Posts Tagged ‘Education Secretary Michael Gove’
A rather muddy start to St Valentine’s Day, but at least the snow has faded away. As we codgers splashed around amongst the hens it was hard to imagine how we were so many years ago when February 14th dawned. Most of us undoubtedly sent unsigned cards to the girl of our dreams, and waited with baited breath for the postman to learn whether she, or indeed another, had sent words of infatuation our way. It was a simpler quieter age, one in which the first pangs of young love were not drowned out by a round-the-clock barrage of news, commercialisation and politicians on the make.
Sadly for some of us only memories remain of love found and later lost. The more fortunate, such as myself, still share our journey with the recipient of that first card. For all of us, ‘other half” means literally that, in reality or memory we see ourselves as one half of a love that will not let us go. And today we look around and wonder, noticing as we do that the word love seems to have slipped from common usage and, possibly, practice.
It is fitting that today’s headlines centre around Pope Benedict XVI, who celebrated his final public mass yesterday, Ash Wednesday. Believers, and non-believers alike, regard the life of Jesus as one of the greatest examples of selfless love and Pope Benedict is a living example of someone treading the same path. We now know that whilst he has experienced some health problems as befits a man of advanced years, there is only one reason for his decsion to lay down the glories of high office. His love for his God, his Church, his people is the only love he knows. His love of self is totally eclipsed by his sense of duty and his only concern is for the cause he serves. Greater love hath no man than this.
It is as we turn our eyes to the day-to-day world in which we now live that we begin to realise just how unique this example now is. All around us we see evidence not only of an economic policy that is failing, but one that is calculated to enrich the few at the expense of the many. In the Commons yesterday, the Prime Minister chose to talk of the ‘fickle hand of fate’, almost as if he believes that what is happening to so many is beyond his powers to influence. He seemed unabashed when reminded that last week he attended a Conservative party winter ball, and auctioned off a portrait of himself for £100,000. It is hard to imagine Pope Bendict doing that.
Later in the day we learned that a parliamentary select committee is considering recalling Michael Gove after a senior civil servant was awarded £25,000 following a grievance procedure involving members of Gove’s team, who were allegedly involved in bullying. The Education department said that it had “no reason to doubt the genuine distress, unhappiness and sense of injury” experienced by the employee concerned. Gove had previously claimed to have no knowledge of bullying so, the select committee has concluded, he either misled parliament or is totally out of touch with what happens in his own domain. Either way, there is clearly little love to be found in Whitehall.
If love is to be found anywhere it should be in our hospitals. Today we learn that former chief executive Gary Walker was driven from his job after warning NHS boss Sir David Nicholson that patients were in danger at the United Lincolnshire Trust, which is now under investigation. Mr Walker was paid £500,000 for his silence, but has now decided to speak out as fears grow that his former Trust will provide a scandal to match Staffordshire. How many people have died as a result of management concerned only with its own interests? If those who control the care of the sick are without love all is surely lost.
Meantime we gaze around at a growing sense of disillusion and anger. If love were not dead in the corridors of power someone would by now have reconsidered an economic policy that is devastating those least able to withstand the slings and arrows of misfortune. In yesterday’s FT, Martin Wolf asked why a government would be prepared to bail out irresponsible private lending, but not to bolster a stricken public infrastructure. Scarcely had his words appeared we learned that the first 761 households, comprising 2,816 adults and children are to be moved out of London because of their inability to meet rising rents. The Camden council is expecting to rehouse them as far afield as Bradford, Leicester or Birmingham. Many more will follow in the exodus of the victims of welfare cuts. Love? No chance!
Of course love in itself is not enough to solve economic crises, but it does create an incentive to behave with compassion and good sense. Focus on the latter and you find yourself remembering the words of Henry Ford. He remarked that “I have to provide employment and pay my workers enough so that they can buy the cars they are producing”.
We sincerely hope that we are wrong in suspecting that Pope Benedict is alone amongst leading figures in adhering to the commandment that we love each other. But we have seen little evidence to suggest that we are wrong.
Never mind, at least Manchester United withstood the might of Real Madrid!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; “The best prayer I ever heard was ‘Dear Lord, please make me the kind of person my dog thinks I am”…Reverend Warren J Keating
According to the weathermen, snow was not due until this afternoon. Surprise, surprise, it arrived at first light. Of all the various punishments dished out by him up there snow is the worst for us codgers. Even the chickens are more sure-footed than us, which makes catching escapees somewhat difficult. The result is a relationship right now between kept and keepers akin to that of Tories and Lib Dems.
But once you pass eighty, the point at which every doctor you see dismisses every woe as being down to old age, you tend to worry about others who still have decades to enjoy. Sadly they may not enjoy them quite as much as we did, our formative years were not dominated by what increasingly looks like a clueless bunch of rich boys whose idea of deprivation is a lower-powered Mercedes.
We all know about the hardships bieng imposed on the poorest members of our embattled society, but the problem is not confined to them. A report from the independent Resolution Foundation out today shows that the “squeezed middle” is also struggling. It predicts that it will be 2023 before low- or middle-income families will recover the ground they have lost in recent years while earnings have risen by less than inflation.
A case study features Emma Trappett, 34, who lives with her husband Darren’s family and her four-year-old twin daughters She lost her job and now struggles to manage in weeks when her train-conductor husband misses out on overtime. Two pairs of good school shoes last week cost her £80, a big piece of her disposable income. They are just over the threshold for tax credits and the prospect of mustering up a mortgage looks ever more distant. The ‘squeezed middle’ is facing a permanent hit to their living standards. Morale is not helped by endless press coverage of bankers bonuses big enough to set them up for life.
But like most young parents the Trappetts probably see the greatest priority as givng their kids a good start in life, and that means a good school. But even in this sphere there is growing uncertainty. There is every reason to suspect that Education supremo Michael Gove is following the same path so disastrously trod by Andrew Lansley and other ministers. All are obsessed by the belief that only the private sector can deliver good performance, and ultimately help them to create a two-stream service.
Lancashire is fairly typical of the country at large in having a lot of well-regarded primary schools. Yes, there are some poor performers and Gove is right to target them. But the vast majority of the 484 schools in the county regularly receive high ratings from Ofsted, and enjoy wholehearted support from their parent-eleceted governors. Only four have opted to go for academy status, the first stage of what Gove considers untopia. A leaked memo has revealed what most suspected, he is considering the outright privatisation of academies, enabling them to abandon their charitable status and become profit-making. Most parents worry about the likely conflict between creating dividends and children’s needs. Certainly the prospects for pupils who require extra attention will be bleak.
But, you may reasonably argue, if that is the route favoured by parents and teachers so be it. But it isn’t. So ministers of a right-wing persuasion, who see democracy as everyone supporting whatever they happen to favour, are turning the screw. It has now emerged that Gove’s Education Department is offering bribes to schools reluctant to follow his academy dream. Agree to change your mind and receive a cheque for £65,000, plus £25,000 to cover legal fees, sounds suspiciously like bribery, bullying even. Already such an offer has been made to 32 of Lancashire’s primaries.
Christine Blower, the general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, says that; “Primary Schools are being bullied into accepting academy status and when the bullying proves insufficient grounds to ‘persuade ‘ them, they are being offered financial inducements instead”. Tony Roberts, from the less than militant headteacher’s union, is equally scathing.
Michael Gove makes great play of the benefits of all schools being freed of local authority controls. But freedom as most people define it means freedom to choose. Many who fear the implications of academy sponsors making profits out of running schools prefer the devil they know, the local authorities which are within reach of local pressure when things go wrong and who have legal obligations to safeguard the interests of the less academically gifted children.
As with so many plans being pursued by successive governments we again see evidence of subterfuge aimed at undermining the will of the majority. It is small wonder that in yesterdays latest ‘Most Trusted’ league table politicians came rank bottom!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” There is no opinion or idea so absurd that some philosopher will not express it!”…….Cicero
The rain is back. It seems hard to believe that just nine months ago we were praying for a prolonged shower. Maybe someone up there heard us, switched on the tap, and has forgotten to turn it off. Either way, we have all had more than we can cope with. The song talks of mud, glorious mud, we have developed a range of other adjectives.
To add to our general air of grumpiness we read this morning of the planned retirement of British Gas boss Phil Bentley. His final act was to oversee a 6% increase in prices for this winter. He is 53 and only joined parent company Centrica in 2000, before transferring to British Gas in 2007. His pay-off including pension pot, shares, and salary will be worth more than £10 million.
A recent poll by Onepoll revealed that more than one third of homes are now rationing power. Mr Bentley and his pals have done their bit for austerity Britain. Unfortunately they haven’t applied the same ethos to themselves. Can you even begin to imagine retiring at 53, after only 12 years of service, with ten million in your back pocket? Neither can I. But it sums up neatly the society that has emerged under the guidance of the Coalition.
Yesterday we witnessed what will undoubtedly become known as the Ronseal press conference. Our dear leader stressed that this is a five-year partnership, it is a “Ronseal deal..it does what it says on the tin”. The ever-beaming Nick Clegg concurred. It is, he said, an unvarnished truth. They did everything but describe what they are now going to do, they scrupulously avoided any mention of the economy so that is obviously off the agenda. Instead they handed out a beautiful brochure.
Like all such documents it is designed to create a fuzzy impression of happiness and goodwill. The cover shows a newborn baby, children’s hands high in the air as the superb education provided by Michael Gove enables them to answer every question. Contented old folk are seen playing cards to a background of a happily blissful Asian family and the backs of three men in protective clothing, their heads literally in the clouds, all hugging each other. What does it all mean? Tories promise gay bigamy for steeplejacks perhaps?
As always our dear leader made the vague future sound remarkably exciting. The Lib Dem leader stared at him in the manner of the Wise Men’s adoration. Most of us were left wondering just why Master Clegg is now committing to staying faithful to the coalition right up to election day. That can only lead to one thing – the total rout of the Lib Dems. They lose out either way. Right now things like the Benefits cap will leave seven million households worse off and Lib Dem backbenchers, led by former minister Sarah Teather, will vote with Labour on Monday. Traditional Tory voters will welcome such policies, and secretly bless Clegg for making them possible. Those who voted Lib Dem last time will switch their support elsewhere.
Come the election the electorate will polarize. If by then the Ronseal man has turned things around the Conservatives could do reasonably well. If he hasn’t Ed Miliband will be choosing the No 10 curtains. Either way the Lib Dems will cease to exist.
Yes, they have accepted the challenge of government, but they could have done this by allowing the Conservatives to operate minority rule. Instead Clegg has delighted in hovering in ‘Dave’s’ shadow. He is above all else a very ambitious man, so why is he committing electoral suicide?
A lot of senior people at Westminster are openly talking of what they claim is the ‘real story’. Clegg will, before the election, leave the British political scene and move into a top job in Brussels, one engineered for him by his grateful boss, whose ties with leading EU figures is greater than he would have us believe.
Is the story true? There is no way of knowing but the only other explanation for Nick Clegg’s behaviour is that he has lost his marbles. Your guess is as good as mine!
SOME QUOTES TO PONDER ON; “A true genius is a man who can rewrap a new shirt and not have any pins left over”……Dino Levi ” The public is wonderfully forgiving. It forgives everything except genius”…..Oscar Wilde “Boxing got me started on philosophy. You bash them, they bash you and you think, what’s it all for?…..Arthur Mullard “What if everything is an illusion and nothing actually exists? In that case I definitely overpaid on my carpet”……Woody Allen “Philosophy is to the real world as masturbation is to sex”…..Karl Marx “One lives and learns, doesn’t one? That is certainly one of the more prevalent dilusions”…..George Bernard Shaw “The broad mass of a nation will more readily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one”….Adolf Hitler
A second day without lashings of the wet stuff has served only to demonstrate just what a huge problem we face. Today we dug out some of the hen-runs in an attempt to clear the mud, only to find that the clinging nightmare extends downwards for over two-spades depth. The saturation level is appalling and with more rain forecast for tomorrow we indulged in a good deal of head-scratching. If the predicitions of people like David Attenborough prove correct it is hard to imagine how anyone will keep hens, grow spuds or maintain amateur sports grounds a decade from now.
Our dear leader visited the north-west this week and hastened to assure us that there is no need for panic. But his grasp of the detail seemed woefully lacking, one gained the impression that he has never seen a flooded potato field, let alone worked on one. As he left he told us that he intends to remain in Downing Street through to, and beyond, 2020. Will the last one to leave turn out the lights, should there be any power available!
In fairness he is not alone, our political classes seems to have retreated into a fantasy world of their own creation. I was reminded of this by the latest revelations about the scandalous neglect at the Staffordshire hospital. We had a Labour government at the time and I was involved in the creation of a Foundation Trust. We were appalled at the bullying incompetence of the newly established regulator Monitor. It had no clinicians in its top team and preached cashflow first and last. We were strong enough to withstand pressure to abandon clinical priorities, but I can well imagine what happened in Stafford. Now this government is completing the destruction of the service.
My worry then was the clear impression that the politicians had no idea as to reality. If anything, things seem to be getting worse. Friends in education tell me that Michael Gove – surely a perfect contender for a lead-role in the zillionth film about the Gestapo – is now lecturing teachers about the need to teach selective history. It seems that he would like such characters as Florence Nightingale, Amy Johnson and anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce to be obliterated. Social reformers are, it seems, about to become historically personna non-grata.
He is also straining every sinew to bring back a two-tier edcation system, one that casts kids on the scrapheap for not being good at exams. He seems to inhabit a world in which Britain both historically and now, is a society of white, male and upper-class citizens. It is perhaps relevant to note that whereas only 7 per cent of the nation received a private education, Gove’s Department of Education has an 83 per cent content!
And today we have Transport minister Norman Baker defendng the latest price hikes in rail fares. He seems unaware that our prices are the highest in Europe and the quality of service the lowest. Does he really believe that “the people understand and support what we are doing?”. Perhaps he should ask them. He might be surprised to learn that they are well aware of the fact that he has claimed £6000 for train travel, first class reserved seats of course, plus enormous mileage claims plus constant use of a chauffeur.
Meantime the constant denegration of people claiming benefits rolls on. They are, we are told, all scroungers and idlers. How this accords with the fact that many of them are in low-paid work is not clear. Even stranger is this week’s claim that the ‘crackdown’ has popular support. The opinion polls beg to differ.
One could bang on for hours, Blair’s latest millions would be a fair start. But there is little point for we have reached a unique point in our history. Less than 1 in 5 now trust the politicos. For their part they are drifting ever faster into an elitist world far removed from the pressures of everyday living which most of us inhabit.
QUOTES TO BRIGHTEN SUNDAY; “I was never my mother’s favourite – and I was an only child!” ….Thomas Berger “I was a caesarean birth, but you can’t really tell, except that every time I leave the house I go out through the window!” …Steven Wright “When I was born I was so surprised that I didn’t talk for a year and a half!”…..Gracie Allen “If your baby is beautiful and perfect, never cries or fusses, sleeps on scheule and burps on time – you’re the grandma!”…..Theresa Bloomingdale “Adam and Eve had many advantages , but the principal one was that they escaped teething!”…..Mark Twain
I wonder if chickens suffer from SAD, the seasonal light deficiency depression that affects millions of humans at this time of the year. Our large flock is currently enjoying no more than nine hours of daylight, much of it comprising dark skies and lashing rain. They are presided over by a bunch of cranky old geezers many of whom, including myself, now tend to be forgetful and vague. They spend their long nights in dark, extremely cold B & Q creations. We will never know for the likes of Attenborough and Packham devote their studies to rather more exotic creatures. But the best guess has to be that they are as peed off with us as we are with French president Francois Hollande.
Mr Hollande has not been in office for long but, like the long-gone De Gaulle, has spent most of his time lecturing the Brits. A few days ago he was speaking out in support of a European Army, one to take over the various armed forces of EU members and to become a major military force. To those of us who remember clearly the events of 1939 – 1945, that is not an appealing thought. I love the French, Italians, Belgians and the rest and the thing I like most is their innate abhorrance of the sound of gunfire. Sadly, when war does become unavoidable that plus trait becomes a big minus.
But we can probably dismiss this possibility, even the Lib Dems are likely to shrink back from the thought of French troops outside of Buck House. I think! But today’s lecture from Ed Miliband’s opposite number is rather more worrying. Mr Hollande has warned our dear leader that EU membership is for life and Britain will not be allowed to treat it as an “a la carte” menu from which it selects only some of the many powers to which, as a member, it is committed. No powers will be “repatriated”, Britain must toe the line.
Our dear leader is not renowned for his courage under fire but it has to be said that on this occasion he gave as good as he received. The integration of the Euro countries into one sovereign state will present an opportinity for renegotiation, he insisted. It was nice to have someone standing up for us, it would be nice to believe that the prime minister has a chance of ridding us of some of the crippling costs and rules of Brussels. But even we gullible codgers can’t swallow that one.
In truth our dear leader faces a difficult period regarding the EU. Over 100 Tory MPs, led by such as Michael Gove, Owen Paterson and Ian Ducan Smith are of the “better off out” persuasion. Another 120 or so are in the “stay in on better terms brigade” who, should Cameron fail to extract real concessions, could easily regroup to join the “outs”. Alongside him he has Nick Clegg whose love of the EU knows no bounds, and opposing him is Ed Miliband who plans to give the British people a pledge that we will stay in Europe whatever the cost.
But there is another group with even more clout – the British people. Last week’s polls showed that the desire for a referendum is still high amongst the vast majority.
Our dear leader may be inexperienced, out of touch and all the other things the left-wing media claims. But he is a clever politician. If the polls are still showing a big lead for Labour as the election approaches he just may decide to go to the country on a platform of significant return of powers from Brussels to Westminster or a total exit.
And if Mr Hollande and his pals continue to poke their noses into our affairs he just might win!