News in Brief: Ming savages Danny, ‘Parenting Matters’, and Don Foster on “rodents with wings”

by Stephen Tall on August 6, 2011

Former party leader Ming Campbell is apparently furious with fellow Scottish Lib Dem, Danny Alexander, according to the Telegraph.

The two MPs are, it appears, at each others’ metaphorical throats over the handing over to the British army of RAF Leuchars in Fife (Ming’s patch), while RAF Lossiemouth in Moray (Danny’s neighbouring patch) — though it should be noted that RAF Kinloss, also close to Danny’s own consituency, will suffer the same fate as Leuchars.

The Telegraph quotes Ming implying with scarcely veiled fury that Danny’s intervention in the defence review to save Loissiemouth was politically convenient:

“It’s a remarkable coincidence that these decisions should have been thought to assist the political credibility of the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, or is it? The result of the closure of Leuchars is that the RAF has been banished to the north of Scotland. The Army’s preferences have been met at the expense of a proper strategic analysis.”

The liberal think-tank Centre Forum has a new publication focusing on early years and social mobility, ‘Parenting matters’.

It commends the Coalition for recognising, most notably through the Lib Dem-inspired ‘pupil premium’, that support in the earliest years of a child’s life make the biggest differences to their later life chances. The report argues that the most important factor influencing a child’s development is the quality of parenting they receive, and that this willingness to engage directly with what is happening in the family sphere is essential to prevent the (deeply illiberal) squandering of individual potential.

You can read the report in full here. It recommends a ‘five-a-day’ plan for child development, including for example playing with your child on the floor for 10 minutes every day. It was cited by the Economist this week:

The point of the CentreForum study is … profound. The five proposals emerge from a report into social mobility and what a child experiences during the early years. It tries to factor out all the things people parents may convince themselves make a difference, and try to work out which ones actually affect a child’s development and which are just a fad. That doesn’t mean it is right. But that is why the advice is less prescriptive and more general than much other parenting guidance—and why on one level it seems very obvious.

Lib Dem MP Don Foster has urged the government to take more seriously the problems posed by urban gulls, says the BBC:

The Bath MP said there were well over 1,000 pairs of breeding gulls in the city and strategies to control the numbers were not working. “The truth is that so far I have failed to persuade the government to take the issue seriously,” he said. “It is a really serious problem for many people in my constituency of Bath and many other places around the country.

“What I’ve argued quite simply is that we don’t have enough research to understand the life cycle of the urban gull so that we can then decide what is the most appropriate action to solve the problem. In front of me I have a series of photographs of gulls sitting by decoy birds, sitting in among spikes, sitting right next to loudspeaker systems that are meant to give distress calls that send seagulls away. All of the methods that are being used largely do not work, they’re costing an absolute fortune and that’s because we’re not doing some basic research to find out how to solve the problem.”

The MP said he had seen pictures of some gulls sitting next to decoy birds “There are all sorts of bird-lovers out there who will think I’m doing horrible things but as far as I’m concerned, these are just rodents with wings.”