Category Archives: Education

Cameron andJames Bond


Thanks Charlie for dropping in. I’m glad of the opportunity to clear up some things about our diplomatic incident in Libya involving the SAS. Instinctively, as you know I am on the side of the rebels. Britain should stand up for democracy in the world and we wish to do all we can to help the rebels achieve it in Libya. But as for the stories that I am addicted to James Bond films on the mere evidence that I land a unwelcome helicopter in the territory of a soverign power without clearance or telling anyone  with eight men dressed in black carrying guns together with a spy. Well I ask you Charlie. What a flimsy objection. It is true that I have an extensive library of James Bond films but I have not watched one in the last seven-ten days. So much for addiction.

Dave, I am surprised by this. If you want to make contact with rebel leaders, have you thought of telephoning them? I have Charlie, I have, but do they tell you what you wish to know? Perhaps Dave they tell you what they choose to tell you. Have you thought about that? I don’t understand you Charlie. I don’t think you have really studied James Bond films. What you need to do is to drop your agent in and he sorts it out for you, get’s into trouble on the way out and we rescue him. This time somewhere in the Mediteranean sea. Get it?

Dave, Dave, Dave, come on. This is the real world. Apart from diplomatic and humanitarian help best orgonised through the EU (sorry to use the term)  and the United Nations, surely there is nothing we can or should do. To me it looks like a civil war to be fought out between two Lilliputian sets of soldiers. At the heart of this conflict there is nothing for us to do. We don’t want to behave like an Imperial Power, do we? Colonialism has come to an end, or didn’t you notice that? Charlie, sarcasm doesn’t suit you. Britain is an important Imperial power and I am proud of it. I suspect that you were taught in one of those miserable state schools with a twisted sense of British history. The evils of the British Empire and all that. Michael Gove is turning back this unpatriotic tide. Was the British Empire a good thing? I say, yes. And it was governed by Old Etonians to boot. And long may it continue.

Dave, if I publish this you will find that you have opened yourself up to derision. That would be a shame. Some people admire you for your energy and commitment but they are not going to vote for the return of the British Empire. Charlie how little do you know. Did you not observe that in Burnley more people voted for UKIP than for our Conservative candidate? What nonsense this is. Does UKIP stand up for British interests as well as we Tories? How many of them were educated at Eton? Well then, you get my point. And another thing you fail to notice, James Bond is much admired throughout the world. Why not the British Coalition Government, the Tory party and me?

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The Safety of the Public (Let’s live dangerously) Bill


I am here, as I promised,  to tell you of the main features of our bill to make Britain a more liberal society. This issue of liberty has always been the driving force of the Lib Dem party. In a way it is our raison d’etre. Let us take the troublesome issue of the sexual abuse of young children by those who take every opportunity to be near them for their evil purposes. Do we really need 9 million people on a register with hundreds of others involved in processing data to achieve a reasonable level of vigilance? Of course not. Under our proposals there would be only 4.5 million on the register and thus millions of people who are in touch with children on a day to day basis will be excluded and we can all breath more easily. It is the responsibility of parents and teachers to be vigilant. The State should not seek to be an ever present guardian of behaviour. Similarly with our DNA database. It is wrong, as a matter of principle, that peope never found guilty of serious crime should have their genetic information on a large and ever growing database. Here the obsession  of our predecessors in seeking to extend, hold and grow a centralised database is unnecessary, and damaging to the peace of mind of millions of citizens. We are going to bring this practice to an end in line with the conduct of liberal societies throughout Europe and the free world.   

I am going to answer questions. You sir, with the red tie at the back. You say what price should be paid for the abuse of a child. I don’t understand. I assume you are suggesting that if 4 million people in regular contact with children were excluded from the sexual offences register, more children would  be abused? I know of no evidence to suggest that this would be the case. My own opinion? Not more than 100 children. But, sir, it is not the way to look at it. You are suggesting that I am willing to accept that the price of a saving  public expenditure of several million is the  abuse of more than 100 children a year. Well sir, I suggest that this issue of protection is best left to the governance of parents and teachers. You are wrong to look at it this way.

Another gentleman with a red tie to the left. Your question, sir, is how many previously unsolved serious crimes have been solved by the DNA evidence now available to the police over the last 12 months?  An interesting question without a precise answer. sir. The short answer is I do not know. My guess? Well I flatter myself that I am an evidence based politician. If you push me on the issue I would say not more than 30-40. A price worth paying for justice? Look I understamd your point of view but it is not my own. I do not believe in an intrusive nanny  State. Full stop. We should be grown up about this. In my opinion we should all be prepared to live dangerously. After all I joined in a Coalition with the Tories. Ha, hah!

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Getting On With It


Than you Charlie for coming along. I always value your contribution, Same as usual then, No, not the whisky. Confidential and discrete. OK?

Charlie, I would like you to report that this is  a government that is getting on with it. All those years sitting on the Opposition benches, listening to prevarication, the ifs and buts and maybe’s!. I made a resolution when we got power we would put an end to it and get things done, decisive, resolute and immovable.

Hold it Dave. Aren’t you running a very big risk. The more you do the less you think. Slap bang. Sometimes right, sometimes wrong. That’s very unfair. We do sometimes make mistakes but we are bold people – we backtrack. Take shool sports. Gove made a hopeless mess of it but we changed direction as quick as a flash. Why, you  can hardly spot the seam. What about the things you couldn’t change and can’t put right. Give me an example. Child Allowance and the absurdity of the income levels. Gotcha. Hold on Charlie. We have a budget in three week’s time. Time enough to fiddle it right.

Well done Dave I concede you a few points there. But what about bigger things than these. The NHS reform. All the experts agree that this could go horribly wrong with standards of service falling and at this time next Winter, when you are hoping for some cheer in the opinion polls,  you could have several hospital closures. Charlie boy, you are too dismal. We shall get these reforms right and by the time we get to the polls in four years time the public will begin to recognise our success. That’s the whole point really. Get the difficult things out of the way at the very beginning, endure the sniping and set backs and the sweep to victory in 2015. I learn’t that from Tony Blair.

Dave, if this was warefare and I your senior officer I would never promote  or engage you in  a  serious military campaign. Solidity, caution, a care of casualties , the awarenes that the enemy can be ingenious and resolute. These are the qualities of the successful senior officer. These qualities you have not. Well Charlie, this is not a military campaign. No its not. Let’s take big business. For these large-scale endeavours you have some good qualites: panache, confidence and quick-wittedness. But I wouldn’t have you here either. Charlie, why not?  I think I would be a big success. Sometimes I wish I had taken that route. Several reasons. Over-confidence and a lack of attention to detail, Dave. The House of Commons has cottoned on to that so why not the general public? What will happen is that there will be an almighty cock up on a matter the public cares deeply about. And that will be that Dave. You will be for the high jump.

Too dismal Charlie. I’m so quick we shall have moved on and the public will hardly notice. Have another whisky. Bottoms up.

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Pupil Premium: the road to hell


Nick Clegg in a thoughtful and well-organised speech has released some details about the  intoduction of the long-covetted Lib Dem Pupil Premium. As stated the aim is to help disadvantaged pupils by providing 15 hours of teaching from the age of two and at various stages of their education. It is a worthy aim in itself but as we know the road to hell is paved with good intentions. As stated the policy might be expected to assist 20 percent of the 1.1 milion children who at the present time enjoy free school meals.

In his analysis Clegg makes a startling and misconceived identification of disadvantage with poverty. Is it true that all children whose families are poor are disadvantaged? Are all the disadvantaged poor? Do all poor children take free school meals? And would special teaching of the poor, as so defined, tackle the problem.

Clegg does not pose and answer these questions. So I will step in  and help him. No not all poor children are disadvantaged. We can all think of good homes and successful children from homes with limited income. I come from just such a home. But my parents were aspirational and willing to work at the difficult art of encouraging children. Not all homes are like this and many with greater resources succeed in making a mess of family life and their children’s progress. Not all poor children take school meals. Many parents prefer to us their imagination and the money they have available to provide lunches for their children. Disadvantaged children come from any family breakdown you care to mention.

The evidence on the usefulness of pre-school education is mixed. I am inclined to think it a good thing or rather to give it the benefit of the doubt BUT it is easy to quote many studies that show the opposite. Again everything depends on the kind of family they come from and what they might be learning and experiencing if they were not at school.

Of course, limited resources makes things difficult for many families. If we accept that this is a deadweight on the shoulders of the poor the solution is to ensure that ALL these families have more resources after tax. If you believe that children should have nursery education from the age of two THEN the state  should provide it for them. If you believe that disadvantaged children should be spotted early and helped then nurseries and schools should have the resources to teach in small classes and provide a high-quality pastoral care that reaches back to work with families in their homes.

If then you agree with the analysis what is needed? No cuts in educational provision, no scaling back on Sure Start, smaller classes, good teachers and organised pastoral care. What you do not want is Coaltion cuts in the education budget. Crocodile tears evoke no sympathy with me. Move over Cleggie and let the the misadventure of the Coalition grind to an end.

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The Universal Pink


This is not a an indulgent fantasy of a lost musical past. My subject is universality that magic solution that binds us one to another in a decent society: not a Big Society nor a Little Britain  but one which believes in the solidarity of its citizens, brother to brother, neighbour to neighbour. A decent universal state pension fairly earned by those who have worked and those of us who have stayed at home to care for children is just such a universal benefit so too in a National Health Service and Care for the Elderly. Speaking personally I have always believed that a free at the point of use education system came into the same category. I benefitted from such a free education system. No one in my family had enjoyed the benefits of a university education until my sister broke the mould and became one of the first women to be accepted by Barts for a medical degree. On her application form she had to list the occupation of her father: she wrote ‘Labourer’ Imagine this same wonderful individual  today. She comes home from her clerical work and anounces to her astonished parent that she intends to become a doctor. ‘Oh, that’s good dear and how much will it cost.’ ‘Well if you help me with day to day expenses and we are talking of the medical fees alone,  I shall run up a debt of over £100,000 pounds but I will not have to repay it at once. I can take a very long time to pay it off – maybe 20 years by which time it may well be twice the original debt perhaps £200,000.’ A long silence. ‘Look dear, my heart is with you, really it is. I would like to help you with this. I shall think very carefully about it because, of course, I have the duty to do so. But I can’t encourage you. All my life I have avoided debt. It is a dreadful thing I can assure you. (Ask David Cameron if you don’t believe me!) I think the answer will be no. What you might do is to approach charitable organisations. I’m sure there  are some who would wish to help you. But darling think on it how could you do such a thing?’

 What is a human life worth to us? Everything or nothing? Why stop at university education? There is more money to be made for loans to get children through school. Why should this be free? Why should we citizens pay for courses on needlework, cooking and carpentry to name but a few unnecessary courses. And why five days a week? Why not a shift system which would enable children to limit school to three days a week? Why not distance learning using standardised subject modules? After all most children spend more time at their computers playing silly games than they spend in a classroom. Just imagine the savings in public expenditure?

‘Don’t be silly’, I hear you saying, ‘there must be some service that are universally provided. ‘But not many AND not provided at my expense.’  ‘Well dear, you do not have children. This issue of education does not concern you, does it? Why should you pay for the education of those do-nothing children from the Council estate?’ Why indeed?

‘You should pay madam because you gain from the universal pink. We are one of you and, like it or not, we are one of you.’

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Dr Faustus and the Lib Dems


Frankly it amuses me, all this talk about the Lib Dems doing a deal with the Devil. Do I look like a man who plays chess with the Devil? Of course not, I do not even  play chess! I am smiling because I am a cheerful sort of fellow and not because of my recent appointment as the Vicar of Bray. That’s a joke,  in case you missed it!

I cannot pretend that I do not enjoy office nor the marked improvement in my social life. But do you think I would sell my soul for that? It is true of course that I am now supporting policies my members abhor, not least the public expenditure cuts. I confess that we, my Cabinet colleagues and I, bought into the Tory economic policies. But so what. In a few years time who is going to harp on about that. Victims have short lives. Does Mrs Thatcher get hate mail from miners? Of course not. Historians and reformers like me must take the broad view, the panorama of history so to speak. What I possess is a depth of vision. I look into a golden future and if some are slow in coming to the feast there will come a day when we all reach the table. If a few are sated and lie beneath it, that is understandable as well.

Now I don’t wish to be quoted. Be a good chap and put down your notebook. I didn’t come into the Lib Dems to wear sandals and grow a beard. Not that I have anything against beards. Each to his own. You will have noticed that I am perfectly at home in the corridors of Power. There are many of my Winchester and Cambridge chums roaming about and there is no need for me to exclude myself. If you are right and all this comes to a sorry end I shall be able to handle it. I, and my friend Faustus, will ruminate about it. Don’t worry about it he will tell me. There are plenty of other opportunities in this life. Think how well Tony has done for himself with half of my dexterity. Was he a friend of Faustus? You’re teasing me.

Look. All this is confidential. Don’t go pie on me. If anything of this gets out, I shall deny it. Of course, my friendship with Dave might be long term. I could introduce him to the good Doctor if need be.

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I Am Mr Average: 2


A short time ago, you kindly asked me to tell readers how I was getting on in these trouble economic times , and my views on the Coalition. I was chosen because I approximated to an average man: suburban semi, wife and two children, average wage and so on. Not that anyone is really average, but you know what I mean. Our family was managing quite well despite my wife losing her part-time job. My wage had been frozen but thanks to lower mortgage payments we were coping financially. I have this little habit, I hope you don’t mind, of saying I have good news and bad news, what would you like to hear first. (She, who must be obeyed,  gets mad at this and tells me to get on with it). Here is the good news: my wife has got a temporary job for the next four months. She is working on agency terms which give her lower pay and fewer rights. I see now why Labour was making a fuss about these agency conditions. They should have done more. And the bad news? I’ve lost my job. Quite suddenly and brutally one Friday afternoon after the company had altered its redundancy terms for the worse. Now I am on Job Seekers Allowance and quite a hassle that turns out to be. I have to go into town every Friday and report for duty so to speak. I have applied for over 50 jobs and have never had an interview. I expect that you might think me a loafer But you would be wrong. Of course I want a job, I would give my right arm for one.

I expect some of you will be fearful of losing your job and want to know what my familyis doing now. Well, I was entitled to a Mortage Holiday period of four months and this is now coming to an end. We have used our modest savings to keep going but they are running out. I don’t know what to do next. I hear some of you grumbling away and muttering things like get on your bike, move to East Grinstead, become a doctor – and things like that. All I can say is good luck to you mate if that is your strategy.

But it is not all doom and gloom. I see more of Wayne these days. We are despondent for him. He was to get a brand new school but the works have been cancelled and the staff demoralised. We can’t afford a tutor so I have stepped in and help him with his homework. I have to read up from his textbooks and the clue to my success is to keep one chapter ahead of him. It has drawn us closer together. I help my wife with the shopping so I really do know the price of bread and  all the cheaper options now. Test me if you like.

And looking forward? Well as you know I am a Tory and will find it hard not to vote so next May. However, if this Coalition lasts, and I expect it will, and if  you press me for an opinion,  I shall have to tell you that I do not think I will vote.

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Outsourcing the Future.


This is a missive from sunny Cornwall (Well this is an overstatement. As I look out of the window. I can see it is about to rain. Hey ho, said Rolly and all that.) This is an age of outsourcing. It is no longer necessary for employers to give people permanent contracts, plum pensions and other employment rights?  That is much too expensive for us all. Answer: employ agency staff, limit future obligations, lower wage costs, bring down prices, sell more. You know it is the smart thing to do! Why limit these benefits to the private sector? In the Big Society we can extend them all, every single one of these  benefits to public servants! Yes, servants that is how we think of them. They are there to serve you – me too of course. I have a number of my own. Come to think of it there are cuts to be made made there. Get costs down, that’s the message. (I should get a picute of an ancient woman leaving my place with an old suitcase’.  Just think of the cuts (I prefer to think benefits) we can make in the public service . You know it makes sense!

Smart changes like this are  always resisted. Just think of the difficulties Margaret Thatcher had to face. All those phony demonstrations for the chance to work, lower mortgage costs, opposition to the Poll Tax etc.etc. You know what I mean! The poor woman had to arrange for a war in the Falklands to win them round. (Good thought that, I should capture it in my notebook. A national day of rejoicing at our victory. We Brits love that sort of thing.)

I must not digress. This is  important. Here are some questions. Do you wish all those wheel chair johnnies to get into employment, quieter Council estates because everyone is working, good schools for  responsible children in fee paying schools? Of course you do. Do you want everyone employed at pay rates the nation can afford? Lower costs and taxes? Of course you do? You know it makes sense?

Well the Coalition with the support of the Lib Dems will give you all these things. We cannot pretend that the transition to our low cost, responsible, Big Society, where you are in control,  can be achieved without some pain and opposition. There are always some people who will not go along with the majority. Please do not be put off by demonstrations, strikes and riots from doing the right thing. We are all in this together and without your support, it will not happen. As someone said ( I really must identify the sourc of this quote), ‘In your heart you know I’m right.’ Come to think about it I might drop this. certainly at a ‘public’ meeting. Some smart Alec might say. ‘Good advice from the heartless.’ You have to think about this you know. The world is full of smart Alec’s, believe me.

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Trust State Education


I was educated at each stage in the state education system. It is my belief that the Tory inclination  to seek diversity in schools is prompted always  by, to my way of thinking, unworthy motives. They wish the state system to mirror their own fee-paying private schooling: to reproduce throughout the land a series of little Etons, Winchesters and Westminsters – they are all different you know! These fine schools, it is felt,  shoud be replicated throughout the land: independance of governance, the very best teachers (no third class graduates acceptable here) , supportive parents (no one from sink council estates need apply), selective entry systems to weed out the tidy and dutiful from the insubordinate (no dirty nails in this school) – you know the sort of thing. It is easy to make fun of it. I shall resist the temptation.

There is no good reason that I can think of for discouraging private education BUT every reason to discourage its growth by penalising state schools. The Advanced Level examination results underline the success of the last administration in improving education  standards throughout the country and signal an end to disparagement of its achievements. We on the left should be proud of these dramatic improvements in our schools. Over the coming weeks the extent of the cutbacks in school budgets will become clearer. Forget the Coalition’s fine words and announcements of good intentions. Our schools are facing hard times. Their future development will be  frozen and money  will be ciphoned off to finance the so-called Free Schools: capital funds which would have continued the modernisation of our  state schools and revenues that would otherwise be available to them are to be diverted to an expansion of school places in areas that do not need them. These rightwing, and doctrinaire attacks on state education,  are periodic and underhand; they occur whenever an opportunity presents itself. The Coalition knows that it dare not tell the whole truth about its intentions for the public does not support them. What the vast mass of the Britsh public want are fine state schools in their neighbourhoods and available free to everyone. This aspiration, which is constant and true, cannot be rejected by any government whatever its hue. But the public  can be deceived. We are deceived.

As I write the dispiriting contest for the Labour Party leadership rambles on in a welter of explanations and justifications for the past. Please wake up as soon as you can. The public knows that Labour is their education spokesman and the best guarantee of a high-class education for all. Speak to them, please. Speak to them now in unequivable  terms: hands off our state schools.

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The Office for Dodgy Statistics


I am proud to announce the establishment of the independant  Office for Dodgy Statistics and to explain its objectives to you. In Britain we  have a good record for producing high quality statistics such as in the National Office for Statistics. However, these organisations, good though they are,  suffer from serious disadvantages. They are staffed by statisticians! The figures these statisticians produce are somewhat complex, intricate often,  and their conclusions subject to numerous caveats. It is not too great an exageration to state that their output can only be understood by other statisticians so leaving the man in the street without figures he can rely on.  In a democracy this is insufferable. Let me give some examples. You and I know that crime is a dreadful problem in Britain and is rising. However, our official figures show them to be falling. My office will re-configure these indices to show the true position so that public confidence can be restored. Let me give you another example: examination results in our schools. The official statistics show that more and more children are getting A-C grades in their GCSE examinations . Now over 80% and rising. At the current rate of progress 105% of children will get these grades! Yes, don’t laugh. Absurd isn’t it? We will re-base these results so that the figure is some 70%. At a single stroke the number of children getting into good universities will come down; and your Free Schools, when you start them, can show immediate results Now let us consider a really serious subject: immigration! Your Coalition Government has put a cap on non-EU numbers coming into this country. If I am honest with you I must admit that such a cap is difficult to administer and the pressure to admit skilled migrants is very strong. We have a solution. We have cancelled the computer project which enables the counting in and out of migrants. Now no-one will know for sure how many migrants are in the country. We shall produce figures consistent with the cap so re-assuring the public that they are not being swamped. I do hope that you are getting the general drift of my argument. We are about building optimism and confidence in the future without which little can be achieved. (applause at this point).

Confidence must be built in the Big Society. When you take off time from your voluntary work to have a pint in the social club or your favourite pub we wish you to be armed with the information needed to encourage slackers to take part. You will be able to quote the muber of hectares of grass your team has mown, the square footage  of  railings painted and grafiti removed from walls, the numbers of pensioners helped with their shopping (Iused to do this at Eton, yes, truly I did! Stop laughing at the back!). In this way we shall be able to show that the Big Society has been far more successful at carrying out essential tasks  than the old discredited bureacratic organisation of Labour’s Big Government. That is our task. We are not going to let those dreary over-paid statisticians (do you know some have a higher salary than me!) spoil our fun – your fun really. Trust me! I’m a Tory.

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