Posts Tagged ‘Education Secretary Michael Gove’
We codgers are determined not to complain about the heatwave, having moaned non-stop about the rain and cold winds. But it has to be admitted that it is causing a few problems on the allotments. A number of hens have succumbed to the high temperatures, and our runner beans are hanging their heads despite the applicaton of many a bucket of Adam’s ale. Meantime Albert, now back from Porthmadog, has somehow managed to put our fridge out of action and is as popular as a rattlesnake in a lucky dip.
And whichever giant brain decided to sell off the national plasma bank to an American private equity firm is equally ill-regarded this morning. For obvious reasons this national health asset is extremely important, and the idea of handing it to an equity company with none of the safeguards in terms of governance is bizaare. Ministers were quick to point out that Bain Capital was co-founded by US presidential candidate Mitt Romney. This snippet is supposed to have us say well that’s okay then. But we don’t. We find the obsession with privatising every essential service both ridiculous and extremely dangerous.
We include our schools in that sentiment, given Michael Gove’s obsession with so-called Academy versions. In fact everything that he does strikes us as divisive and part of his drive to seperate the high-flyers from the less talented. Now we learn that Nick Clegg has woken from his slumbers to announce a plan to introduce tests for five-year-olds.
We understand the supposed logic here, but presume to suggest that five is too late and tests are too blunt an instrument. The gap in cognitive development between children from advantaged and disadvantaged homes is observable long before they reach primary school. Tests are no substitute for the in-depth knowledge nursery staff have of the children in their care. Heavy investment in early years education would facilitate the identification of children already falling behind their peers thus providing the trigger for programmes that emphasise play, reading for pleasure, socialisation and empathy.
In fact we find ourselves out of sympathy with the whole drive for more and more tests at all ages. Research has shown that our children are more worried about tests than in any other developed country. Yet what contribution to education does comparing pupils make? Gove’s plans to place all pupils in a league table ranked according to ability will lead inevitably to a world where only the kids at the top count rather than one in which “very child matters”.
Readers old enough to remember the ‘eleven-plus’ exams may well share our view. Even now, after so many years, one meets people who still feel a sense of inferiority based on failing to score high marks in a one-off instant test. As in Gove’s plans of today no attention was paid to teacher’s appraisal of effort and progress, even the most talented kid could have an off day induced by nervousness and it was no uniform for you as your peers headed off to grammar schools.
It is interestig that politicians often choose to compare our national literacy levels with that of Finland. That, they tell us, is the standard we should aim for. Perhaps they haven’t visited Finland. Yes, there are consistently high standards, huge levels of teacher satisfaction, minimal social selection and an education sector that is lauded throughout the world. But there are no inspections, no punitive lesson observations and minimal testing. And children are not taught by rote and parroting facts so beloved by people like Gove and Clegg.
It leads us to wonder if such worthies – their view not ours – were ever children. Did they never experience the natural curiosity of a child, the desire to enter into the fantastic world of the imagination. Did they never encounter the sort of teacher portrayed in ‘Dead Poet’s Society’, one who metaphorically sat amongst his or her pupils and led them through the magical world of storytellers such as Dickens?
Like medicine, education is a great skill which, when practised by professionals unencumbered by constant interference, can produce startling results. In both fields politicians do far more ill than good. Were they to focus their attention solely on developing doctors and teachers with a sense of vocation and self-belief before leaving them to practise their art the world would be a better place.
Come to think about it the world would be a better place were there no politicians at all!
THOUGHT FOR TODAY: ” Education by audit is contrary to the natural gift which is education. Once you try to audit a developmental process you kill what you wish to encourage! The current UK government’s tragic misconception of education will have catastrophic effects ”….Professor John Matthews, London.
We codgers love any news story that makes us feel young. The death of Jiroemon Kimura does just that for, when he breathed his last early this morning, Jiroemon was 116 years old. We don’t know whether he kept chickens, but his story would certainly help the legion of Public Health officials who bombard us daily with ridiculous advice. We would bet our last egg on his not having been a non-drinking, non-smoking, non-chip eater who spent his evenings astride an exercise bike.
Either way he must have become a very wise and all-knowing chap. Rather like Michael Gove in fact. It is hard to guess at the age of our Education Secretary who reminds us so much of the headmasters of our long-gone childhood. In those days PC stood for Pupil Control, an art invariably achieved with the aid of a cane or, in the case of minor misdemeanours, a smack around the ears. When Mr Gove embarks on one of his stern lectures one senses that he much regrets the redefinition of PC.
Yesterday the minister, who could so easily play the part of a butler at Downton Abbey, announced his third attempt at reforming the art of teaching. The first two versions were abandoned when the school-swat Clegg voted against what he had originally endorsed. He told a Commons decimated by truancy of his extensive reform of GCSE exams. As is usually the case the politicians expressed little beyond yawns – Mr Gove is an expert in yawn stimulation – but the teaching organisations took little time in expressing their dismay.
Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said; “We particularly feel for the children in the first year of secondary school ( about 600,000) who are going to be Mr Gove’s guinea pigs”, and added that “They will have a single year when they are 13 (of the proposed new national curriculum designed for the new exam structure) and then move straight into the new and untested GCSE exam syllabus at age 14″. Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said :”Simply making exams harder does not guarantee higher standards or mean that students will be prepared for a job. The curriculum should stretch and challenge high achievers but it must also engage and motivate those who struggle at the other end”.
We codgers cannot boast a retired teacher amongst our number and, unlike Mr Gove, we tend to listen to the experts. But even we can see huge flaws in this latest wheeze. We believe that switching the measure of a pupil solely to end of course exams is a serious mistake. Such events are in reality a single day memory test, rather than a carefully observed assessment of aptitudes, attitudes and skills required in the 21st century.
In my days as an employer I was far more concerned with assessments of conscientiousness, workrate and disposition than mere exam results. I arrived at this approach after years of finding that it is entirely possible for someone with an ability to assimilate facts to prove lazy and completely unwilling to act as part of a team.
In more recent times I have learned from watching programmes such as the Beeb’s Eggheads quiz show that luck can play a big part in instant testing. Even some with a photographic mind such as Kevin Ashton can occasionally fail when the one fact that he hasn’t assimilated pops up as a key question. I have also learned from conducting NHS interviews that some extremely clever candidates can literally dry-up from ‘stage fright’. When that happens I always turn to references because what I am looking for is someone with commitment rather than an aptitude for staying calm when given the third-degree.
The other thing that bothers us about the Gove plan mark 3 is the dictatorial nature of the curriculum. We may be in a minority on this, but we take no pleasure in the works of Shakespeare. Most of us have had reasonably successful careers despite our lack of knowledge of the Merchant of Venice. Learning for most people is stimulated by interest and to date, with the exception of William Rees-Mogg and brainbox Gove, we have met few that feel an instinctive desire to learn more about the tedious works of the Bard. To be or not to be – we don’t give a stuff. Allowing teachers to select what they believe will stimulate kids from their catchment areas seems to us a more sensible approach. They might perhaps find Dickens a better bet.
We believe that Michael Gove is too all-knowing, too dogmatic. His ‘free schools’ come wrapped in the rhetoric of liberation – removing the dead hand of town halls. But what he is doing is replacing the rules of public accountability with the law of private contracts. We cannot help but wonder if the end result will be disaster. In the case of GCSEs we firmly believe that will be the outcome with hard-working kids falling by the wayside as happned all those years ago with the so-called Eleven Plus.
What the media will make of all this we know not. Today they seem focussed almost entirely on the news that Prince Charles is to appear in the Beano and Edward Snowden’s girl friend wears black bras!
THUGHT FOR TODAY; ” Gove’s changes risk putting last summer’s GCSE debacle into the shade!”….Dr Mary Boustead
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!
There were actually blue patches in the otherwise gloomy sky as we set about spreading gravel and cleaning out the hens this morning. It has been a dismal summer for aged chicken-keepers, some of whom go on holiday next week. If the forecasts are correct their decision to travel abroad will be vindicated. We all need a prolonged dose of sunshine, and those stay-at-home patriots amongst us will be as pale as forced-rhubarb come the winter.
But there was little discussion about either weather or holidays when we gathered in the ‘hut’ for a brew. Bill had brought in his copy of the Sun. Why a gang of old geezers should wish to view Prince Harry revealing all is unclear but there was a general air of astonishment, it was almost as if yesterday’s generation still believed that Royals did not have naughty bits.
Under the heading ‘Heir it is!’ the Murdoch tabloid made clear that it is not in the business of making moral judgements. A glance at other pages featuring naked pictures of ‘Katie from Liverpool’ and Nicole Kidman confirmed that. It is, it claims, putting right the injustice of people with internet access being able to see wondrous sights denied to poorer Sun readers who have to rely on newspapers. Bravo the people’s champion.
Of course the truth is somewhat less inspiring. Murdoch is in the business of making money and nude pictures, especially those featuring celebs, sell papers. And there is a bonus here, Rupert Murdoch loves to knock the Royals.
The cant about the ‘public interest’ is just that. Perhaps the Murdoch clan imagines that we have already forgotten their approach to that throughout the phone-hacking saga. Perhaps they imagine that, despite the Leveson revelations, we believe what they say. Today they point to the huge readership of the Sun. Hardly evidence of trust, more a confirmation of a national delight in naked boobs.
Having read the ‘exclusive’ story of the Las Vegas to-do, we codgers at least share the Sun’s view that Harry is not guilty of immorality. He did what many a young hot-blooded male does, or dreams of doing, in those heady pre-marriage days, and the same goes for the girls. But, and it is a big but, he has once again shown that he is not the brightest button in the box.
In today’s world the vast majority have mobiles capable of taking pictures. If you happen to be Bert of Bacup the worst that can ensue is your mates being provided with a giggle. If you happen to be in line to the throne you end up in every publication in the world, bar only the Chicken Breeders weekly. Clearly such a possibility did not cross what passes for Harry’s brain.
Of course we all know that generations of Royals have also indulged in high jinks, they are only human after all. But there were no easy-to-conceal cameras then. And the probability is that they at least had the sense to grasp that they are vulnerable in more ways than one. There are a lot of unbalanced people out there and allowing security guards to drop their trousers and arms is not a good idea, unless you sympathise with the late Bin Laden.
Sadly Harry’s cat is out of the bag, rather more than his cat come to think of it. But before Rupert Murdoch, the Chipping Norton set and the rest, chalk this up as a success story they should perhaps note what Elisabeth Murdoch had to say at the Edinburgh International Televison Festival.
She attacked News Corp’s lack of values and warned her family that “Profit without purpose is a recipe for disaster“!
UNFAIR TO YOUNGSTERS!
We codgers are inclined to think the worst of Michael Gove, whatever the issue. No surprise then that we see his sinister hand behind the GCSE results scandal.
Headteachers are furious at a decision to raise grade boundaries long after pupils had embarked on their studies. As one head put it on the BBC the authorites not only moved the goalposts, they did it after the game was over.
The rights and wrongs of toughening up standards can be debated for a long time. What is less debatable is the sheer injustice of treating youngsters in this way. Any contest that changes its rules halfway through is a disgraceful one!
Many kids today are in shock, their college places in jeopardy. Expect a vast number of appeals. Expect a further loss of confidence in the creepy Gove!
The clock is ticking. Ever faster. Already it’s the second Tuesday of two weeks in a world we didn’t know existed, one in which everyone is united, uninhibited, friendly and patriotic. This cannot be Britain, the land of gallant losers and daily cock-ups. This morning a complete stranger, in the Tesco car-park, asked me if I had seen Hoy, a week or so from now even eye-contact will be regarded as odd.
It is almost as if we are suddenly transported to a fairy tale in whch everyone lives happly ever after. In normal grumpy Britain-land Andy Murray would have lost to Roger Federer. Nick Shelton would have knocked down a fence in the jump-off against the Netherlands. Jason Kenny would have fouled up the sprint cycling and Alistair Brownlee wouldn’t even have had a brother, let alone won the triathlon gold medal.
But in this sudden never-again land our dreams all seem to come true. We run out of superlatives. Magnificent, unbelievable, stupendous, incredible..we blurt them out from our armchairs as medal after medal piles up and the ncreasingly odd sounding national anthem booms forth again and again. In one way or another every region, every colour, every creed is involved, all mixed up in a trimuphant frenzy which needs Gary Linekar’s measured tones lest we all burst.
A study of the Olympic Medals table is all that is needed to complete the sense of never-again land, one that, once it is over, will never be recaptured. Rather like the land beyond the wardrobe of C S Lewis. Right now if Yorkshire was a country it would have more medals than Australia, far more than the hugely populated India and almost as many as the mighty Russia. At the present rate it will be possble to say the same of many a county.
Once the Paralympics are over ‘experts’ will set about their analysis. Why did this happen? Already some are questioning the make-up of the cycles upon which Team GB has swept all opposition aside. Others will talk of climate, of our sportsmen and women being used to rain and low temperatures, still more about the quality of coaching, even the secret benefit of eating Mars bars. One suspects the major factor has been the almost hysterical support for anyone wearing a Team GB shirt.
It is almost like the spirit some of us remember from World War 2. Looters and curmudgeons apart, everyone demanded and fought for just one thing – victory. But what happened then will happen again unless we will it otherwise. The heroes returned to a land anything but one fit for heroes, we returned to our grumpy disunited selves.
This time around it is easier to believe that. Glance at this morning’s news, tucked away beind Tales of Hoy headlines. An enquiry has found that vulnerable people in a supposedly safe environment were subjected to appalling cruelty, has concluded that such treatment is almost certainly rife. Our political so-called leaders are daggers-drawn, and that is only in the supposed Coalition. Police have arrested yet more suspects in the Murdoch scandal. Victims of kidnapping by jahidists in the Middle East have reported that they had an East Midlands accent.
But when we reluctantly leave never-again land we can at least console ourselves with the thought that our penchant for cock-ups does have a flip side. Had it not been for the daddy of them all, the strange appointment of G4S to run the Olympics securty and its collapse, we might well be dealing with a nightmare.
But forget the negatives for now, the wardrobe door is still ajar and we shall spend many more hours gasping in amazement as the Union Jack is hoisted for the zillionth time in never-again land!
GOVE ON THE CARPET!
Yesterday summarised the indignation of my fellow chicken-keepers at the latest moves by Michael Gove to eliminate sport from state schools. By way of balance I must add that the codgers loathe Gove, a man it is not difcult to loathe.
The good news is that our dear leader has grasped that encouraging sporting actvity right now could be a vote-winner, and not enough families use private schools to make it so . The result is that he is holding talks with little Gove and is pressing for compulsory targets for sport within the natonal curriculum, something Gove ridiculed just days ago.
With talk of a cabinet reshuffle in the air, expect a U-turn by the man of principle!
The monsoons were back as we gathered to clean out the hens ths morning. But the mood amongst the codgers was upbeat as members mulled over the latest trumphs of Team GB. Everyone seemed particularly pleased that Beth Tweddle had at last earned a medal, equally pleased at the success of Jason Kenny. And those of us prepared to regard showjumping as an Olympic sport had kind words to say about 54 year-old Nick Skelton and his colleagues. We can expect more medals today when Victoria Pendleton, Chris Hoy and Laura Trott get back on the saddles at the velodrome.
The conversion of some of my fellow madmen to the Olympic cause is startling. Before the openng event set us all off on days of wonder, there were a number of curmudgeons who repeatably told the rest of us that they were sick of the Olympics before they had even started. Now they can rattle off the latest position in the medals league table. Nothing converts like success!
Clearly Seb Coe recognises that, he has taken the opportunity to demand that the government seizes the moment. He worried out loud yesterday and urged that the enthusasm sweeping the nation must not be a flash in the pan. He is anxious to see more compulsory sport in state schools. Sadly his words are likely to fall on deaf ears. His comments came as it was revealed that the Coalition has approved the selling off of 21 more school playing fields to add to all those already handed over to the bulldozers.
Lord Coe said that this is “an opportunity that is never going to come round again, it is the vehicle of our lifetimes”. Being a loyal Conservative he didn’t mention that Michael Gove has already scrapped a £160 million per year school-partnership scheme, and slashed the amounts available to local authorities for the promotion of sport. He also omitted mention of the decision to scrap the £65 millon scheme offering free swimming to the under-16s. He may not even know that, on top of all that, state funding for elite sports are for the axe next year. Jeremy Hunt yesterday admitted that sports provision in state schools is “patchy”. Almost non-existent actually.
The brlliant 2012 Olympics have demonstrated above all else that sport can unify, and can inspire youngsters to leave their home computers. But to exploit this unique opportunity we need dynamic, creative government. Is there a single soul who would apply those attributes to the present Westminster crew?
Instead of demanding action based on a crackdown on tax avoidance to fund a revival in grass-roots sport, Nick Clegg was busy attacking his Conservative partners. They had, he said, broken their word on the reform of the House of Lords, he now planned to retaliate by instructing his MPs to block legislaton to cut the number of MPs. Before one had time to mutter Newsnight Tory leading lghts rushd to point out just how much they resent their Lib Dem bedfellows.
And so it wll go on. Gorgeous George Osborne, who is supposedly focussed on sortng out the economy, devoted hours to giving nterviews in which he claimed that it was all the fault of Ed Miliband. Labour for its part argued that Clegg’s Lord’s bill, with its 15 year guaranteed membership for those elected, was ludicrous. Of course they are playng an opportunistic card but if the coalition was remotely united what they say or do would matter not.
The truth is that the only possibility of national unity post-Games is a general electon based on entirely new manifestos containing specific policies. But pigs might fly. We should enjoy this rare experience of a country united for, wthout doubt, once the victory parade is over we will return to reality.
Which is that we have some of the finest athletes in the world and one of the most inept government!
BOLT THE ENIGMA!
I made a point of tuning in to the presentation of medals for the men’s 100m. I struggle to remember one gold medallist who didn’t weep as their national anthem was churned out via what sounds like the tannoys at Preston railway station. But inevitably Usain Bolt proved to be the excepton.
Instead of weeping he winked and played tricks with his fingers. This guy is the daddy of cool. He is also disarmingly honest. In a subsequent interview he made clear that he abhors training. And yes, he was in a nightclub at 3.00am on the night before his race.
It is impossible not to like the guy. It is equally impossible not to feel that the fastest man on earth had more than his share of gifts when the great talent allocator in the sky did the share-out.
It would be strange indeed if a blog that has Chorley News in its side-column did not open with a toast to Choley hero Bradley Wiggins. A smashing bloke who regards smashing records as easy meat, Brad has become Britain’s most decorated Olympian. One of our chicken-keepers, Phil, has been ribbed for years about his Pickwickian sideburns, now he is suddenly regarded as the height of fashion!
But of course we all knew that after his Tour de France triumph Brad was bound to land Olympic gold. What we didn’t expect was that the first British gold of 2012 would go to army captain Heather Stanning and Helen Glover, who raced home in the rowing 2000 metres. Helen has been rowing for only four years, if ever there was living proof that all is possible to every her, or him, a golden inspiration to every youngster who imagines that fame only comes to others! But it isn’t quite that easy!
I say that because your schooling has a major influence on your prospects. Even in the middle of an international sporting festival, where nothing but raw talent should count, you can’t escape the British class system. Around one third of this year’s Team GB (excluding those schooled abroad) were educated at fee-charging schools, attended by only 7% of the total child population. In the events where Team GB is about to land a fistful of medals -sailing and equestrianism for example – which require a moneyed background even to participate, the proportion is much higher. Hence our dear leader’s claim that well over a third of the British medal winners at the 2008 Olympics were from private schools.
The usual response to this sort of revelation from people such as Michael Gove is that they aim to raise the standard of sporting excellence at all state schools. And pigs might fly. I came across a perfect example of the reality in ‘Luck’, a book published by former England cricket star Ed Smith.
Ed’s sister went to a state school and “hardly played any organised sport”. Ed went to Tonbridge school in Kent, where the annual boarding fees are now £32,823. It had a 25-metre indoor heated swimming pool, 12 rugby pitches, 18 tennis courts, and an Olympic-standard athletics track. It also had 20 cricket nets, more than any professional club Smith ever played for. His sister, Ed concludes, “ran out of opportunities” while he had “the best sporting education money can buy”. Since Ed’s days, Tonbridge now has a swimming pool upgraded to Olympic 50-metre standard.
Those wishing to dispute the case I am making may well argue that a much higher percentage of British gold medal stars in 1987, and earlier, came from state schools. But much has changed since then. Cash-strapped councils have been encouraged to sell off school playing fields, most Olympic sports have been professionalised beyond recognition and all sports now aim to identify talent early, give it intensive practice and coaching, eradicate technical deficiencies, and encourage the right diet, lifestyle and mental discipline. Sport has become an industry, using scientific techniques to enhance performance. The opportunities for raw, untutored talent are vanishing.
The fee-paying schools, with their lavish facilities and full-time professional coaches are realistically the only ones capable of exploiting this new age. There are of course other advantages for the offspring of the well-heeled, not least amongst them lower pupil-teacher ratios.
Another classic example is provided by Wellington College in Berkshire (annual fees £30,075). It occupies a 400-acre site for its 1000 pupils. To bring every school up to that standard would entail 3.6 million acres, roughly the amount of UK land now covered by houses and other buildings!
Of all the sports played at this year’s Olympics only football, espoused by most private schools, realistically remains open at the top to children from less affluent homes.
Yes there are going to be some gold-medal winners with a state school background this year. But they will be in the minority. Come the next Games the percentage from private schools will probably be over the 55% mark, drawn from around 7% of all children.
So we should rejoice at each gold and draw inspiration from it. But we shouldn’t deny the reality – our medal tally is growing but so is our class divide!
NO MINISTER, THIS ISN’T ON!
Civil servants are at risk in a possible shake-up being piloted by old-style toff Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office Minister.
The word amongst those who know about such things is that the cabinet would like to force senior civil servants to resign at the time of an election and to seek reappointment from the incoming minister or, indeed, the present re-elected one. The plan is also said to include the increase of political appointees in the Civil Service.
This is dangerous stuff. Put simply politicians lie and become very frustrated when their permanent officials refuse to confirm the tale they are spinning. This is of course interpreted by politicians as resistance to change. We saw classic examples of this during the Murdoch scandal.
As things stand today the only barrier to corruption and deception on a grand scale is the Sir Humphreys. One hopes that Ed Miliband will make it clear that should his party form a government it will have nothing to do with such monstrous deviousness!
The Met Office tells us that in this region we had the equivalent of one months rain yesterday. It certainly looked that way when I arrived at the allotments this morning. Sheets of water cover large areas, the big pond resembles the Serpentine, the once magnificent sunflowers lie exhausted and battered. The hens ignored their sanitized drinkers and drank thirstily from filthy puddles. We codgers set to work on the spreading of gravel.
But we are fortunate in not being situated alongside a river. A nearby village does and many a lounge is in ruins, every possession coated in wet mud. But our homes didn’t escape completely. Our roof proved vulnerable to the fiercest rain any of us can remember, so the scaffolding will be darkening our windows any hour now.
Apart from all that everything is fine. Which is not the case at our local schools where the seemingly mad education secretary, Michael Gove, has become the man they love to hate. Never having met him I can only base my judgement on TV sightings. He comes across as bumptious, all-knowing, and to the right of Genghis Khan. So far the ‘poison dwarf’, as he is less than affectionately known in these parts, has been doing his level best to demonise the teaching profession, now he has signalled his intention to drag the whole system back to the 50s. He wishes to return to a two-level exam system, to the days when every talented child was clearly marked high flier, all others stigmatised and branded no-hopers.
In typical Gove style the news of this latest politically driven wheeze was ‘leaked’ to the media without either Cameron or Clegg being told about it. All credit for once to the Lib Dem leader who, when confronted with the news some 5000 miles from these shores, immediately made it clear that his party will block it. His reaction was that any move aimed at restoring a two-tier system is unacceptable. He is right.
Of course every teacher knows that there are moments when they would wish the disruptive minority to be as far from their sight as is humanly possible. But every teacher equally knows that any system that uses the ability, or otherwise, to pass exam papers as a means of segregation is essentially evil. Those old enough to remember the trauma of the eleven-plus make-or-break exams will remember also the sense of instant superiority or inferiority that lingers in their minds to this day.
The problem with people like Gove is that they are ideologically driven to such an extent that they believe their every thought is a progressive one. Gove and his kind have at their core a belief that the class system must be reinforced, made more entrenched. They genuinely believe that there are better class families that deserve everything the state can do to reinorce their righteousness, and that the rest are so much flotsam.
Meantime our dear leader has much to worry about, not least his impetuous decision to name Jimmy Carr as someone involved in ‘morally repugnant tax-avoidance’. Within hours he was confronted with the news that Gary Barlow is equally culpable. Since he is a leading Conservative supporter that was another matter altogether. Now the list is lengthening by the hour. This morning Chris Hoy, Wayne Rooney and Gareth Barry are amongst dozens more accused of robbing the taxman of his dues.
The word is that over the next few days dozens more will be exposed, including many leading Conservative and Labour donors. One suspects that by next weekend we will be left wondering if anyone receiving a large salary pays any tax. It is already clear that the collective cost of tax-avoidance by the wealthy costs the treasury far more than all the cuts so far imposed on what Gove would describe as the undeserving poor.
It would be interesting to know what the Goves of this world think about taxes. Probably along the lines of the legendary Sheriff of Nottingham. Perhaps Nick Clegg will emerge as a latterday Robin Hood? Probably not. Pity, he would look more sensible in green doublet!
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY; ” I have e-mail, a cell phone, a fax. I’ve got an answering machine, three phone lines at home, one in my purse, and a phone in my car. The only excuse I have if I don’t return your call is I just don’t like you”…..Alicia Brandt
Having been in an horizontal position for almost a week it is hard to work out how I can comply with my Father’s Day cards which urge me to have a jolly day. I was still considering a plan when Albert arrived. I commented that it was the first sickbed visitation by a member of the allotments gang, he replied that he had been afraid of “catching something”, but had decided that since I was still alive it couldn’t be that bad. Great pal Albert, but he doesn’t do jolly. However he did bring me a giant-sized turnip.
Al told me that the chicken-keepers have been banging on about the man they call the ‘poison dwarf’, Michael Gove. Possibly because some of them are ex-teachers they definitely do not like what they see, or read about, the education secretary. Then again, I don’t like him and I have no links with the teaching profession. Maybe it is because he comes across as a bumptious know-all.
Either way, he has once again imperiled the reign of our dear leader. According to some government sources Lord Leveson was so infuriated by a speech given by Gove that he wrote to the cabinet secretary, Sir Jeremy Heywood, demanding that the wretch be fitted with a silencer. Failng that the Judge was prepared to quit. Think about it. Had that happened the whole pack of cards would have fallen. In his speech Gove claimed that Leveson had created a “chilling atmosphere” towards freedom of speech and “should be gagged”.
You may recall an earlier blogpost that described Gove’s own appearance before the Inquiry. For the first, and only, time Lord Leveson lost his cool and told his witness ;”Mr Gove, I do not need to be told about the importance of freedom of speech, I really don’t”. Unabashed, our pet hate-figure went on to praise Rupert Murdoch as one of the greatest men ever to walk this earth. Second only to Gove himself perhaps?
Like Cameron and Osborne, Gove is a close member of the Murdoch clique. Unlike them, he continues to bang on about it and with great apparent pride. Clearly he sees no distinction between freedom of speech and lies, phone-hacking, harrassment and blackmail. Murdoch, he clearly believes, must be free to do or say whatever he pleases. And this is the twerp responsible for our schools!
In his speech to political journalists, Gove said that there is great danger of regulation being imposed by “judges, celebrities and the establishment” … all of whom have an interest in taking over from the press as arbiters of what a free press should be”. Is he seriously contending that the press has shown itself capable of being arbiters? The parents of Millie Dowler and countless other victims of Murdoch may well take another view!
He probably believes that someone like himself is best placed to ‘keep an eye’. Really? Today’s papers give yet more details of the affairs of Lady Warsi, who as co-chairman of the ruling party is presumably an example of the absolute impartiality and trustworthiness of politicians. She has been found wanting, she is far from alone.
Of course Gove makes no secret of his passion for Murdoch and all his works. He undoubtedly sees his role as protecting his hero, of allowing him to plough on with the ruination of lives for a large handful of silver. This man is potentially more poisonous than Jeremy Hunt. Our dear leader should sack him before it is too late.
But he won’t. The hold and threat of News Corp is tightening around many memebrs of this beleagured coalition.
QUOTE OF THE DAY; ” Which pub did Cameron leave his integrity in? Each time I watch coffins coming back from the futile Afghan conlict, the horrible thought crosses my mind that those soldiers would not have died if it hadn’t been for Mr Slippery’s desire for office at any price. Disgust is not a strong enough word, really. ”…..Peter Hitchens in the Mail on Sunday.
It is not a popular view but we codgers are thankful for the drop in temperatures. Most of us spent our working lives in sedentary occupations carried out in the equivalent of air-conditioned hen batteries, the switch to hard manual labour came late in life. After the past week of sweat-dripping, we understand why builders always appear to be sitting down with a copy of the Sun in one hand and a mucky mug in the other.
Perhaps the surfeit of sun has induced madness. I say that because we have become obsessed with the Leveson Inquiry. Few believe that any good will come of it, but for sheer entertainment value it leaves Coronation Street standing. Every day brings new appearances by the great and not so good. Many appear as nervous as prospective paper-boys attending their first interview. Many are evasive, many are desperately trying to portray a world in which the name Murdoch was never heard. Many seem to suffer from acute memory loss.
But yesterday’s star turn was Michael Gove who fitted none o those categories. As teachers are only too well aware the poison-dwarf doesn’t talk, he orates. He speaks in carefully constructed sentences, enunciating beautifully, scattering his prose with ostentatiously learned language. And he permits interruption by no man, not even a learned Judge. Eventually Lord Leveson managed to get a word in edgeways but by then he was unusually tense, too much Gove is bad for the soul. “Mr Gove”, said the Judge, “I don’t need to be told about the importance of free speech. I really don’t”.
But Mr Gove was having none of it. “I think it is wise to look at the historical context”, he boomed. It was, he said, a Latin writer who had said “O tempora, O mores”. It was Gove at his patronising best, it was magnificent impertinence. It stunned even the ever-talkative QC for the enquiry, Robert Jay, into stunned silence.
But Michael Gove has a weakness. He reminds me so much of the sort of upper-class twit portrayed in Monty Python and who so often occupied the seat next to me on long flights. They talk and talk, peppering their delivery with words quite new to the ordinary soul. But sooner or later, as their attempts to impress mount, they reveal things better left concealed.
And so it proved yesterday. Our dear leader has gone to great lengths to say that ‘we’ made the mistake of getting too close to News International. But Gove saw himself in competition with Tony Blair who became so close that he became Godfather to a baby Murdoch. Asked how he would describe his relationship with Murdoch, Gove said that his friend Rupert was “One of the most impressive and significant figures in the world over the past 50 years”.
Gove was in full flow now, doubtless the Downing Street gang were tearing their hair out. Murdoch, he boomed “was a force of nature, a phenomenon, a great great man”. He hadn’t managed Godfather status but he had met the great man eleven times in the year after he became educaton secretary. On 19th May 2010 he met Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks for dinner and a “general discussion”. The party was in Murdoch’s flat in St James, central London. The following month Gove and his wife attended another dinner and “general discussion” with Rebekah.
Unlike most other attendees at Leveson, Gove suffers from no memory loss. Just the opposite. He boomed on and on about his parties with “Rupert and Rebekah”, he delighted in stressing his friendship and involvement with the greatest man of the past half-century. By way of a bonus he explained that he used to work for Murdoch and his wife still does.
Pure theatre. But by now Gove will have been told that his big mouth has destroyed weeks of spin and evasion aimed at destroying claims that Murdoch and the leading Conservatives were as distant from each other as John Prescott and exercise machines. Suddenly we saw into a cosy little world in which News Corp and the posh rich boys were as one.
The timing is unfortunate for Gove’s fellow Murdoch-worshipper, Jeremy Hunt, who is due to provide our entertainment tomorrow. Mind you, his is truly a mission impossible. He will go to great lengths to prove that he had no idea that his personal aide was feeding daily information to the Murdoch camp during the bid-process. The argument is purely academic since, as Professor Vernon Bogdanor has forcefully pointed out, being unaware does not render Hunt innocent. At best the culture secretary is guilty of “gross incompetence” since he should have instructed his staff to have nothing to do with a paid lobbyist or an interested party. Vernon Bogdanor is a research professor at King’s College, London, and is author of The New British Constitution and The Coalition and the Constitution.
Mr Hunt’s other defence is that he and his fellow ministers had no personal views on Murdoch, that melted away during the Gove lecture. In fact by Gove standards yesterday was quite a day. For by way of an encore he later revealed that he has in mind schools being run as private profit-producers. That should really cheer up our beleagured teachers!
A THOUGHT FOR TODAY!
“You can step back from your thinking, almost as though you were watching a movie instead of actually being in it. You can dismiss your thoughts – you can simply let them go”….Dr Richard Carlson
As we slithered about this morning – the mud is more clinging than Jack’s wife – there was, I sensed, an air of false jollity akin to the cell of a condemned man. We codgers are all patriotic, even if we no longer leap to attention when the national anthem is played, but each day’s news takes us closer to the conclusion that the Monty Python crew have taken over. They were all three pence short of a shilling, addicted to total lunacy and incapable of crossing a room without resorting to zany walking. It is our unanimous veridict that, via time travel, they have returned and assumed control of the country.
Verdict is an apt term for today almost every newspaper carries a picture of Daniel Chrapkowski leaping for joy outside Manchester Crown Court. Alongside him, Thomas Lane is giving two-fingers to the world. No they hadn’t won the lottery, they had been let off by Judge Martin Steiger. Their offence was to kick unconscious Joseph O’Reilly who subsequently spent a month in hospital, and had injuries so bad that he needed a metal plate fitted to his face. He suffered a fractured jaw and bleeding to the brain and it was little short of a miracle that he escaped alive after remonstrating with the yobs who were kicking over bins and scattering rubbish.
Has Judge Steiger any idea of the effect on every thug who will head for town centres tonight? Probably not, for many members of our judiciary are carbon copies of those wig-wearers of Python fame. If a premiership footballer were to kick unconscious an opponent and the referee waved only a yellow card, he would referee no more. Yet our Judges bumble on.
Meantime there are startling revelations about Big Issue sellers. We have always seen it as a moral duty to support them, being homeless and in penury is a terrible situation. But now we learn that many of them are not homeless at all. Take the case of Firuta Vasile,. a Romanian immigrant. She has just won the right to claim housing benefit of £2600 from Bristol council. Which brings her benefit payments to £28,000 per year, an amount well over that earned by many of those who conscientiously hand her cash each week. Presumably she is one of the eastern Europeans the government insists we desperately need in order to create wealth in our troubled economy!
No surprise then that unemployment has hit a 17-year high and Britain’s part-time workforce has soared to a staggering 7.86 million. Today David Cameron will launch his latest verbal assault on bankers and tax-evaders. It’s a popular tune but action is noticeably absent. Even the Pythons would surely realise that the time to innovate on at least youth unemployment is overdue.
Yesterday we revealed the latest action by Michael Gove who is spending a haep of the money we don’t have on autographed bibles. Not to be outdone in the lunacy stakes, Andrew Lansley has announced plans to allow credit rating agencies, such as Standard & Poor and Moody, to take over the monitoring of financial performance of our Foundation Hospitals and to regularly assess the performance of senior managers. These are the very agencies that failed to spot the credit crunch in 2008, and of course have no medical experience whatsoever.
Andy Burnham was quick to remark that this will send “a chill wind through the NHS”. Wrong. It is already there, and today the usually moderate Royal College of Nursing has announced that regretfully it can no longer co-operate with the government. The Lansley plan is stupid in itself, but the extra trimmings now being announced are straight from the well rembered Python book of management.
Some papers are running a campaign demanding that Fred ‘the Shred’ Goodwin be deprived of his knighthood. Perhaps they should be asking themselves how he got it in the first place. There just may be a case to be made to giving orders of the British Empire to lollipop ladies, but surely the practice of wealthy and influential friends of ministers being able to, in effect, buy the right to call themselves Sir or Dame is well past its sell-by date. As indeed is the British Empire.
Never mind, the Pythons always managed to make us laugh and , as my old Gran used to say, you might as well laugh as cry!