Robert halfon

Don’t blame ‘white privilege’ for the plight of working-class kids

Tory MP Robert Halfon is right to say that the underachievement of white working-class students is a ‘major social injustice’. He is also correct to call for ‘a proper funding settlement’ so that we have an ‘education system fit for purpose’. But this much-needed debate has been overshadowed by a red herring in the Education committee’s report: the use of the term ‘white privilege’. The report claims that the use of such phrases may have contributed to the neglect of disadvantaged white kids. Of course, as Halfon says, ‘it is wrong to tell a white disadvantaged family that they are white privileged even though they may come from a very poor background and may be struggling’. But blaming

Robert Halfon is many things, but he is not a cabinet minister

Robert Halfon, a Conservative MP, has been threatened with blackmail about some (hetero)sexual allegation. The press, reporting this story, described Mr Halfon as a cabinet minister. He is not. He is only a minister (in his case without portfolio) in the category invented, I think, by Tony Blair, called ‘attending cabinet’. This is a bad development, because it blurs the line between a cabinet minister’s individual authority and the subordinate role of all other ministers. It turns the word ‘cabinet’ into little more than a badge with a few privileges. It won’t be long now before people idly ask ‘What is this archaic thing known as the cabinet?’, rather as

Robert Halfon pulls out of talk to Tory students

Yesterday Mr S reported that Robert Halfon was due to give a talk to young Tory activists on Wednesday — less than two weeks after he confessed to an affair with a… young Tory activist. The Minister without Portfolio went public over his brief affair with Alexandra Paterson, the chair of Conservative Future, after claiming that Mark Clarke — the Tatler Tory currently facing allegations of blackmail and bullying (which Clarke denies) — had planned to film him leaving a hotel with her as part of a blackmail plot. While Steerpike has no doubt that Halfon — who has earned the nickname ‘red hot Rob’ as a result of his antics — would have been on his best behaviour on

Robert Halfon earns himself a new nickname

Last week Robert Halfon made headlines after he confessed to an affair with a Tory activist, claiming that Mark Clarke — the Tatler Tory currently facing allegations of blackmail and bullying (which Clarke denies) — had planned to film him leaving a hotel with his mistress as part of a blackmail plot. While Halfon has since promised Tory officials that there are no more embarrassing revelations to come out relating to him, Steerpike understands that the Minister without Portfolio has been given a new nickname by colleagues. ‘He’s now known as “red hot Rob”.’ Mr S’s No.10 mole whispers. Meanwhile, Halfon is scheduled to meet yet more young Tory activists this week in Parliament when he gives an

The Spectator’s Notes | 19 November 2015

When Jeremy Corbyn says it is better to bring people to trial than to shoot them, he is right. So one might feel a little sorry for him as the critics attack his reaction to the Paris events. But in fact the critics are correct, for the wrong reason. It is not Mr Corbyn’s concern for restraint and due process which are the problem. It is the question of where his sympathies really lie, of what story he thinks all these things tell. Every single time that a terrorist act is committed (unless, of course, it be a right-wing one, like that of Anders Breivik), Mr Corbyn locates the ill

Cameron’s new army of Tory loyalists

[audioplayer src=”″ title=”Isabel Hardman and James Cleverly MP discuss the 2015 Tory intake” startat=1121] Listen [/audioplayer]Time was when the Conservatives believed that a small majority — which puts a government at the mercy of backbench rebels — would be worse than no majority at all. They dreaded the prospect. But now, well into their third month celebrating a majority of just 12 seats, it’s clear they’ve forgotten their fears about how precarious things could be. They talk as if they can now do anything — including implementing their manifesto in its entirety. It won’t take long for David Cameron to discover the truth. In any controversial vote, people will rebel

Renewal offers a vision for a Tory workers’ budget

How can the Tory party broaden its appeal? Renewal, a group founded to do just that offered its answer at a packed Westminster pub yesterday evening. With just eight days to George Osborne’s 2014 budget, Robert Halfon MP and Renewal’s David Skelton offered their vision of a ‘workers’ budget for the Workers’ Party.’ Arguing that ‘what happened in Scotland [to the Conservative party] is slowly happening in the North’, Halfon outlined why he believes the Conservative Party needs to change its narrative, mission and structures to go beyond its traditional reach, particularly with working class and ethnic minority voters. Firstly, to address the Conservative party’s lack of a ‘moral mission’,

Apprenticeships should be the ‘new norm’ in parliament. Get your MP to hire one

As sound bites go, it’s not one of his best, but David Cameron is right to suggest that apprenticeships should be the ‘new norm’ for young people who want to go to university. But we should use National Apprenticeship Week to recognise that we have a long way to go before the apprenticeship system as a whole is up to the task. As the Richard Review of Apprenticeships found, there is a lot of work to be done. The entrepreneur and former “dragon” was polite when he pointed out that apprenticeships should be targeted at people new to a role and in need of training and that recognised industry standards

Coffee Shot: Stay classy Harlow

Did Robert Halfon, the Tory MP for Harlow, get a new suit for Christmas? He was resplendent in this russet/chestnut suit at today’s Education Questions. Had he not been wearing short hair, he would have passed for Ron Burgundy of Anchorman fame. Bold.

The gospel according to Robert Halfon

The campaigning backbench MP Robert Halfon was invited to say grace at the First Annual Margaret Thatcher Memorial Dinner at Churchill College, Cambridge on Saturday night. It’s not often you get table thumping after a prayer: ‘For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly grateful for the free market that keeps the price of food down and competition forever and ever. Amen.’ Amen to that.

PMQs: A rather grumpy, unedifying session

Talking about energy bills week in, week out might be good politics for both parties, but it sure does make for a grumpy PMQs session. David Cameron was still rather ratty this week, but he managed some better attacks on Miliband than he’s done in the past few weeks of the great energy debate. He tried to pin the blame for the current state of the energy market on Miliband, saying: ‘Who gave us the Big Six? Yes, when Labour first looked at this, there were almost 20, but because of his stewardship we’ve ended up with six players.’ He also accused the party of pushing for yet more price

Rigged petrol prices will outrage voters far more than Europe ever could

Believe it or not, while voters might be unimpressed by the ferrets fighting in a sack over Tory Europe strategy, what will interest them far more is the possibility that they may have been paying over the odds for their petrol for a decade. Yesterday’s raids on BP, Shell, Platts and Statoil suggest that finally the allegations of whistleblowers that oil prices were being kept artificially high, reported on this blog, are being taken seriously by the European Commission. Britain is struggling under a cost of living crisis, and MPs will want to make their outrage about the possibility of price fixing as clear as they possibly can to their

Backbenchers want a cost of living Budget

Aside from Ed Balls’ attack on George Osborne for going ‘on the piste’ in Davos, Treasury question time in the Commons today was interesting not for what Labour did or didn’t have to say, but for some of the pushes from the Tory backbench on helping those on low incomes. Sometimes it’s the pattern of the questions that matters more than the individual answers. Many of the questions were pitches for the Budget, which also gave ministers the opportunity to not really answer them. Robert Halfon asked about reintroducing the 10p income tax rate, to which Greg Clark said he noted the MP’s bid for the Budget, adding: ‘But he

Briefing: Another fuel duty freeze?

It looks like George Osborne will put the planned fuel duty rise on hold again, in order to avoid another Tory rebellion and potential government defeat in the Commons. This battle has its origins in a Labour Budget: that of 2009, in which Alistair Darling introduced a fuel duty escalator whereby fuel duty would increase by inflation-plus-a-penny every April from 2010 to 2013. In his 2011 Budget, Osborne announced that he was abolishing the escalator and instead cutting fuel duty by 1p per litre. From January 2012 onwards, the escalator was to be replaced by a ‘fair fuel stabiliser’, under which the duty rises by inflation-plus-a-penny when oil prices are

How will Tory whips respond to Ed Balls’ audacious petrol vote?

Ed Balls has secured a debate for next week calling for the government to postpone for a second time the 3p rise in fuel duty that is due this January. It’s a pretty shameless move by the Shadow Chancellor, given these rises are ones that Labour instituted in 2009 and 2010. But he clearly believes that it is worth a little bit of political positioning similar to his chutzpah on the EU budget. In an article for PoliticsHome, Balls tries to address the rather awkward point about his own party’s policy on fuel duty rises, writing: ‘Of course difficult decisions are needed to get the deficit down. That’s why Labour

Conservative conference: Robert Halfon admits: ‘I envy socialists’

The Conservative leadership is just starting to tap in to the idea that the next election will be about the ‘strivers’, but Robert Halfon and Priti Patel know all too well from their Essex constituencies that what Halfon calls ‘white van conservatism’ is a key battleground. At last night’s Institute of Economic Affairs, the two MPs explained how the Conservatives needed to talk about the cost of living for the ordinary family in order to win in 2015. Halfon outlined how difficult that project was, saying: ‘I wish I was a socialist and the reason for that is if you are a socialist, you have a simple message.’ He said

Conservative conference: fighting and winning on the marginal front in 2015

Conservatives need to become more effective at winning marginal seats if they have any hope of gaining a majority at the next general election. But what exactly does the party need to do if they wish to improve on their 2010 performance? This was the question posed at a ConservativeHome fringe event this evening, where several MPs who took marginals in 2010 spoke of their experiences and recommendations for 2015. The successful marginal MPs — Jesse Norman, Nicola Blackwood, Robert Halfon, Richard Harrington and Martin Vickers — have written a pamphlet Lessons from the Marginals that will be published online shortly. Halfon, who took Harlow with a 4,925 majority after

How oil companies could be inflating petrol prices

Conservative backbencher (and thank goodness he remains on the backbench, where he seems to wield an impressive level of influence) Robert Halfon has continued digging away at fuel prices over the summer, and this morning he has another victory to report. The Office of Fair Trading has agreed to examine whether it should investigate oil companies for price-fixing and market manipulation. Halfon has spent the summer compiling a hefty dossier which he says shows how oil companies are charging motorists more than they should. You can read the full document here, but it says there is a three week delay between a fall in oil prices and a drop in

Osborne’s handbrake turn on fuel duty

George Osborne’s U-turn today on fuel duty seems both canny and confusing. It comes just 48 hours after a denial from Transport Secretary Justine Greening that the Government would scrap the 3p rise in August, but appears to be warding off the threat of a backbench rebellion in the Commons next week on a motion submitted by Labour to the Finance Bill.  Ms Greening told the Sunday Telegraph:  So more power to the backbenchers, led by Robert Halfon, whose campaign against fuel duty increases now looks to have succeeded in part, although he might want to continue to push retailers to push costs down anyway. But it is still surprising

Fuelling the recovery

Today, the government has listened. In his Autumn Statement, George Osborne scrapped the fuel tax bombshell that was scheduled for January 2012.    As regular Coffee House readers will know, more than 100 MPs supported my cross-party campaign for cheaper petrol. At its height, it saw an e-petition attract more than 124,000 names — triggering a full MPs’ debate in Parliament. It has been a very long campaign, working with many organisations, from FairFuelUK and the RAC, to the independent forecourt industry, The Spectator and the Sun, to thousands of members of the public who wrote to me in support. Over several months, I have asked questions in Parliament, spoken