Friday, 23 June 2017

Why was King Alfred the Great ‘Great’?

by Libby Young

There have been many laudable monarchs throughout the history of England, but only one English king has ever been dubbed “the Great”. King Alfred the Great, perhaps the most famous of the Anglo-Saxon rulers, has held a prominent place in history due to his many achievements. Not only a great military leader, Alfred also implemented many social reforms that helped lead England on its path to unification and power.

Alfred was born in 849 AD and was fourth in line to the throne of Wessex. At this time, England was divided into three kingdoms: Northumbria, Mercia, and Wessex, and these kingdoms fought not only amongst themselves, but against the continual Danish (Viking) raids that had been common ever since 793 AD, when Vikings attacked St Cuthbert’s church in Lindisfarne, Northumbria. The height of the terror came after a ‘Great Army’ of Vikings landed in East Anglia in 865, and began to conquer vast swathes of Anglo-Saxon territory. In April 871, following the deaths of his father and three older brothers, the 22 year old Alfred ascended to the Wessex throne, and he quickly set about removing the Danish threat. By 875, only Wessex remained independent of Viking rule.

It was through his struggles with the Danes that Alfred earned his military renown. In January 871 the Danish army was defeated at the Battle of Ashdown, and although Alfred did not become king until after the battle, it was him rather than his brother who received the most acclaim. Despite the Wessex victory, King Aethlred (Alfred’s older brother) died, and the now crowned Alfred was forced to withdraw to the Somerset marshes. However, Alfred continued to fight against the Danes, using guerrilla warfare until the Battle of Edington in 878, when he once again defeated the Danish invaders. After fighting for 14 days and a forced retreat, the Danes sued for peace, and with the realisation that he would be unable to completely drive the Vikings from the rest of England, Alfred accepted. Under the Treaty of Wedmore, Alfred gained control of West Mercia and Kent, areas previously outside of the borders of Wessex. Although the time that followed was merely a lull in the onslaught of the Viking attacks, it provided a brief period of peace that England had not known for many decades and allowed Alfred to start work on his fortifications.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

The Art of the Body: The Intersection of Art and Medicine

by Imogen Ashby

These pieces (see images below) have arisen through my exploration of a theme spurring from the idea of an Intersection between Art and Medicine, where the knowledge of two totally different fields combine. I have become fascinated by how the body works and wanted to find a way to incorporate them both in one.

Recently, My brother George, was diagnosed with a serious heart condition and I guess that the need to express my emotions through the art took over. I want the audience of my painting to see my confusion of how to react to this news through the winding and frantic paths of the blood capillaries. I want to show my journey through all of the outcomes I make from expressive pieces when my knowledge was sparse to now when my knowledge and curiosity have grown more than I ever thought they would in detailed pieces.

I never thought that any of this would happen to me, I always just assumed It would happen to everyone else. I want my paintings to show how naive I was to how much more mature I am now; how I feel ready to cope with difficult situations than ever before.

What I want out of this project is a final piece that shows sympathy, understanding, confusion and love all within one. Finally, what I want most of all after having started the journey with George is to finish it and I felt that there wasn't a better way to continue it and bring it all to a close than through a sketch book and exhibition.

Why To Kill a Mocking Bird is One Of the Most Influential American Novels Ever Published

by Lily Godkin

During her life, Harper Lee only wrote two novels. The one for which she is most famous is To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960, for which she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contribution to literature; she also received numerous honorary degrees. To Kill a Mockingbird explores the dynamics of 1930s America and the racism that consumes it. The novel considers the social and racial hierarchy within the community and also looks at the expectations of a woman in the early 20th century. 

The second of her novels was a sequel to To Kill a Mocking Bird, Go Set a Watchman, which was published in 2015, over half a century after Mockingbird. And yet, despite having only ever released two actual novels and some articles, Lee is still considered one of the most successful novelists of twentieth and twenty-first century American literature.

I think that one reason for her success is that she explores a theme central to American experience: race. In 1960, Martin King's movement was beginning to bring civil rights into the national debate. In Mockingbird, Harper Lee portrayed racism in its raw, naked form, exposing people's ignorance and revealing that although not everyone practiced racism, the majority condoned it. 

I believe To Kill a Mockingbird’s success was not only due to its thematic relevance but also to Lee’s portrayal of characters. Each figure is presented as complex and ambiguous. Even the antagonist, Bob Ewell, is portrayed at some point in a sympathetic light. Lee describes the lower class white males in a derogatory manner; by clearly explaining that both women and black people are lower in terms of social hierarchy than such white males she makes us question the unjust nature of American society because their lives are valued by the community as worth less than Ewell. This shows their social inferiority, emphasised by the insignificance of a black man, Tom Robinson's, death from the perspective of society, in prison for a crime Lee encourages us to believe he didn’t commit.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Review: Sweet Bird of Youth.

by Daniel Hill

Chichester Festival Theatre’s previous Artistic Director Johnathan Kent returns to direct the Tennessee Williams play. It certainly wasn’t as amazing as his previous productions but it was a good production to return to.

I found that “Sweet Bird of Youth” was a play of two halves quite literally. This can be viewed in many aspects.  I personally found that the play itself had very little going on in the first act which began to drag. This was especially clear in the first scene set in a bedroom between the two main characters; an actress (Alexandro del Lago played by Marcia Gay Harden) who has arguably run from her previous fame and a young man (Chance played by Brian J Smith) who was using the actress to try to break into fame himself. I understand that it was important to introduce the characters in this first act written by Tennessee Williams although I also believe that this was dawned on for far too long. I found it very hard to find connections with the characters on stage during the first act which I do not believe was down to the acting.

The second act had much more substance. Although mainly set in one setting similar to the first act we saw much more action between the characters that had been introduced. In the second act we the characters who all have their own selfish goals. We are introduced to the person that Chance was once when he was younger and lived in the town of St Cloud that the play is set in. It is made clear that Chance has ended up far from his younger self who he has left behind him.

Monday, 19 June 2017

How Successful Was Tim Farron as Leader of the Lib Dems?

by Mark Docherty

Last week Tim Farron announced his resignation as leader of the Liberal Democrats because he was finding it difficult to balance his life as a practising Christian with his role as party leader.  His resignation came just under two years after he was elected Nick Clegg’s successor and he contested just one election campaign, in which the party made modest gains.  Some would argue that he took important steps in rebuilding the party after their dismal performance in 2015, while others say that he compromised the Lib Dems’ core values as party leader.

Nick Clegg’s party were held to account in 2015 for breaking their promise to vote against rises in tuition fees during their time in coalition between 2010 and 2015, leading to them winning just eight seats. The ensuing leadership election saw Farron elected as leader with the task of restoring them to a position in which they could have a significant influence in Parliament. In this task, it could be argued that Farron succeeded as the party improved its share of the seats from eight to twelve under his stewardship. Although the Lib Dems remain only fourth largest party after the 2017 General Election, Farron has at least given them stability and steadied their fortunes after they fell so far two years ago. On the day of Farron’s resignation, Nick Clegg paid tribute to the stabilising role he had in his two years in charge.  Although the election result did not show as much progress as the party would have hoped, they have taken the first steps along the path to recovery.

However, when one considers the circumstances surrounding the 2017 General Election it becomes hard to see how the Lib Dems increased their total of seats by just four.  The vote was contested between an increasingly unpopular Prime Minister in Theresa May and a leader of the opposition who was unable to control his own MPs in Jeremy Corbyn; circumstances which would normally be seen as ideal for a ‘third party’.  Add the fact that the Lib Dems were the only party to oppose Brexit, meaning they should have been representing 48% of the electorate, and the election starts to look as if it was the perfect opportunity for the Lib Dems to become at least as popular as they were in 2010.

However, a combination of the youth vote siding with Labour rather than the Lib Dems and Farron being at the heart of controversy surrounding alleged homophobic views led to the Lib Dems led to the party gaining just four seats and saw their vote share decrease from 7.9% in 2015 to 7.3%.  The Lib Dem manifesto was clearly targeting young remain voters, with a second referendum on EU membership their main policy, but the young voters tended to side with Jeremy Corbyn’s promise of phasing out tuition fees rather than a possible reversal of Brexit.  For this reason, it is difficult to look at Farron’s electoral performance and see anything but a failure.

Faith and Football Social Enterprise Challenge 2017

by Thomas Locke

Create a business and turn it into a practical way of generating income. That was the task set by Portsmouth-based educational charity, Faith and Football in the 2017 Business and Enterprise Challenge. The idea of the competition is for students across the south in Year 9 to form a group, start a company and practise vital communication, marketing and sales skills in the process. All of the profits made during the competition is paid to the charity and spent on their work overseas.The winning team is given tickets to an all-inclusive trip to Goa, India to see first-hand where the money generated by the charity is going and who is benefiting. The challenge is in its 12th year and I followed The Portsmouth Grammar School’s entry, The Cookie Co to establish what the competition entails and to explore some of the challenges that they faced.

Faith and Football is a Christian charity operating in Portsmouth, Plymouth and Cambridge, their goal is to run a variety of educational programmes across different year groups in an attempt to provide opportunities to young people. One of their flagship programmes is the Social Enterprise and Business Challenge for Year 9 students to set up their own company and run it for four months. At the end of this time, business plans, storyboards and all financial accounts need to be submitted to the charity's Head Office in Portsmouth for review. The aim of the challenge is to try and increase the students employability and providing crucial skills in leadership, coordination and team participation.
There were numerous entries from The Portsmouth Grammar School, however, due to the nature of this style of competition, unfortunately some had to drop out. From the outset, I followed one of the schools entries, The Cookie Co. The business, operated by Arya Gowda, Jevon Hannah, Sarnaz Hussain, George Davis-Marks and Rohin Kachroo, specialises in selling premium, handmade cookies with flavours inspired by oriental foods across the world. The team created an impressive website with an online store, integrating PayPal as a payment method and they also explored the possibilities of social media channels, interacting with customers via Twitter and Instagram.

They had created a very successful brand and unique product in a very busy market. To sell their handmade goods, they organised a variety of sales at the school as well as taking on high street favourites, setting up temporary outlet shops in Cascades and the Meridian Centre in Portsmouth and Southampton respectively. The process was monitored by Paul and Wynelle Cowdery, independent business mentors from the US, it was their job to provide guidance and offer assistance to the five as they completed the competition. Paul and Wynelle have worked as mentors for businesses such as Mondelez International, the umbrella company responsible for household food brands Cadbury, Oreo, Sour Patch and more. PGS pupil, Daniel Hill, also oversaw the group, offering skills that he gained from completing the challenge last year.

When Every Answer Is Wrong (Part One)

by Tom Fairman

When Tim Farron announced his resignation as leader of the Liberal Democrats, he stated the main reason as the conflict between his faith and politics. His inability to provide satisfactory responses to questions regarding his views on homosexuality dogged him throughout the election campaign, overshadowing the policies he was actually campaigning for. On the face of it he seemed to be unable to hold his faith and lead his party at the same time. The severe criticism and vilification of the DUP that has happened since their talks with the Conservative party began cover a number of issues, but one of them is also along the same argument that their faith and the policies that stem from it particularly in regards to abortion and gay marriage are incompatible with power in Westminster.
Therefore is it right to assume that there is some change happening where holding a personal faith and holding a position of authority have become incompatible? It would a bit daft to run an election campaign without offering your interpretation to the problems the country faces and usually these solutions are guided by the principles and opinions you hold. As faith can be defined as a set of opinions that are held about what is right and true in the world, then it would be foolish to argue that this will have no impact on the decisions you make if you are in power or to try to distinguish them from less religious sounding principles. Therefore to question whether a personal faith affects your ability to do a job in government seems to depend upon whether you agree with the faith that is held by those in power.
The natural next step then is to conclude that it is Christian values that appear to be the issue in the UK; Christian values that are often characterised as conservative, outdated, regressive and discriminatory. It saddens me to hear my faith portrayed in these terms. The Christianity that I know is one built upon some simple foundations which can be summed up in three words; God is love. The whole purpose of Jesus’ earthly ministry was to bring us back into a knowledge and understanding that God’s love is for every single person on this earth. It is a completely unconditional, unending love that is borne out of the fact that each person is uniquely created as a child of God, in His image and that love is displayed in the ultimate sacrificial act of Easter. It is an infinite love that bears itself out in wanting the best for us, for us to have life and have it to the full, to be free and to know how special we are. When you are teaching a child, meeting survivors of a disaster or planning a new benefit system, you are serving God himself in that person and if that does not affect the decisions you make, then there lies the real problem. This love is also accompanied by a mercy and grace, given as undeserved forgiveness and if you are looking for scandal in Christianity, you will find it in this amazing grace.

Friday, 16 June 2017

On Being Lord Lieutenant’s Cadet 2016-17

by James Ross

One of the highlights of my time at PGS has been the Combined Cadet Force, this has given me opportunities ranging from parachuting, conducting an exercise with the Royal Marines and meeting HRH the Princess Royal. I started my journey in year 9, inquisitive to try something different; I joined the CCF and have never looked back, I’m sure not many eighteen-year-olds can say they have done what I’ve just mentioned, and that has all been down to this invaluable experience the school offers.

After working my way up the ranks, I was privileged enough to be put forward as a candidate for the Lord Lieutenant’s Cadet, and selected, perhaps the rarest and most prestigious appointment a cadet could hope for. The position entails acting as a personal aide to the Lord Lieutenant (the Queen’s personal representative of which there is one in each county) and to assist him in his ceremonial duty. My duties have mainly been in parades, laying wreaths in ceremonies, but more recently, in March, my job was to open Princess Anne’s car door and escort her to an exhibition she opened in the dockyard. I have also recently attended a ceremony opening a memorial to the recipient of the Victoria Cross, and was humbled by the story of extreme courage in the face of death shown by LCpl. James Welch. On behalf of the Lord Lieutenant I laid a wreath to commemorate the bravery shown and took part in a parade with the Rifles regiment.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Another Election - Another Surprise

by Georgia McKirgan

Just like in 2015 and the EU Referendum, the result of last week's General Election took all the 'experts' by surprise. Even on the day of the votes, most people thought Cameron would fail to win a majority in 2015, Remain would win the EU Referendum and the only doubt this time was whether Theresa May would win a majority of 50 or 100. All of these predictions were wrong. There is a good piece to be written about why journalists, politicians and polling companies have proved so useless at doing something they should be good at - predicting electoral outcomes - but that is not what I am trying to do here.

Some of the most common questions in British politics are: Why is participation in General Elections falling? Why do older people vote more than young people and Why is the share of the vote taken by the two major parties falling? I spent a lot of time preparing my answers to these questions, so I'm really glad the exam was last week and not next week as all the conventional wisdom about these issues has been turned upside down.

Let's take Participation first. Disillusionment with political parties and problems with the First Past the Post voting system (safe seats, wasted votes etc) are usually blamed for falling turnouts in elections but recently this had been ticking back up. Turnout in the Scottish Independence and EU Referendums showed that people were very engaged in politics, even if they were less interested in General Elections. This disillusionment with politics was seen to be most acute amongst the young. There is no official data for turnout by age group in the EU referendum but Sky News came up with the following turnout numbers:

18-24: 36%
25-34: 58%
35-44: 72%
45-54: 75%
55-64: 81%
65+: 83%

The fact that the turnout was so low amongst younger voters (who were largely in favour of Remain) was held up as one of the reasons for the Leave vote. So how did young voters turn out for this election?

The graph shows that there was a massive increase in the turnout of 18-24 voters in this election (66.4%) over the 2015 election (44%). The youth turnout was the highest since 1992 and the third highest since 1974. This increase drove the overall turnout up to a very respectable 68.7% compared to 59.4 in 2001 and 85% of seats saw an increase in turnout. This jump in youth turnout may also have affected the overall result. Everyone would have expected left-wing parties to do a bit better with younger voters but the extent of this was surprising:

The 49 point advantage for Labour over the Conservatives amongst young people more than outweighs the 36 point advantage for the Conservatives amongst older voters (65+). In previous elections, the fact that older people voted in greater numbers than young people has been used to explain why most parties' policies tend to favour older over younger voters (pensions triple-lock etc). The view was that parties were merely developing policies that would give them the biggest return amongst likely voters. Something started to change in 2015 but didn't really have a big effect until last week. When Jeremy Corbyn shocked the 'experts' (see the trend here?) by winning the Labour Party Leadership elections in 2015 and 2016 many people commented that a large part of his success was the way his message resonated with young people. During the campaign Corbyn's public meetings were large, energetic and filled with young people. Compare this to the staged, scripted appearances by the "Maybot" where she could barely get beyond the phrase "Strong and Stable" and refused to take part in the Leaders Debate.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

The Latter Rose

by Tony Hicks

This rose  tree was given to me after PGS in Bloom three years ago by David Doyle. It gets better every year and the roses get better.

Difficult Questions With Simple Answers

by Tom Fairman

The hung parliament that resulted from last week’s election presented many more questions than it did answers. Unlike a referendum when the question is supposedly very simple, an election does not pose any specific question besides who do you want to represent your constituency in the House of Commons. The answer to that question depends upon how you frame the question in your head.
Invariably your MP will vote with their party so they are merely a part of something bigger and yet some MPs have differing records when it comes to free votes or which committees they sit on. Some MPs are brilliant at raising issues and speaking to their constituents; others have the responsibility of being part of the Cabinet. It is this uniqueness and yet solidarity that makes the British first past the post system work.
If proportional representation or a French-style presidential system is used, the voting would be solely for a leader of a party and their vision for the country. This leads to a strange paradox as a common question people answer when they vote is who is best to lead the country rather than which MP do I feel would best represent me. It means when PMs come under pressure as leaders of their parties, previous mandates can become invalid as Theresa May has found out.
Our governmental party system does offer some reflection on our society though. The aftermath of the recent terrorist attacks have shown the true beauty of our country. The stories of people sacrificing their own safety to help others; the kindness of local businesses in helping those in need; the incredible emergency services’ dedication to serving those wounded and hurt; the politicians who do put aside their differences to come together to try and form counter terrorism solutions. These have been summed up as solidarity.
The many varied responses of the different parts of society come together to become one response to the question of how we deal with terrorism. Each response was different and served a different purpose, but together they made a whole response and yet the whole did not replace each individual action. To borrow a phrase from C.S. Lewis, each action was like the edge of a cube; each unique in and of itself but part of something different, something of another dimension, reliant on its parts.
This analogy for oneness is used by C.S.Lewis to answer another very different question; what is the Trinity? The Trinity is the mystery that three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are all God with no hierarchy or separation, three persons who are God and yet together are one God. This presents a real challenge when running Children’s liturgy on Trinity Sunday. However the key is in the oneness.

10 Things We Now Know About British Politics - After 8th June

by Simon Lemieux

Well that was an interesting election wasn’t it! My prediction was predictably wide of the mark but I can at least claim that I got the number of Lib Dems right, that voters are increasingly volatile and changeable, and that it was worth waiting up for. At least too I didn’t predict a Tory landslide unlike many experts (see the attached set of predictions from the very reputable and non partisan Politics Studies Association) -  Who indeed needs experts….. So what have we learnt other than making predictions leave you exposed, vulnerable and open to challenges: a bit like calling an unnecessary election and losing it! Well there is much that has and will be written about an election which I think will go down in history as one of the more dramatic ones in modern British history. Here’s 10 points to get you started with.

1. Two party politics (in England at any rate) is back albeit possibly temporarily unless or until the Lib Dems set sail again or someone (Farage?) performs CPR and brings back UKIP Lazarus like from the grave. Between them, Tories and Labour notched up just over 82% of the total vote – you have to go back to 1970 to find a higher figure (89% to be more exact). In recent elections it has hovered around two thirds, so this was not a good night for any of the smaller parties except for Sinn Fein and the Conservatives’ new best friends, the DUP. The Greens and UKIP both slumped disastrously seeing their combined vote slump from 5 million in 2015 to 1 million.

2. Tactical voting is on the rise at least anecdotally; in 2015 9% claimed they would vote tactically, in 2017 this rose to 20%, mainly it has to be said in a so-called progressive alliance ie anti Tory. There is much less evidence of UKIPers voting tactically even though there were some local pacts and the absence of UKIP candidates in some seats probably on balance helped the Tories to victory in a few seats. In most strong UKIP areas such as the south West and Lincolnshire though, they probably just bolstered Tory majorities. Those northern Brexit seats in Labour areas such as Hartlepool where UKIP came a strong second stayed Labour.

3. Young people will turn out and vote, and there is some evidence of a youthful Corbyn fanbase, but before we get too carried with blaming the young for voting for what they don’t have to pay for (all the magic money tree etc) or alternatively, being engaged and enthused by a new style of positive politics, some interesting observations from the BBC website:

‘The 10 constituencies with the highest proportions of 18 to 24-year-olds posted increases in the Labour vote of more than 14%. The biggest swing to Labour was in Bristol West where it grew 30% - it has the eighth highest proportion of 18 to 24 year olds in the country - it's the home of Bristol University. Prof John Curtice points out that in England and Wales there was a 2.5% swing to Labour in seats where fewer than 7% of the population is aged 18 to 24. In seats where at least one in 10 people is of that age, there was a swing of 5%. But if you look at all 91 constituencies where the Labour vote increased by more than 14%, the proportion of 18 to 24 year olds is only slightly above average (about 12%, when the average is about 9%).

If you look at the 35 Labour gains, only 15 of them had more 18 to 24 year olds than average.’ So it’s not that clear-cut, but the Conservatives did do especially badly in both university towns (Bristol, Canterbury, Oxford) and in large urban centres above all London which tend to be younger and more ethnically diverse. By contrast their vote held up extremely well in most of their suburban and rural heartlands – double digit majorities in most Hampshire seats outside the two main conurbations for example.

4. Failing to engage or at least go through the charade of engaging with the electorate is a bad move. It is easy and an open goal to accuse Theresa May of being robotic but… (Wheat fields really, not even rye or barley…). Her absence from the leaders’ debate with the glorious gift of hindsight now looks arrogant and completely misjudged, rather than an unnecessary risk or stateswomanlike. Corbyn had all the advantages of the outsider, took a few risks (letting Diane Abbot be interviewed was clearly one of them!) and at least came over as vaguely human and sincere. This was Sanders vs Clinton, only on this side of the pond and they were from different parties (though arguably so were Sanders and Clinton). What we lacked was a credible rightwing populist – where was Farage when you needed him; then we could truly emulate the US…

Monday, 12 June 2017

Why I am Deeply Concerned About the Con/DUP Alliance

by Jo Morgan

In their desire to cling to power over our country, Theresa May and her party have made a deal with the DUP (Democratic Unionist Party). 

Known for their moral conservativism, the DUP pose a genuine threat to the hard won rights of LGBT people and woman. This is truly terrifying.

We have seen real progress on LGBT rights in recent years but whilst gains have been made in terms of marriage equality and adoption rights, there is still some way to go. The life for many LGBT people remains difficult. The Stonewall school report of 2012 showed that nearly one in four young LGBT people have attempted suicide and over half have self-harmed. More recently, Pride in London’s research showed that 74 per cent of LGBT people hide their sexual orientation or gender identity, with 77 per cent feeling uncomfortable in being their true selves in public (against 23 per cent of the general population).

Likewise, women’s rights in the UK are more protected than ever before. Despite this, gender inequality persists in many ways. The British Council has stated that the UK must make this issue a priority since we are falling behind nations like the US and France. In the UK, women hold less than 30% of positions of power and influence. Women experience higher levels of sexual, physical and online abuse. They are paid significantly less (18.1% in 2016) to do the same job. They are objectified and vilified in the media.

The Speech that Theresa May Should Have Made On 9 June - and Why She Needs to Resign!

by Ruth Richmond

I have been a Conservative since I turned 18 years old. My parents were active members of their local Conservative Party. They were highly political and insisted that we talked about politics inside the home. My mother has always been Conservative; she is that old-fashioned kind of Tory who felt that if you worked hard in life then you earned status and money and that was something to be proud of. She believed in low levels of tax simply because she thought people needed to take responsibility for earning their lot and taking care of their families. She disliked a large state and above all dependence on the state; she sees it as a sign of weakness. She welcomes privatisation (not of the NHS though!) and believed it encouraged competition that could only benefit the economy and individuals. My father changed his political views when he reached his 30s. He had been a member of the Labour Party but became disillusioned with it because of, what he saw, as the lack of aspiration for the working classes. With Conservatism, he believed that people could achieve what they wanted through hard work. He grew up on a council estate in Larne, Northern Ireland, went to University, achieved 2 first class degrees, and became a Professor in a University department. His school teachers and friends told him that his status in life would be working in the local steel factory and getting a council house. His parents were so furious that they became Conservative party activists. It’s a story that made a big impression on me as I was growing up.

Like many others, I was pleased when Theresa May replaced David Cameron after he resigned after the unexpected result in the EU referendum in June 2016. I had been impressed with her performance as Home Secretary and I thought she would make a decent PM. Whilst, in retrospect, I was more assured by her authoritative demeanour than her policies (given when we know now regarding her failure to deal with the threat of prospective Jihadis over a 6 year period and the removal of many community police officers), I felt confident that she would provide socially progressive policies that would benefit all parts of society. More crucially, I thought she would provide a more acceptable face, less nasty and elitist, than that of tory Etonians such as Cameron and Johnson, which would appeal to all social classes. Overall, I had high hopes that she would be a success and that, above all, could provide optimism to those that felt left behind in society. I thought she would protect the Union, keep Nicola Sturgeon in check, and be tough on terrorism. I hoped that we could see more of the human side of Theresa May as she appeared robotic (I can see why she has earned the nickname ‘Maybot’) and awkward. But she remained popular with the public given that the opposition was hopeless under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. It was all going rather well. Then she made one mistake after the other which led to her party failing to achieve a majority on 8 June:

1.      She called a snap election despite saying several times that she never would.
2.      She took success for granted given her standing in the polls.
3.      She failed to engage with the wider public, choosing instead to talk with pre-arranged smaller groups whilst Jeremy performed at large rallies.
4.      The Conservative manifesto was dull, pessimistic, and unexciting, in contrast to the Labour Party manifesto which was bold and costed.
5.      She became more robotic as the campaign progressed whilst Jeremy Corbyn blossomed.

I was willing to stick with her, particularly as Brexit negotiations are due to begin in just over a week’s time, until she made that dreadful speech on the steps of No. 10 on the afternoon of 9 June. 

Sunday, 11 June 2017

Photography: Second Clutch of Goldfinches

by Tony Hicks

This second nest was started during the first week of June. 

The first egg was laid n the 8th June - all laid early in the morning.

If all goes well, the first should hatch about 25th-29th June; it takes about 13 - 15 days.

The young will be in the nest for 14 - 17 days, so they should fly about 14th - 17th  July.

It would also appear they recycle their old nests. Good birds.

Friday, 9 June 2017

Don’t Panic!

by Miranda Worley

Sterling dropped 2% on news of a hung parliament today – but here are some reasons we shouldn’t be all gloomy. 

1. It appears the election was swung by an increased number of young voters, who traditionally don’t bother to vote. This is great news!  The future of our country belongs to the young, we need them to take an active interest in politics and shape it.  Democracy relies on participation not apathy! 

2. Short-term business confidence may be affected by this political uncertainty, but consumer confidence is a much more volatile concept, and likely to be positively swayed by a period of barbecue weather and a win for the British under 20s football team; if Andy Murray can win the French Open this weekend we may even forget that Ben Ainslie has been knocked out of the Americas Cup! 

      3. The FTSE100 index went up this morning.  A lower exchange rate tends to mean higher repatriated profits for our largest multinational companies.  So returns on your investments will still do OK.  Your invested wealth continues to grow!      
      4. Change creates entrepreneurial opportunities.  We are certainly about to have a lot of change in the next few years, so get out there and take advantage of it, find your niche!

Earthquake! Election 2017

by James Burkinshaw

A victory for the Millennials? 
On reflection, it shouldn’t be a shock that last night went so different to expectations - and that pollsters and pundits have got it so wrong. After Brexit, after Trump, it is clear that there is a seismic level of dissatisfaction with establishment politics, with a status quo that seems to leave so many behind. 

What so many (not least in his own party) saw as a disqualifying disadvantage (decades on the backbenches, no Cabinet experience) proved to be Jeremy Corbyn’s trump card: his anti-establishment credentials (not to mention his formidable campaign skills, honed over forty years addressing marches, rallies). A surprisingly high number of former UKIP voters chose Labour this time – it seems that Corbyn’s outsider credentials appealed to those Kippers who wanted to stick two fingers up to politics-as-usual. Thus, Theresa May’s strategy of turning the Conservative party into UKIP-lite has been revealed as deeply mistaken. Yes, many former UKIP supporters voted Tory, but enough of them voted for Corbyn to enable Labour to retain their vital northern seats.  

And it does also seem that this election was the “Revenge of the Millennials”. Hundreds of thousands registered for the first time and it seems that, perhaps still angry at the decision made by their grandparents’ generation last June, a significant percentage (in contrast to previous elections and contrary to expectations of most pundits) showed up to vote. It seems that younger voters were a significant factor in Labour's historic win in Portsmouth South; for Labour to be picking up seats in the South-East is stunning. Canterbury has gone to Labour for the first time in 100 years.

Throughout the UK, younger voters overwhelmingly chose Corbyn over May, reminiscent perhaps of the septuagenarian Bernie Sanders' appeal to younger American voters. Like Sanders, Corbyn came across as authentic and natural, a man clearly comfortable in his own skin and genuine in his beliefs. The Conservative decision to run a presidential-style campaign focused on Theresa May and her “team” has, of course, been revealed as a catastrophic error. Clearly ill at ease meeting voters, restricted to pre-arranged set ups with loyal party members, averse to debates, she cut an awkward and uncomfortable figure. Presented by the Daily Mail as the reincarnation of Margaret Thatcher, she was exposed, on the campaign trail, as more reminiscent of Gordon Brown in his last, haunted months as PM.

And (by common consent) she ran the worst campaign in recent British political history. Calling the snap election, she argued that she needed a huge majority to stop opponents of Brexit acting as "saboteurs" in Parliament. This was transparently dishonest and cynical, particularly with the Labour Party supporting Brexit and voting for article 50. However, with the disastrous launch of the Tories' care home policy, debate moved rapidly from Brexit on to Labour territory: health and the welfare state. There is a definite sense that, after 7 years, voters are tired of Austerity. 

Even more damaging was the impact of the bungled manifesto on May’s leadership image: incompetent, indecisive, weak and (in her refusal to admit the policy had changed) mendacious. She has been exposed as an empty suit. And her approval ratings plummeted accordingly. And Corbyn’s soared. Another revelation of the election was the unanticipated professionalism of the Labour party’s management: an effective manifesto roll-out, popular policy choices, an inventive and effective communications operation. Even on security issues which have traditionally played to Tory strengths, following on from the terrorist atrocities in Manchester and London, former Home Secretary Theresa May was on the defensive during the final days of the campaign about cuts in police budgets. 

Corbyn not only proved to be far shrewder and politically agile than most people expected. He also offered a positive, optimistic message – in contrast to the Conservative re-running the “Project Fear” strategy that failed so demonstrably when used by the Remain forces less than twelve months ago. And May's personalised, vicious attacks on Corbyn (for example, an invitation to invite voters to imagine him naked) made her seem mean-spirited – particularly as Corbyn refused to make personal attacks on her. Certainly, the attempt by the Mail, Sun and other Conservative out-riders to demonise Corbyn failed badly.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Results of the 2017 PGS General Election

by Simon Lemieux

Overall result

By seats: Conservatives – 6.5 seats, Liberal Democrats 1.5 seats, Labour 1 seat

Conservative victory

By popular vote
Conservatives  36% (130)              
Liberal Democrats 21% (75)                                           
Labour 17% (63)
UKIP 9% (33)                                                                
Greens 9% (32)                                                             
Women’s Equality Party 8% (29)                      

Result: Conservative victory

Pupil turnout: 
Middle School 60%, 
Years 9-10 43% 
Overall: 51%

For a complete record of past PGS election results (dating back nearly a century), see John Sadden's article here.

For a more detailed break-down of the 2017 PGS result, House by House, see below the break:

Election Day

by Thomas Locke

Today, Britain goes to the polls, to decide who voters feel is fit to lead the country and guide us through the upcoming Brexit negotiations. After weeks of campaigning, debating, questioning, name calling and touring the country in brightly coloured “battle buses”, the day has arrived to cast your vote. 

While the news is choked with stories of polls claiming to know who people are backing, only you know who is getting your support. Whether it's Theresa May you're keen on with her “Strong and Stable” approach or whether you have a hankering for Jeremy Corbyn or Tim Farron of the Lib Dem parish, whoever you vote for today, we will soon ascertain what implications it will have on Britain and its future. 

However, instead of glaring into the murky waters of Britain’s fate, on this poignant day, I would like to take this time to look back at the last few weeks and relive some of the most memorable moments of the 2017 Snap General Election.

 1. Theresa May calls a snap general election

Standing in front of Number 10, the Prime Minister said that: 

“Since I became prime minister I have said that there should be no election until 2020, but now I have concluded that the only way to guarantee certainty and stability for the years ahead is to hold this election”

2. The Party Manifestos.

As Portsmouth Point is politically neutral, the manifestos have been placed in order of popularity (based on YouGov polls on the 7th May 2017):

Conservatives: key policies include replacing the triple-lock on state pensions to a “double-lock”, means testing winter fuel allowances, scrapping free school lunches for infants and cutting net migration to below 100,000. There are no figures mentioned in the Conservative manifesto and their policies have not been costed.

Labour: key policies include the scrapping university tuition fees, nationalising England’s water companies, ending zero hours contracts, hiring 10,000 new police officers and introducing a 45p and 50p tax rate for those earning £80,000 and £123,000 respectively. Labour has costed all of their policies, although it has been criticised by some, with the Conservatives referring to their financial planning as relying on a “magic money tree”.

Liberal Democrats: key policies include a second EU referendum, a 1% rise in income tax to pay for NHS and social care, a ban on the sale of diesel cars and small vans by 2025, the legalisation of cannabis and the extension of free childcare to all two-year olds.

UKIP: key policies include reducing net migration to zero within five years, banning the wearing of face coverings in public areas (burqa ban), cutting VAT on household bills, implementing 20,000 more police officers and spending meeting the NATO benchmark of spending 2% of GDP on defence.

Green: key policies include implementing a four-day working week, protecting freedom of movement, a referendum on the final Brexit deal, lowering the voting age to 16, cancelling Trident replacement and introducing proportional representation.

3. The One Show

Both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn appeared on the BBC evening talk show The One Show.
Theresa May appeared on the show first and viewers of the programme were quick to criticise comments made by May and her husband, Philip, after they discussed the dividing up of household chores. Critics said that their perceptions of “boy and girl jobs” were “outdated” and one person called it “sexism at its finest”. Kezia Dugdale, the leader of the Scottish Labour party, tweeted: “Seconds into The One Show, the Prime Minister tells the country there are ‘boy jobs and girl jobs’ at home – I despair.”
When Jeremy Corbyn appeared on the show, he discussed his love for manhole covers and allotments as well as offering presenters, Alex Jones and Ore Oduba, a jar of his home-grown jam.

The Labour Leader took a bash at Theresa May on the show by stating that there were not ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ jobs in the Corbyn household. Viewers appeared to appreciate his appearance on the programme and he was praised as ‘human’ for his honest comments, described as a ‘warm, funny and a genuinely human’ person.

4. Diane Abbott and the recurrence of “car crash” interviews

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

A Moment to Savour

by Lottie Allen

Sandbanks, 2.31am

Undisturbed, unwavering silence.

The quiet is something to savour and appreciate. Only accompanied by the gentle lapping of the waves rocking the boat with each contented sigh; rhythmic and calming. The familiarity of the ocean’s lullaby reminded me of my father, and a wave of sadness drowned me in a torrent - tenderly tugging at my heartstrings. But my nostalgia was incomparable to my wonder when I peered out of the window, the view slightly obscured and unfocused by hot breath.

A myriad of stars poured from the sky’s fields onto the sea, and reflected across the ocean in glimmers of hope. Softy, the water polished the light shingle with a hum before creeping away; only to return and litter rounded pebbles few and far across the bay. I could smell the salty sea scent lingering in the air and see the sway of the grass dancing over rolling sand dunes to the tune of the breeze. Secluded from the world: a pocket of paradise. 

I’m unplugged, and disconnected from everything but the present. Nothing could capture the nature’s art, without imperfection and I feel no need to succumb to the usual tech impulses. It’s just the world and I. Little else matters, and my mind is undistracted. Content and filled with euphoria, to live the moment and enjoy its company. Then I slipped away into a untroubled slumber.

When Will Britain's Political parties Talk Seriously About Education?

by Sam Brunner

Education, education, education. As a teacher, I'm listening hard for manifesto pledges that will make a difference when votes are cast tomorrow, but, as each rolls in, there is still not enough real debate of how we want to improve schools in this country. Where will we be in 2021?
I don't want to sound too miserable, but if tomorrow brings a Tory government with a workable majority, as seems most likely, the answer seems to be ‘more of the same’. Perhaps this explains why 75% of teachers in a recent TES survey said that they didn't think education would improve post-election.
If May is re-elected, I'm expecting the same grammar school debate that completely misses the point. May’s government may put a bit more money in, but it won't be enough. Technology and mental health interventions are on the agenda, which is positive, but outcomes are unpredictable. In the meantime, the new Conservative Secretary of State for Education is likely to be ‘Gove Lite’ and can be expected to keep on mucking about with free schools and academies, things which distract from the problems being faced in classrooms across the country and don't really make any tangible and whole-scale difference anyway.
What if Labour or a Labour-led coalition make it tomorrow? Despite the narrowing polls, the possibility seems remote, but there are some big promises for schools on Corbyn’s agenda, and polls suggest he has 65% of the teacher vote, up from 51% in 2015. He has pledged to reverse the £3 billion of savings that must be made by 2019-20, to halt the government proposed national funding formulas which hit the most needy schools in the poorest areas, lift public sector pay freezes and reduce class sizes. All excellent news, though questions remain over funding, but a Labour-SNP deal might be a force for positive change in the classroom.
If no education system can be better than its teachers, but fewer than half of the teachers in our schools have more than 10 years experience, how and when will things improve?It's frustrating, though, to note an absence of any real discussion on any side about the practicalities of education, and educating. Where is the pledge that will address the crisis in teacher supply and retention in this country? The UK is a complete anomaly in terms of teacher retention in the developed world, but no one is really talking about it.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Photography: Lovely June Day

by Tony Hicks

Something Worth Waiting For

by Tom Fairman

The wait is almost over. The talking, shouting and u-turns will finally be finished. The voting will commence and the results will be counted. Hopefully the country will see a change for the better with the wisdom of the crowd prevailing to give the country exactly what it needs. More than likely the promise of the election campaign will fade as real life commences and everyone will breathe for a while until we get wound up for the next campaign.
Yet what is it that our country really needs? The enthusiasm that has been tapped into in the last few weeks speaks of a yearning for a different way of doing things; a desire to see real change that will last. Change that is built upon goodness, kindness, gentleness, forbearance and self control where everyone contributes for the benefit of the many. It stems from a desire to spread peace and joy at a time when fear and division is being stoked to protect self-interests.
It is a renewal of our country that will hopefully start at the ballot box, but spiritual renewal starts on Sunday with the celebration of Pentecost. After Easter, the Disciples were signed up on promises of a new kingdom, of a world changed, of resurrection from the dead. Yet they were locked in a room out of fear, ill-equipped to follow the dream they had bought into, waiting for the helper Jesus had promised; but what a helper it was!
The Holy Spirit is one of the hardest aspects of Christianity to accept as to take Him at face value is too scary and too extreme. We make it confusing and abstract to try to avoid the truth. Yet to say Jesus is Lord is to have this gift of the Holy Spirit which is given freely to all at baptism and is our helper. To have the Holy Spirit means to produce His fruits in our lives; fruits of love, joy, peace, goodness, gentleness, kindness, forbearance and self-control which are wonderful and necessary gifts, particularly as part of a family, and brings renewal to all our relationships.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Waterfall Landscape (Time Lapse)

by Imogen Ashby

Recent Technological Ideas and Innovations

by Alex Porter

I have been looking at some new technologies and innovations and I was interested to see how these have an impact on us. Here are three that I found:

1. Airless bike tyre

The first innovation is the airless bike tyre. The wheels use a system of blade-like spokes, with rims that are wrapped in slim rubber. It is lightweight, strong and durable so it is not affected by thorns or other sharp objects so you don't need to change the tyre as often as a standard bike tyre. As well as this, it supports your weight using ‘responsive thermoplastic resins’. This tyres are due to be released for sale in 2019.

2. 'Travis' translator

Another innovation is ‘Travis’. Travis is a three inch translator that translates over eighty languages. The product was first introduced on the website’ Indiego’ where people put up their ideas for products to be analysed by the public which meant it could then be funded and produced. The Travis managed to get over $600,000 of funding and will cost around $149 (£115) to buy. It can translate information rapidly and can work for 12 hours without charging, by speaker or headphones. The most amazing thing about it is that it ‘learns’ the more you use it.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

What Are You Waiting For?

by Tom Fairman

Half term during exam season brings a welcome break for the students from the exam hall. It may not be a time free of work, with much necessary revision still to be done, but it does allow a respite from the intense exam environment. As much as this can be positive, the temptation to kick back and relax can be very strong with the knowledge that the wait until the next exam is a relatively long one.
Waiting is also an essential part of the Easter story. The Israelites had waited thousands of years for a Saviour. There was a three day wait after Jesus’ death before His resurrection. The disciples must have spent a lot of time waiting for Jesus to appear again after His resurrection, wondering who He would appear to next, where would it happen. Perhaps they tried to engineer situations where He would be more likely to make an appearance.
Going fishing seemed to pique Jesus’ interest so maybe that is why they choose to dust the nets off. Maybe they were kicking back and relaxing doing something that they knew how to do as a procrastination technique, which must have seemed more attractive than being locked in a room in a city. It is possible they had given up hope Jesus would come back again and regressed back to their previous way of life, losing their purpose in their waiting.
Our waiting can be like this too. Everyone is waiting for something in their lives, whether that is the next exam, a new baby to be born, the end of a set of loan repayments or for the football season to restart. It is what we spend most of our life doing as inevitably what we wait for is much shorter in time than the waiting itself and this makes our ability to wait fundamental to our well being.

Why Should I Pay More Tax?

by Eleanor Matthews

Tax is a large point of interest in the coming election, and many people are not interested in giving any more of their money away. However, with increasing budget cuts within necessary services in the UK, such as the NHS, the consequences of refusing to increase taxes will be felt.

It is important to increase tax as government-funded projects such as help for homeless people and some counselling services that are not seen as completely necessary have been cut. These cuts have led to a large increase in homelessness which is often caused by mental health issues or addiction. 

Furthermore, paying more tax may be especially important now as the police will need more training and equipment and employees to try and combat the terror attacks that are becoming more and more frequent.

It seems counterintuitive to vote to pay more tax; however, studies have shown that crime rates decrease when taxpayers pay more. It can also help students and young people who will be able to further their education without huge university debt building up and hanging over them for a large proportion of their lives.

We should not be scared to pay more tax as we are far down the list of countries who pay the most tax. Norway is considered the happiest country (taking into account many factors from wages to quality of life) and they are also one of the highest-paying countries with regard to tax, showing that it may make this country a nicer place for everyone overall.

The 2017 Climate Change Election

by Simon Lemieux

Speculating let alone predicting the outcome of an election or indeed any popular vote, is fraught with risk; it always has been to an extent, but even more so now. Yes, even the Trumpesque climate change deniers must now admit that politics is experiencing the equivalent of climate change: politics has got hotter and more unpredictable. So what follows is not so much a prediction or forecast, but rather a reflection on how the UK 2017 General Election is not what we might have expected. So, in Buzzfeed style, 4 unexpected outcomes of the election we might not have expected…

1. This was supposed to be a political picnic for the Conservatives. Conventional wisdom says PMs only call elections early when… they are forced to by lack of an effective working majority (e.g Wilson in October 1974) or they assume they will do better and increase their majority than if they waited till the normal due date. It all looked so good for TM; a remarkable by-election victory at Copeland (governments are not supposed to gain seats in by-elections) and wins in local elections in May, a strong lead in the polls, Labour in disarray etc. Things currently look rather different; talk of a three figure majority look wide of the mark, Labour have bounced back, the election that was never going to be close or exciting has become a veritable bun-fight and far from a picnic.

2. It was supposed to be about Brexit. It is probably a fair bet that Mrs May was genuinely looking for a stronger hand domestically in her dealings with the wily EU bureaucrats (Juncker and his ilk who still can’t quite believe the Brits had the audacity to threaten their pet project of European integration and an ever-closer union). She would unite, demand and wave a handbag at our friends (or exes) in Brussels and elsewhere. Like Mrs T before her, a tough stance against the EU would secure her a hallowed place in British (or should that be English?) history, and while Thatcher demanded a lower bill (aka as the rebate), May would secure a generous alimony in the divorce settlement, or more accurately, pay as little maintenance as possible to the European children that remained in the care of the EU and the federalists. Instead, Brexit has taken a back seat. Tragic events in Manchester and now London, have pushed national security to the fore. Instead of uniting Britain behind a ‘good Brexit’, the PM faced the challenge of uniting the UK against Islamist extremism and the ‘enemies within’ not ‘without’. This election reminds us how politicians and their spin doctors often lack control even over setting the agenda.

3. It was supposed to be about ‘strong and stable leadership’. Again, were the original script to be followed, this was meant to be about one strong leader facing down the ‘Second XI’ of the other parties. Fate (or faith) seemed to have delivered an open goal to the Prime Minister: JC was no messiah for Labour, heartily rejected by his closest disciples (namely his fellow Labour MPs who passed a vote of no confidence in him). Yet Corbyn (somehow) has survived and his poll ratings have improved. Not because his policies have been fully and confidently costed, nor because we know for certain whether or not he would press the red button to fire Trident (after checking first with the White House of course – will they take the call?). No, Corbyn has become the hero of the anti-politicians on the progressive forces in British politics. A mirror image of Trump without the bombasticity, narcissism and tweets that don’t make. Sanders has crossed the pond and donned a red tie and sung the Red Flag (only with conviction). He won’t win of course, but it might be fun, but what happens if, just if…..? Maybe it doesn’t look quite so funny from that angle unless you are a true Corbynista.

The script has brought Mrs May crashing down to earth and perhaps found wanting. She is no longer head and padded shoulders (sorry, wrong female Tory leader) above the rest of a fairly undistinguished bunch. That ex-professional footballer (or maybe not) Paul Nuttall no longer looks quite such an outlier, more of a midfielder on the right wing. Yes, their work on Earth is done, mission accomplished, but UKIP are still there; no one has quite worked out why which is why I guess they need all the campaigning time they can get. Who will provide any leadership looks less clear than it did a month or so ago, yet the nation needs it more than ever.