Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Tory Party Conference: Platitudes About Young People

If the Platitudes about Young People session was much better than the Environment/Quality of Life one it did still have its problems.

Paul Oginsky, CEO of the Young Adult Trust, presented a plan that Michael Gove hopes will in time include 650,000 16 year olds every year.

These will take part in a Community Action month sandwiched between a one-week residential team building course and a one-week residential challenge.

Considering it has been two years in the making what the Tories are calling National Citizens Service - probably rather offensive to those who did the real thing - the concept still seems to be at the blue skies end of things.

Unity at Ministry of Truth thinks that "pigs might fly" and includes Pink Floyd 'Animals' video in iron clad evidence of this.

Problems I have with this scheme and its appropriation by the Tories are that:

1. It is not actually original. There are all sorts of schemes extant along these lines. The Duke of Edinburgh Award, some strands of The Prince's Trust, Outward Bound, plus uniformed and un-uniformed youth organisations of all stripes and special diversion and capacity building activities for the age group.

2. Throwing the same budget at established providers could have the same or better effects. Throwing the budget at a new "Tory" scheme could kill some off.

3. It is nothing like National Service and borrowing this name is not only likely to be offensive but is also hellishly self-aggrandising.

4. The Tories have been ducking and diving round youth projects in all sorts of nooks and crannies, including on our own Wythenshawe estates in Manchester. You will remember Dave-id's hoody friend? Subsequently jailed.

5. The budget required is considerable. Summary budget at today's prices:

Two weeks residential:

650,000 x 14 x £30
£20 per night for base, £10 per day for staffing

Four weeks non-residential:

650,000 x 28 x £10
For supervision and basic admin

Recruitment cost:

650,000 x £50 per head advertising and marketing
Required even if eventually near compulsory

650,000 x £50 per head interviews and admin

Core Admin Team:

£2 million for housing, salaries, on costs

Completion Bonus (half to charity, half to trainee)

650,000 x £1,200
Based on 25 hours at NMW which is low sided for full time

GRAND TOTAL : £1.2435 Billion

Given Osborne's trials and tribulations with his officially fact-free budgeting this week Tories are going to have to try a good deal harder to explain how these things will be paid for.

Paul Oginsky has a nice pitch. Ex-Paratrooper, worked with Simon Weston to co-found Weston Spirit, and he had an idea on the back of an envelope down the pub. Partially worked up. Tories come along and try to repackage it as their own.

Oginsky related the story of the New York Marathon he did a couple of years ago. Sounds like he wasn't particularly well prepared, ignored his own plan, almost came a cropper, barely dragged himself round, and called it a huge success.

This scheme is he said based on that experience. Doomed then from the word go! The ideas are being piloted with a couple of dozen youths as he told Conservativehome today earlier this year. I'll try to delve a little deeper.

On a more positive note Oginsky is determined, cheerful, humourous as only scousers can be, and able to say "we love the bones of them kids" and the like from a Tory Party Platform. Which was nice.

Haras Rafiq is a successful businessman we're told. Also a co-founder of the Sufi Muslim Council (SMC). Mr Gove rather exaggerated the importance and reach of this organisation to Mr Rafiq's visible embarrassment.

Its website appears not to have been updated since around June/July and items are predominantly dated March and April 2007. And their SMC gallery seems to very deliberately be staying politically independent with Labour figures including Jack Straw and Ruth Kelly (above centre), Tory Dominic Grieve, and Deputy President of the Lib Dems Fiyaz Mughal.

The organisation has a third party profile cached on Google here that reveals that SMC was co-founded by Haras Rafiq (above right) and Azhar Ali (above left). This is not a unique name but I'm pretty sure that Azhar is a long standing Labour Party activist in the NW, at time member of Labour's regional board, and just re-elected to our National Policy Forum.

Showing just why Gove's introductions of him as being heavily involved with the Conservatives seemed to have caused some embarrassment Mr Rafiq is quoted under the following introduction:

The party also encourages Muslims to vote in elections. During the local elections in 2006, when the Labour Party faced huge discontent with Muslim voters due to the Iraq war, Haras encouraged Muslim to look at issues other than the Iraq war.

"Anger at Labour is far from universal, says Haras Rafiq, the 40-year-old president of Bridges TV, a Muslim entertainment channel he is helping to set up in his hometown," reported the BBC.

"I think people need to vote with their brain rather than with an emotion," Rafiq told the BBC. "We're never going to get a party that is going to represent any individual on a 100% level."

Whatever his true affiliation Haras too had an anecdote. His daughter had come home from school at the age of five and told him she wished to stop being a Muslim. Why? Because all the images she saw in the news, even computed though a five year old brain, were of Muslims being intensely angry. She did not want to be like that. The Sufi Muslim Council was he said born of that experience albeit five years later.

At a stretch it is possible to connect this project with the other.

Contributions from the floor were concluded with a BME woman delegate sharing an anecdote about a training scheme in Brent. Already doing the same kinds of things successfully with funding from other parties at national and local level, though she forgot to mention that.

DISCLAIMER: No young people were involved in the making of this session.

UPDATE: Thanks to Sam Coates for Conservativehome timing correction.


SamuelCoates said...

Paul's a great guy with good ideas - I know him from his work with my Dad when they were both youth workers in Liverpool.

He didn't write that article for CH today, it was several months ago, but he's doing a Q&A for us very soon.

Chris Paul said...

I agree that Paul seems like a good guy. I probably know quite a few people that know him and your dad both and I'll no doubt have whupped him in the odd race here and there too. I'll correct the CH link description, sorry about that. I was pushed for time.

Anonymous said...

I've got the great North Run T shirt!

Chris Paul said...

Did you actually run the bloody thing though? I've got one from around 03 or 04. Did 80 minutes running as James Purnell.

SamuelCoates said...

Race as in fell-running?!

Chris Paul said...

Don't do much fell running Sam, not these days. Mostly road running and a bit of cross country and multi terrain. But horribly unfit just now.

tonydj said...

" a Muslim entertainment channel "

The mind boggles.....

"Sharia court"...beheadings at lunch-time.

"Middle-East Enders"....The every day story of life in Al-Osama Square

"Strictly no dancing"... Documentary on the Saudi religious police

"Last of the Summer Wine"... prohibition amongst ex-pats in Saudi

"You've beeen framed".... Ex-pats in Saudi suffer at the hands of Government authorities... this is yet again a repeat

"Seven Brides for two brothers"... Classic Howard Keel musical