media and the influence we can have from behind our iPhones. Yet those, including myself, so preoccupied with the drama of a televised debate, so enthused by a catchy hashtag and so impressed with our box-ticking capabilities, that the issues idly discussed on our TV screens and on our news feeds is bypassing us in the street.


Hunt Sets Workload In His Sights

Tristram Hunt’s Guardian article yesterday set out to console teachers by placing a big non-paperwork-wielding arm around their shoulders. The Shadow Secretary of State for Education sought to address what he feels to be the greatest issues facing those in the education industry via his four-point-plan, which has provoked two highly unlikely responses – firstly the widespread praise of teachers across social media (a bunch of very hard to please people), and also a manoeuvre from the Conservative government designed to appease the teaching population! So has Hunt uncovered the thoroughly concealed path into teacher’s affections, or is this the capitalisation by Labour of an industry profoundly disillusioned with the alternatives on offer?


Straight of the bat, Hunt’s message is delivered in a tone wholly unfamiliar to many representing the public sector, not least teachers. He seems to offer consolation, homing in on the issues that get under teachers skin most, appreciating them, before offering his solution. Hunt concedes that Labour too have contributed to the heavy burdens placed upon teaching professionals, stating that ‘governments of both hues have demanded more and more of teachers’. And the first rule of customer service is…? Empathy. In partially acknowledging fault Hunt is immediately disarming those he is trying to get onside, he is saying ‘I am aware we’ve failed in the past, I apologise, and here is how I intend to resolve it’. Tristram Hunt is at an enormous advantage in this respect, as the only recent points of comparison are Michael Gove, the anti-teacher bully and Nicky Morgan, the silent one.


With readers then rendered ammunition-less, Hunt is afforded the opportunity to hammer home his key points. Yes, he concedes, teachers will still be exposed to large volumes of work, there is still the expectation upon educators ‘to fill the role often left by absent parents; deliver excellence in examination results; develop character in our young people; and provide extra-curricular activities’. Hunt adopts brilliantly the latest trend amongst politicians of telling it how it is. And again, in doing so, we are left only to appreciate the points being made; of course we agree with ‘intelligent inspection’; there’s no denying that a ‘school ethos that supports teachers to embrace the latest evidence and research’ is advantageous; and ‘constructive feedback and supportive performance management’ will definitely improve performance.


It appears then, that all Hunt has done is address the obvious. He has taken the opportunity to pander to teachers, to lick our wounds, but not to offer anything concrete in terms of lightening workload, or anything else for that matter. Nonetheless, he has done something potentially far greater and more productive. He has taken the first steps to getting teachers onside, made them willing to listen further, and in goading a reaction from Morgan, got his foot well and truly in the door. Here’s hoping Tristram Hunt utilises the opportunity he has and can develop the momentum initiated and truly deliver on his vow to give teachers a break.

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The Teacher I Want To Be…

Here, at the beginning of my teaching journey, I have been asked what sort of teacher I would like to be. The one that thinks they’re down-with-the-kids? The PowerPoint king? The coffee-swigging slouch? The psychotic dictator? Although each of these has their own particular appeal, especially the latter, I decided instead to focus upon some key attributes I intend to foster over the coming years of my Primary Education degree.


Based upon the fact that education is an ever-evolving environment, I strongly believe that the most beneficial characteristic I can possess throughout my teaching career is adaptability. In TES Stephen Exley asks us to ‘imagine a world where most of a student’s learning takes place on their home computer, and where schools and teachers are in danger of becoming obsolete. Exams are defunct […] and academic knowledge is largely irrelevant and education, funded by parents and business, focuses on developing the skills required for work’ (Exley, 2014: 12). Although a far-fetched scenario, Exley illustrates perfectly that those in the education profession, not least teachers, must be extremely adaptable, possessing the capacity to be aware of, and understand the implications of change. For example, the position of Secretary of State for Education, of which there have been two under the current government alone, demonstrates how susceptible to alteration this profession is. Two people, both potentially representing entirely different philosophies from one another, are chiefly responsible for the way in which children are taught, assessed and graded, amongst countless further derivatives. And all in less time than it takes a student to go through school. That is why I endeavour not to allow my years of experience in education cloud my commitment to current legislation and expectations of practice, whatever form that may be in, and ensure I evolved to the demands of the modern educational environment.

TeacherOne of the key attributes I believe I must be endowed with, and can be closely linked with adaptability, is reflection. In order to be able to adapt to adjustments effectively, I must have the ability to assess my own skills objectively and amend relative aspects of my practice. Furthermore, I should reflect upon previous relevant experience and utilise this in order to shape future practice and best serve my pupils. For example, I should have an in-depth knowledge and ability to effectively draw on elements such as effective behavioural strategies, classroom arrangement, motivational factors, response to various media, and not only the impact these have had in the past, but ones they are likely to have in the future.


Attached to this is the concept of resourcefulness. Deploying the reflection upon past experience as a resource to shape future practice displays just one elements of the extensive range of supplies at teachers’ disposal. There are countless others that I would like to investigate, and have begun to do so already, with the use of Twitter and various other social media outlets chief amongst these. Advice on schemes of work, creative lesson ideas, behaviour management techniques are available in abundance, alongside reviews of this week’s episode of Educating the East End and rages against Ofsted and Gove. All of which can, and almost certainly will, play a crucial role in forging the lessons I teach in the future, but more so, the teaching professional I will become.

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Ed Miliband – Choose Your Friends Wisely

Ed Millband yesterday began his ‘eight-month job interview’ with his key note speech here in Manchester, during which he placed great emphasis on the importance of the youth vote, stating his intention to implement the widening of general election criteria to include the votes of sixteen and seventeen-year-olds. Is this merely a gimmick designed to appeal to those hovering around this age limit themselves, those recently eligible to vote who understand the frustration of their opinions being rendered invalid? A ploy to appease those most dramatically affected by changes to policy regarding education and minimum wage, amongst others? A method of retaining parliament and securing Labour’s future come 2020, should he be successful in his campaign?

For those readers familiar with my last blog – Conservatives Forward Going Backwards – you will appreciate my apprehension concerning any representative of the political class, particularly one who appealed to his ‘friends’ continuously and referenced our ‘togetherness’ throughout. But it seems that Miliband is keen to extend his friendship group by inviting the sixteen and seventeen-year-olds out to play, an intriguing move given that the bracket this will most appeal to, those aged sixteen and seventeen themselves, will be unable to vote at the upcoming election. It is plain, therefore, that Miliband sees this age-group as the pool from which to pluck Labour voters of the future, and in leading the party responsible for affording youths this opportunity, appealing to them come future elections. Echoing other aspects of his ten-year-plan, this is certainly a decision made in an effort to reinforce Labour’s strength at 2020’s general election and beyond, a decisive step taken by Miliband in an effort to cut off Cameron and position Labour as the representatives of youth and the default party for young votes. The Labour Party Annual Party Conference The manoeuvre crafted to engage youths, however, follows the trend of Miliband’s speech in general: breadth over depth. The Labour leader covered an incredibly broad range of topics during his 65 minute performance; the NHS, Syria, first-time buyers, apprenticeships, mansion tax and, as discussed already, extending the vote to 16 and 17-year-olds, just to mention a few. As was consistent with each of the topics discussed, the man hoping to settle himself in at 10 Downing Street in less than nine months time offered little depth on how each promise was to be delivered; no clarity on how Miliband envisaged each pound to be saved, each nurse to be hired or each house to be built. And the theme is similar when applied to extending the vote to youths. In broadening it’s age range Miliband can hope to tap into an estimated 1.5 million potential votes (Office for National Statistics), however, based on the 51.8% turnout of 18-24-year-olds at the 2010 general election only half of those are projected to translate into actual votes (British Election Study). A plot, therefore, by Ed Miliband to get perhaps 750,000 people voting. it is here that I feel the focus is awry. It is fantastic that Labour, and indeed Lib Dems, are awakening to the prospect of youth and their capacity to swing the vote, however, in chasing votes from elsewhere they are neglecting the 48.2% of 18-24-year-olds who decided against attending the polling stations in 2010. If the focus was shifted instead towards the disillusioned, disinterested electorate as it stands, there are upwards of 3,000,000 votes up for grabs in the 18-24 age category alone, quadruple the number that Miliband can hope to achieve by broadening the electorate.

I know it is the view of many that politics has become stale, uninteresting and widely made up of those of superior social class backgrounds. Many believe that the major parties simply blend as one; a representation of affluence and arrogance, irrespective of the colour tie worn by its MPs. Politics nationwide is in dire need of a dramatic shake-up and I truly believe that cultivating the electorate is the route that should be taken. By all means, extend voting rights to 16-year-olds, but make the half of the population disengaged a priority. As cliché as it sounds, make politics fun! Engage with youth! At risk of sounding patronising, speak in terms they may appreciate. That doesn’t mean say ‘man’ after everything, ‘like’ in-between everything, or in Miliband’s case, adopt the nauseating Jeremy Kyle-esque ‘friends’ routine. But appreciate and seize upon elements of youth culture. The impact of social media alone has the potential to win or lose amajority; 53% of the UK population is now registered with Facebook, of which half is made up of those aged 18-34, whilst there are 34 MILLION live Twitter accounts based in the United Kingdom. The implications of this are immeasurable. Politicians can accumulate mass audiences online, with David Cameron himself having almost 800,000 followers on Twitter, enabling them to reach and engage with an unbelievably large volume of people. There is surely not a demographic group that can compare to the 18-24-year-olds in terms of online prowess and social media influence. Appeal to them! Get them onside and they can do the job for you!Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 16.44.36 Yet politicians decide instead to use this as an opportunity to shamelessly regurgitate party propaganda (much of it horrendously inaccurate statistics), switching off youths in droves. Additionally, engage in events and occasions appealing to youths, play a role in Freshers events at universities even! Give youths a route into politics that doesn’t arise from an Etonian education and you will reap the rewards of a loyal electorate-base for years to come, I guarantee. So with Miliband’s declaration made under a banner bearing the slogan ‘Labour’s Plan for Britain’s Future’, Manchester was an ideal backdrop to this occasion; with the city’s major constituency, Manchester Central, delivering a paltry 44.3% turnout in 2010 for the general election, the lowest in the UK, it delivered proof, if ever it was required, that it is the cultivation, not the breadth, of the electorate that needs to be focused upon and that it should indeed be youth at the forefront of Labour’s Plan for Britain’s Future. 

Thank you for taking the time to visit bloomsbury24.wordpress.com. If you have any views regarding this, or any of my other blogs please do get in touch! I would also massively appreciate it if you could take the time to share any articles you enjoy! gilhooley24@outlook.com @BloomsburyLG Liam Gilhooley

Conservatives Forward – Going Backwards

With hours left to decide the course our country will take over the coming five years, I thought it important to share my own encounter with those hoping to renew and reinforce their grip on the Number 10 doorknob. The Conservative party is, and will invariably continue to be, an elitist group appeasing the wealthiest and most affluent portions of our working-class towns and villages, unless dramatic change is undertaken as a matter of urgency at grassroots level local politics.

Having been a mildly interested bystander observing the Conservative party’s purportedly successful attempts to steer our nation (halfway) towards recovery, I took the decision to attempt to engage a little more in what was happening in politics locally. Coming from Brooklands, an area on the fringe of Wythenshawe, whilst a five minute drive from Hale, a pastiche location in which overwhelmingly rich meets devastatingly poor, I felt myself to be a well-rounded neutral, experienced in both the harshness of austerity, as well as the spoils afforded by Cheshire life; an all-round representation of the working-class North West, where such gulfs in wealth are frequent.

It was incredibly disheartening therefore, upon attending my first Conservatives Forward gathering, to witness the horrendously clichéd Conservative stereotype realised. According to their website Conservatives Forward is a group ‘for all members of the association aged 16-25 [who meet] for political discussion, campaigning and social events’; the factory floor upon which Conservative MPs and Councillors of the future are manufactured. Upon receiving an invitation to attend one of these ‘social events’, my curiosity and desire to ‘get involved’ (horrendous, I know) outweighed any reservations I had, and so I met with a handful of party members at a bar in Altrincham. There were nine of us in total, including. That nine comprised of three councillors, a doctor of physics currently developing an ion accelerator, a school governor, two students of Oxford, and myself. Oh, and a woman. An undeniably shambolic representation of the diverse communities this party claims to serve.

“The purported enrichment offered by Oxford University simply results in the harsh exclusion of those overlooked by the entrance criteria”


So why is it that the Conservative stereotype has been so unashamedly fulfilled? I initially felt that this was due to a genuinely uninterested working class, which may in part be true. However, it is clear from the occasion I attended that very little is being done to combat that, a theory illustrated when the group moved on to another bar. An individual within the party discreetly referred to a bouncer on the door as ‘thuggish scum’ without provocation, a clear inclination of not only the superiority with which this privileged character held himself, but the disregard and completely unwarranted prejudice shown towards someone who was unquestionably a genuine, hard-working man. More concerning however, is the matter-of-fact manner in which such a brutal sweeping assessment was made of a relatively poorly-paid profession predominantly made up of those belonging to the working-class. There was no hint of shame or embarrassment as his arrogant assertion was made directly to someone he had known for less than an hour; someone he had initiated conversation with for the first time less than five minutes previously; and someone he could not have known was not perhaps embarking on a door supervision course themselves. Myself. Which encourages me to believe that people of working-class backgrounds just aren’t considered at these events, for such a comment to be made so freely with absolutely no fear of consequence or persecution.

“It was incredibly disheartening to witness the horrendously clichéd Conservative stereotype realised”

Consequence or persecution he inevitably did not face from anyone in the group. And I am ashamed to say that, given my company, consequence or persecution he did not face from me. Which leads me on to another potential factor behind the poor representation of the working-class population amongst such circles. When those outside the upper echelons of the middle-class decide to take an interest in such occasions, they are immediately aware of their lack of belonging. If indeed those representing the working-class at an event of this sort do decide to persevere beyond the two hour stint that I could stomach, I find it very difficult to imagine they would go on to discover any redeeming qualities as the real ale and merlot took hold. For a self-assured, outspoken individual such as myself to shirk from my overtly defensive instinct concerning my social class background, and disregard my astute endorsement of the working-class, clearly displays the alienation experienced when such people attempt to integrate with the self-deemed superiority  which the Conservative party assumes. I faltered and felt I had no stature with which to support myself, or the social class I represent. Whether it was fear of inevitable ridicule or a means to avoid friction with people I had just met, I did not resist their cruel jibes about bouncers or their countless derogatory references to neighbouring Wythenshawe. As the evening wore on I grew increasingly disillusioned and, quite frankly, disgusted at such comments, and rapidly arrived at the conclusion that I had little place in this Conservative clique.


I am left staggered by the realisation that such uneducated and narrow-minded views can be held, let alone delivered, by such supposedly cultivated individuals. That the purported enrichment offered by Oxford University simply results in the harsh exclusion of those overlooked by the entrance criteria. That the superiority assumed whilst wearing a pinky ring warrants the ability to mock those manning the door of your upmarket nightclub of choice. That the security of a WA15 postcode allows you to ridicule those of M23 over yonder. It is difficult to imagine that such exclusivity is not happening at every single Conservative gathering up and down the country, if it is taking place to such an overwhelming degree here in the working-class heartland – the North-West. The shameful Cheshire Division of The Bullingdon Club demonstrates perfectly that the Conservative party must undergo extensive alterations at grassroots level if it is to have any hope of changing perceptions from working-class people on a broad scale. The party so keen to rid themselves of such strongly engrained labels as ‘the Nasty Party’ – those attributed as ‘making the rich richer and the poor poorer’, cannot possibly hope to win over constituencies such as Wythenshawe and Sale East with such poor comprehension of what these people can relate to; people who have an understanding of their struggle, someone in whom they can place their trust -and more importantly for the parties- someone they deem worthy of their vote.

Liam Gilhooley  –  Twitter: @BloomsburyLG  –  22  –  Part-time Sales Assistant  –  Trainee Teacher (MMU)