Probably a good mood to talk politics, then. The proposals are out for the points-based migration scheme setting out to manage the flow of migrants to the UK. This includes a direct replacement for the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme. The new points scheme, for "Tier 1" (highly skilled) migrants is a lot simpler than the old one, though sadly rather less flexible. See the top of the page numbered 23 in this document for the details. It's impossible to qualify without at least a Bachelor's degree and very heavily weighted towards under-28s. To take two examples, under the current proposed versions of the points scheme, anyone with a PhD aged under 28 needs to show only a relatively modest level of income to qualify, but anyone aged 32+ and just a Bachelor's needs to be making mucho dinero in order to qualify. I quite like "Anyone under 28 with a PhD and a graduate-level job" as a rule of thumb - it's difficult, but clearly possible and easy to understand.
Paragraph 78 of the report is very interesting. It says that "our analysis of the existing Highly Skilled Migrant Programme indicates that this is the most effective predictor of success in the UK labour market." Obviously it's hard to argue against what they have found works, but it does rub in how far from meritocratic the relationship between skills required and pay in the job market is. Tough luck for geologists, anthropologists, astronomers, archaeologists, librarians and many other academics who all study hard for many years in careers that pay poorly. However, it's likely the same careers will pay just as poorly in the UK, so unfortunately it seems to me to clearly be the utilitarian approach to take.
I do like The Sunday Times, as much as I may not agree with its bias, and this Sunday's issue had a whole crop of thought-provoking articles. As ever, they may not be available for viewing outside the UK, particularly more than a week after the publication of the newspaper.
Not sure if this story has made it to the likes of the Leaky yet, but there's a proposal to rename Scotland's airports after prominent figures in the style of New York JFK, Liverpool John Lennon and so forth. One far-left Scottish MP suggests renaming Edinburgh's airport after one J. K. Rowling. One hopes they are not waiting for her to receive the Lennon treatment before doing so.
Plans are afoot to replace Britain's trains with higher-tech models, though as a passenger (rather than an engineering geek, giving all respect to said 'spotters) I'm more interested in developments in the carriages and their contents than the trains themselves. Very interesting to see mention of potential double-decker trains, which sound like an excellent idea to me; they seem to work well enough where I've tried them in Boston and Belgium. I thought we built our bridges and tunnels with roofs that were too low; the perils of being the first mover, of course.
Incidentally, weren't we meant to have heard a ruling from the Office of Rail Regulation on GNER vs. Grand Central Railways? GNER want to run extra trains between Leeds and London; Grand Central want to start new services between Sunderland and London and between Bradford and London. I'm neutral on this. While the Sunderland-London service goes much closer to this neck of the woods, I like what I've seen of GCR's proposals and I like the principle of "open access railways" with many small operators running niche services, I suspect GNER's proposals are likely to provide a better return for the chancellor and a better East Coast Main Line service at large. It's a tricky one.
The education section is particularly good. I enjoyed this section about Labour's proposals. I'm not confident that they'll work and I doubt anyone except real education experts are ever able to tell in advance whether things are likely to work or not (and it's not as if the experts agree). I'm really glad that Labour are prepared to try so hard, though, and that it's possible, just possible, that they might be onto something really big and really good which will pay dividends decades or generations down the line. We live in hope! There's also this alternative education manifesto, apparently based on Edina's line from Absolutely Fabulous, "I don't want more choice, I want better things!". Seldom a truer
Lastly, new proposals to treat families with systematic problems of anti-social behaviour. In short, they will send in a social worker more or less full-time to show people how to behave themselves. It's about as illiberal as you can get without sending them to jail, arguably more illiberal still, but if the Dundee pilot shows that it works well then, hey, perhaps it's the only thing that might work in a few cases. Compare it to the "professional good influence" mooted in point 6a of this reaeaeaeally old post of mine I don't know whether it'll work or not, but it sounds to me like it's really worth a try.