The Leader or the Manifesto; is there a Choice?

April 21st 2015

‘Who are you going to vote for, June?’ – This is the question I am regularly being asked by friends and colleagues.  But what is the option? Do I vote for the political leader or the manifesto?

Many people I know will vote for a manifesto despite the leadership and others will do the opposite; staff say “I will vote Labour despite Ed Miliband because I like Labour’s plans for the NHS or Childcare.” Others however say, “I will vote for David Cameron as leader because I have more trust that he will implement the manifesto promises on Childcare despite the fact that I dislike the Tories”.

As someone who has been talking and writing about the power of leadership for a long time, I am unsurprised by this dilemma. The power of leadership is underestimated at our peril. So how are the current political leaders shaping up?  Do we trust our political leaders to implement the manifestos (Mediocre as they are!?)  Is their vision, power, and integrity robust enough for us to believe in them? Would they really implement the manifestos or renege on their promises? Here are some questions for them which would help me decide:

  • Have you the courage to make a difference?
  • Are you mentally tough and resilient to deal with a world in perpetual crisis?
  • Will you go out on a limb and be bold?
  • Can you inspire action?
  • Can you translate strategy into meaning and inspire action?
  • Can you create high performance teams?
  • How comfortable are you with collaboration?
  • Can you create a culture of innovation at every level of this country?
  • Will you exploit technology and platforms for the best
  • How will you remain in touch with the real world?

And after that I would ask them how they will apply these leadership values to the manifesto promises for childcare and education:

Mr Miliband

– Why will you support a policy to run ‘before and after school clubs’ by volunteers?

– How will you deliver 25 free hours of childcare for working parents, when you have never paid the proper rates for this so it has in fact never been free? 

– If there is no money, how will you restore the role of Sure Start as family hubs in the community, with an obligation to provide childcare and a focus on early intervention?
Why do you think the £500m promised money for Free Schools is going to be enough to fund the smaller class sizes for five, six and seven year-olds ?
Good news about grandparents but how will this happen?

Mr Cameron

– Why do you need a consultation to cost the 30 free hours of childcare for working parents? We all know the real costs so why not pay them? The history of consultation in the last parliament was not good (many consultations but no one seemed to be listening to the outcome) Why will this be any different?
I see you still consider schools to be the main options to meet additional demands, therefore what is the future for the PVI?
Where will you find the capital needed to make the adjustments to existing buildings or create new spaces in schools given the current shortage of school places we are facing?

Mr Clegg:

– The Lib Dems will protect the current spending so that every child aged 2 to 4 years gets 20 hours free childcare a week, and now you say from 9 months old, How? Really?!

– How will you also provide funding to ensure a qualified teacher in every class and does this include non-school settings?
Can we claim for free school meals for our two year olds?
How will you save family support services in Children Centres and which ones?
Great news that all formal early years settings would need to employ at least one person with EY teacher status by 2020 and the full QTS status would be extended to all those who are properly trained but what does that mean in reality?
Is a Royal College of Teachers good use of public money? Does the National College for Teaching and Leadership do this already?
We are already struggling to recruit sufficient good quality entrants and staff with a C grade in GCSE Maths and English so how will upping this to B help?

Ms Bennet:

– How will you extend the education system to provide a free, universal and flexible early year’s system of good quality education for children from birth to seven?
What changes will you make to fulfil your plan to make education compulsory from the age of seven if you want all nursery services to be run by local authorities, infant schools and SureStart centres?
What will happen to the PVI sector which currently provides the majority of the nursery education in England?
How will you fund settings so they are led by qualified teachers with qualified teacher status with “specialist knowledge”?
Big organisations like the Pre School Learning Alliance struggle to get parents to help run the service as so many parents work, what will you do that will be more successful?
Where will you find £7bn worth of capital?

Mr Farage:

– How do you intend to reduce the cost of childcare and offer parents wider choice of providers and wrap-around childcare in the form of breakfast and after-school clubs for all school-age children?

– How will you prevent fraud if childcare vouchers and tax free childcare schemes are extended to informal Non-Ofsted registered childminders? 

– How will you ensure the quality of the service to those children? 

– What changes to the planning laws are needed to allow more nurseries to be built, given it’s probably more about capital funds than planning?
How will giving parents easy access to emergency childcare through the Local Authorities square with your review of childcare and child safeguarding systems?

So, why don’t we all ask them these questions? Please post them on every forum and through your social media networks and channels. Let’s get a sense of which leader is most likely to make these things happen fully and properly – or even answer the questions at all. #childcaremanifesto