How the Brexit Party can win a General Election

If I was a betting man I would put a hundred quid on Nigel Farage becoming Prime Minister. Before you laugh me off, hear me out – he has massive advantages and the only thing stopping him at the moment will be if he is incompetent.

Firstly, within a day of launching his party he is 15% in the polls if there is a European Election with UKIP on 13%. If he can’t get UKIP votes from his old party with the national exposure he has and a narrative that they were useless, racist, Islamophobic, antisemitic and xenophobic idiots he is pretty incompetent. He has a right wing buffer – two if you count the BNP. Anyone who says he is a crazy right-winger can be told about more extreme right-wingers. He can even say that that sort of hatred is a Labour or Conservative thing. If he gets in a mess here, he is incompetent.

Secondly, he’s got money. He has crowd-sourced 750,000 pounds in ten days. Some really rich people in Britain are Leavers. The richest man in Britain is a Leaver although he’s buggered off to Monaco. The Tory Party has less than a million in the bank and some say they are going bankrupt. Their usual donors are not very happy with May either to say the least. Labour have cash from the unions but I wouldn’t be surprised if Brexit Party can match or surpass them financially. If he can’t get a whole pile of cash from his mates he would be incredibly incompetent.

Thirdly, he’s got the activists. People don’t realize how important these are. We all know that old people vote which is why the Tories keep winning but no one really understands why. Quite simply they are brilliant at getting their vote out at elections and they know which doors to knock on. They know who all their supporters are and on Election Day a whole army go out to get them. They even drive little old ladies to the polling booths. If you go to the Conservative Home website today you will see a mass defection to the Brexit Party. And before you say these are just right-wing keyboard warriors, have a look at what is going on in the local Conservative Party association meetings. Conservatives are very, very angry with Theresa May for the Brexit delay, they are leaving as they are fully aware that their leader has stabbed them in the back. You can’t get supporters to campaign for something in their manifesto and then ignore it and expect them to be cool about it. It scuppered the Lib Dems and they have never recovered, it is now happening to the Conservatives. These activists know who to talk to and who to get out and vote. And I will be absolutely shocked if Farage doesn’t have a list left over from the Brexit referendum. Leave mastered Facebook ads and whatever you think of the campaign it was bloody effective. If he doesn’t know who to get out and vote he is incompetent and remember we are talking about 52% of voters.

Fourthly, he only needs 25% to win an election. The opposition (Remain) is split five ways. He already has 25% if he can get the UKIP votes. He doesn’t need to campaign in any constituency where there is an existing Leave MP. He can divert all resources to places where he only needs to get 25%. The Conservatives have been decimated this week because of the Brexit delay. Labour has already split. Momentum are angry with Corbyn and TIG have left them. The Lib Dems are nowhere. All he needs to do is get about 400 local candidates who aren’t xenophobic idiots (that might be a bit harder, come to think about it). If Farage can’t exploit that he is completely incompetent.

Fifthly, The Brexit Party is new. There is little baggage apart from Farage himself. Many people think he is a fool. But he is a fool that 52% of voters voted with. He has already got people who have defected across from other parties. All he needs to do now is say he will respect the referendum result, respect the NHS promise, and respect the voters. If he says he will protect pensions he should win a lot of support. And he is combatting a narrative of someone who has consistently lied. Who has betrayed her red lines, trying to cobble together a deal no one likes and combining with Labour to get the Customs Union she promised she would leave. She has delayed, delayed delayed as well as being totally useless, a woeful negotiator and unable to get any consensus anywhere. The narrative has changed from a brave woman determined to get a reasonable deal to a megalomaniac sociopathic liar who never listens, is totally untrustworthy and is universally hated. And Labour and the Tories are obviously split. There is major party fatigue and everyone just wants someone to stick to their word. If he can’t exploit that narrative he is really, really incompetent.

Sixthly, he has the element of surprise. No one is going to think the Brexit Party is a real threat as they don’t have any votes yet. You can’t really tactically vote with an entity that doesn’t have a history. You can’t say “Oh, we need Tories and Labour to vote for this one guy to stop the Brexit Party getting in”. The first we will know is when it’s too late. And remember, with a five way Remain split he probably only needs 25% to win most constituencies. He just needs to keep his mouth shut here – if he mucks this up he is stupidly incompetent because he actually doesn’t need to do anything.

Finally, the opposing leaderships are dreadful. Whatever you think of Farage, he actually has a bit of charisma when you compare him to Theresa May. Corbyn has a bit more about him but is hardly the most inspiring leader. If you can’t beat parties in this state you are totally incompetent.

We haven’t even mentioned the media. If he can’t get the right-wing media onside he is more incompetent than Stoke City at taking penalties this season. (That is really bad if you didn’t know!)

So to conclude this pretty dreadful analysis – if you are not a Farage fan you just need to hope he is bloody incompetent. It’s his to lose.

Book Week Song

I have written a second book week song.  This one is a gentle one for Nursery and Key Stage 1.  Feel free to download and print. MuseScore Link Book Week Book_Week_is_Fun  

Norman Invasion

I’ve written a song about the Norman invasion.  It actually uses the same music as my song about a lionfish invasion that I wrote a few years ago!  It tells the story of the Norman invasion and I checked it with a history teacher and … Continue reading Norman Invasion

Recorder Karate Pieces

I have made a pdf of the Recorder Karate pieces that we are using.  They are different to the ones you can buy online and have been selected for use with Years 2 and 3.  Feel free to use, download and print. Recorder Karate Belts

Pirates of the Caribbean

I have made a simple version of “Pirates of the Caribbean” for String Quartet.  We are also going to be playing it in our string orchestra.  Feel free to download and print. He’s_a_Pirate-Cello He’s_a_Pirate-Viola He’s_a_Pirate-Violin_I He’s_a_Pirate-Violin_II He’s_a_Pirate    

Skye Boat Song

In Year 4 we have been singing some Sea Shanties and learning how to play “Drunken Sailor” and “Blow the Man Down” on the keyboards. We talked about the strict rules on ships and the diseases such as scurvy and rickets if you don’t get … Continue reading Skye Boat Song

Compulsion

In 2006 in our first staff meeting of our local authority music service’s academic year, our boss raised a glass and said, “These are the good times colleagues.  They will not last.  Enjoy them.”  He was right.  Our music service had grown by close to a quarter, we had more cash and more contracts from schools.  Everything was rosy.  I could pay my mortgage.  I had a full time contract on Teacher’s Pay and Conditions.

Now the picture in the nation is not as rosy.  Language like “decline”, “terminal”, and “crisis” are being used.  We know many of the reasons why.  EBacc.  Budgets.  Cuts.  This post isn’t about now; it is about why 2005 was the good time and what we can learn from it.

I was incredibly lucky getting a job with the music service when I did.  Of course, I did not know this at the time but one decision had been made that transformed our music service by accident and another that combined to make the favorable conditions for our music service to grow.

The first decision was PPA time.  When the government, with the unions support declared that all teachers were to have 10% PPA in their timetables non-negotiable, there was quite a bit of panic.  Many schools simply were not doing this, particularly in Primary Schools.  Documents like this were very useful for headteachers to work out what to do.  One of sections of this document (section 12) said that using outside agencies like Music and P.E. could be used to provide time for PPA as long as they were not outside the school timetable.  So headteachers started asking the music service I worked at for a Music specialist to teach so the class teacher should have PPA time.  In my first year, this was the majority of the new contracts we received.  When I asked why I was employed this was the reason the school gave.

The next decision happened the following year.  We were part of the pilot project for Wider Opportunities, which was then renamed First Access or Whole Class Instrumental tuition.  We had done this with recorders but never with whole class violins, which is what we started out with.  This scheme was then rolled out nationwide.  Our boss was clever and realized the danger that this lesson would be used for PPA and insisted that class teachers came so it couldn’t be used for PPA.  The schools fought this so many times but because we were strict we were able to have the hours for Music curriculum and for the Wider Opportunities project.  Our boss also insisted that we had a curriculum and instrumental specialist in each lesson – this was amazing for training purposes and I have blogged about this in the past.  But it was these decisions with teeth that were instrumental in enabling us to raise our glasses.

People can say it was the government, or budget cuts that have hammered the Music Education profession in recent years but actually it was compulsion that was the major factor in 2005 to have increased provision.  Schools only bought us in because they had to.  Would they have bought us if there was no PPA?  Well some did anyway but we got loads of contracts as a direct result of PPA.  There was no wiggle room – schools had to do something to provide 10% PPA time for all staff.  Now there is much more use of teaching assistants that are cheaper than musicians but at the time word had got round that this was one way of solving the problem quick and easy.  It only took one phone call and problem solved.

We are now at a time when there are Music Commissions, Music Manifestos, Model Music Curriculums and a whole host of other very worthy things going on.  I may not be an expert in a university but I do know schools and headteachers.  I have worked with well over 60 of them.  If there is no compulsion, no carrots or sticks then these documents will be shelved.  As in put on a shelf and never read.  We like to think that the schools we are dealing with are fellow professionals and are reading all our advice.  But most are not.  They are too busy dealing with hundreds of other things, some that other agencies used to deal with that they are now responsible for.  Headteachers are invariably nice people but they probably aren’t going to read your document.  The majority of schools will only do something if they have the staffing, time and money and the priority is always what will affect their OFSTED report favorably.

The only time in my 19 years of teaching where I have seen real change was when there was compulsion put on schools to act.  That is what we need now.  I have already said some of the things that could be done but let’s just go basic:

  1. No choir, no school – they are doing this in France.  I bet you within half a term we would have a whole nation singing.
  2. No instrumental tuition, one grade less – any school where there is no instrumental tuition going on (it does happen really I am afraid) will have the consequence that the school gets one grade less in their OFSTED report.  Hundreds of Music teachers will be employed almost immediately.  Even if parents have to pay, at least there will be a musician employed in a school (we are talking basic here!)
  3. No music qualification, no job – no Primary teacher can be qualified if they have not done an accredited music course – either Orff 1, Kodaly 1 or the Sing for Pleasure Summer School.  The result will be a sharp up-skilling of teachers, which is desperately needed.

If we did just these three things and insisted upon them, we would not need glossy 64 page reports that get immediately shelved.

The Little Things

Sometimes the little things we do can make a massive difference.  I have blogged before on a simple thing we did at a school in Kuwait where we played the National Anthem everyday on our instruments.  It took about 45 seconds to play the National Anthem – we all had to be there by law but we could have used a recording.  That 45 seconds made a massive difference.  It meant children brought their instrument into school every day.  It meant they warmed up before the anthem.  It meant if they had any questions about some of the other pieces they were playing they could talk to teachers who were all there.  The woodwind teacher would go through scales with the children just before we would start.  We might play “We will rock you” while everyone was waiting for the flag.  But more than anything, it fostered a sense of identity – children knew they were musicians because they played in the band.  They made friends, they hung out with other musicians.  That was 45 seconds of genius.

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Giving out little hair bobbles as “belts” for recorder karate.  You collected them on your recorder and played your teacher a piece at break time to see if you were good enough to get one.  We had literally hundreds of children pestering us for these blooming hair bobbles.  It was a bit annoying when you wanted a cup of tea in peace but standards went through the roof.

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A simple decision to move children from sitting in class order to moving them into house order in singing practice.  Suddenly there is fierce but friendly competition.  The Vikings want to sing better than the Romans.  The Saxons want to get more team points than the Normans.  Which team will win the trophy for the House Music Competition?  All the children are singing their hearts out.

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One class does a really good class assembly with a fantastic song with instrumental accompaniment from the children.  Suddenly the bar is raised.  Class teachers start to outdo each other.  They ask for music in good time for their classes.  They give more support to the specialist Music teachers.  They don’t just choose a song from Youtube but ask you for advice.  Parents are happy and school leaders are beaming.  Kids are proud and delighted that they are doing something really great.

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The little things can make a big difference.  A small change can create a chain reaction.  It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or any at all.  The biggest change in my life was a little thing that my Music Teacher did for me.  He let me come in at break time and use Notator on the Atari.  He could have said no.  My compositions were pretty dreadful to be honest but that one decision probably got me a degree and a career.

Lets thank our teachers for the little things they do.

 

Atonality

I studied Music and Politics at Keele University and part of my degree was a series of composition modules. What we all discovered quickly was the more wacky and atonal your ideas were, the better your marks became. I went down the musicology route in my third year as I couldn’t bring myself to write atonal music – which was a shame as I enjoy composition. I managed to stay out of trouble in my first year by writing a piece for piano, clarinet and eight wine bottles tuned to the locrian mode but when I wrote a purely tonal children’s ballet for flute, clarinet, piano, marimba and untuned percussion in my second year I got a message saying “your composition is a catastrophe”. In the feedback with the professor, at a loss for an appropriate idea, I jokingly suggested a new piece called “Kitchen Music” where we would set up a series of microphones in my kitchen and bang things. He didn’t understand I was joking and thought this was a wonderful idea – even better if we could change the sounds in the studio and submit it as a DAT tape. Which is exactly what everyone was doing. We called it “peeps and squeaks” and it was encouraged by our teachers and everyone who did it got praised for originality. My ballet was pretty original in that it actually used instruments instead of tape and had dancing rather than a complex speaker system. Everyone else submitted a tape piece except me and my friend who wrote a tonal string quartet. They weren’t impressed with his piece either. In a panic worrying about his future grades and career, he sold out and wrote a piece called “Human Diffusion” for his third year which he admitted was pretty horrific consisting of getting our mate Adrian to make weird noises and then muck around in the studio to make him sound like Godzilla. He got a first for that one. I exchanged composition for writing a pretty boring dissertation about Russian dictatorship and cultural revolution. Almost all of us on the course composed music we didn’t want to write and didn’t like to listen to.

Atonal music has been influential in the Music National Curriculum in England and Wales. One of the biggest influencers was a man called John Paynter who wrote books and articles enthusiastically extolling the benefits of atonal composition for children. Arguably, it’s his influence that began the KS2 and 3 group work compositions where you had to create a piece of music about the forest using a haiku and half a dozen broken instruments. The good thing about atonality as far as Paynter was concerned was that you didn’t have to have any expertise on an instrument as you were dealing with sounds and didn’t need any knowledge of melody, harmony or rhythm. You could simply create, just like an artist could create paintings using swirling colors without it having to look like anything concrete. In the book cover picture above, children are “preparing” a piano in the manner of the composer John Cage. The idea is to make the piano a truly percussive instrument by using nuts and bolts and bits of elastic inside the strings. You get different sounds, but wouldn’t it be best to actually learn how to play a keyboard instrument instead? Preparing a piano is not going to make you any better at music but playing one will.

You would expect a lot of interest in atonal music with the younger generations who made music this way, wouldn’t you? It looks like great fun! But no – it remains a strange relic of the 20th Century, almost entirely taught in university music departments and curiously in primary and secondary schools in the UK. It does not happen in North America where they teach students to play instruments for marching band or concert band. So why do the British university lecturers love it but everyone else seems to hate it, and how has this niche, unpopular style of making music found its way into our classrooms?

Public Music Education in the UK has historically been pretty awful for the majority of children who didn’t play instruments but this wasn’t so much of a problem in the past as many children received free instrumental lessons and we had some great local authority music centers. Sometimes the children who got lessons in school were randomly selected or through a now discredited aural test called the Bentley Test. However, children on free school meals, like myself, got free instrumental lessons because we were poor and disadvantaged so there was an element of equity to the system. But in the classroom there was the age-old dilemma of how to teach music when some could play instruments and some couldn’t. We ended up with a pretty universal system of Classical Music appreciation with written theoretical exercises, a bit of singing and not much else. Paynter’s ideas were about creating music and the advantage was you didn’t have to have had instrumental lessons to create atonal music. It was like a sonic slosh of vibrant colours for all. These ideas were lapped up with gusto with University lecturers and Music ITT trainers who were the most instrumental in devising the initial music curriculum in the late eighties when the National Curriculum was first created. There was some dissent and many music teachers were very worried and unwilling to teach this type of composition. Many of these to be honest were pretty awful teachers and stuck in a bygone era, but some including my own secondary school music teacher were more worried about the decline in standards and the ability of a teacher being able to police this type of creative work within a small classroom. His approach was a relatively traditional curriculum but with ample musical opportunities such as choirs, orchestras and an open door to the department so anyone could come and compose music on the Atari computer or form a band. We had loads of bands for a relatively small school, a very active choral society, a choir that sang in eight part harmony and good numbers of us who did GCSE and A-Level. We never did atonal group work and he never had to do duty as he daily policed that department, encouraging us and berating us equally and fairly.

The result of Paynter’s approach to Music Education is that children don’t actually get better at music. This is how you end up with a situation that after ten compulsory years of learning music, children can’t actually play anything at all. If you don’t need to learn how to play a melody, why would you learn to play a melody? If you don’t need to know how to formulate a major and minor chord, why would you learn about harmony? You may learn other skills, and quite a few of these are useful generic skills such as teamwork and communication but you aren’t really learning anything that most of the rest of the world would deem to be musical. There are many reasons for the decline of Music at GCSE and A-Level but in my conversations with students, they really think that the course is very hard and want to choose something they are good at. We need students to be more confident in their musical abilities and a diet of atonal group work will not help children get better. We need better standards earlier.

An interesting question is why the vast majority of people hate atonal music. I don’t think there has ever been a piece of atonal music in the top fifty pieces of Classic FM. The abolition of harmony has not been a popular endeavor anywhere at any time. It’s barely part of any society on earth that uses melodic instruments. There is a theory that it is part of a human being’s fight or flight mechanisms. We anticipate the resolution of a harmonic sequences and this can create emotional and physical sensations in our bodies such as hairs standing up on end, tears or even sexual arousal. Researchers such as John Sloboda have found that enharmonic changes, ornamentation, appoggiaturas, the harmonic circle of fifths and modulation can all create these physical effects akin to our basic instincts of waiting and listening for predator or prey. This simply doesn’t happen with atonal music – the only emotion most people feel is unpredictability and chaos, which is probably why this music is used to unsettle us in horror movies. I have met some people who think atonal music can be beautiful. What is interesting is that they all work, or have worked in universities and music conservatoires. For the vast majority of people, atonality is ugly and emotionally unfulfilling. It won’t make us happy or uplift us spiritually, it’s just an opportunity for self-promoting music hipsters who want to think they are more musically and intellectually superior to us commoners. It’s the “Emperor Has No Clothes” of music.

The good news is that the world of Schoenberg, Webern, Cage and Paynter has passed and no one outside of the universities take these individuals seriously. What we need to do now is make sure that we teach children at an early age about melody, harmony and rhythm. Teach children to play well known tunes that delight them on instruments they can play and get better at. Teach children to sing great melodic songs in parts. Teach children to play music together using conventional harmonies and chord sequences. This is what the public, parents, most teachers and children want and the great news is that it actually makes you better at music. The only ones who don’t seem to want this are stuck in the ivory towers.

My Clay Doll

I have managed to score out “Ni Wa Wa” (My Clay Doll) using the new version of Musescore 3.  I inserted the Chinese characters and the pinyin into the lyrics and it was relatively easy and I think it has come out quite well as a first attempt.  My one year old daughter Miranda really likes this song and I am proud to say this is the first song she has ever started singing!

This traditional song is about a little clay doll and is for Pre-school children.

Chinese

泥娃娃, 泥娃娃, 一个泥娃娃, 也有那眉毛,也有那眼睛, 眼睛不会眨

泥娃娃, 泥娃娃, 一个泥娃娃, 也有那鼻子,也有那嘴巴, 嘴巴不说话

她是个假娃娃, 不是个真娃娃, 她没有亲爱的妈妈, 也没有爸爸,

泥娃娃, 泥娃娃, 一个泥娃娃, 我做她妈妈, 我做她爸爸, 永远爱着她

Pinyin

ní wá wá, ní wá wá, yí gè ní wá wá
yě yǒu nà méi máo, yě yǒu nà yán jīng, yǎn jīng bù huì zhā
ní wá wá, ní wá wá, yí gè ní wá wá
yě yǒu nà bí zi, yě yǒu nà zuǐ bā, zuǐ bā bù shuō huà
tà shì gè jiǎ wá wá, bú shì gè zhēn wá wá
tā méi yǒu qīn ài de mā ma, yě méi yǒu bà ba
ní wá wá, ní wá wá, yí gè ní wá wá
wǒ zuò tā mā ma, wǒ zuò tā bà ba, yǒng yuǎn ài zhe tā

Translation

My clay doll, my clay doll, my one clay doll
She has eyebrows, she has eyes but her eyes can’t blink
My clay doll, my clay doll, my one clay doll
She has a nose, she has a mouth but she doesn’t speak

She is a fake baby, not a real baby
She has no dear mother or has a father
My clay doll, my clay doll, my one clay doll
I’ll be her motherI’ll be her fatherI’ll love her forever

Here is the song on Musescore

And here is the pdf of the melody and lyrics

Ni_Wa_Wa

2019-Year-Of-The-Pig

新年快乐

xīn nián kuài lè!