Category Archives: Free Schools

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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Filed under Big society, Cameron, Conservative Home, Ed Milliband, Education, Free Schools, George Osborne, Labour Blogs, Labour Party, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, Nick Clegg, Pink Floyd, Politics, Schools, State schools, Treasury, University fees, Vince Cable

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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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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Filed under A Level Results, BBC, Cameron, Coalition Government, Conservative Home, Education, Eton, Free Schools, George Osborne, Guardian, Labour Blogs, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Vision, Liberal Voice, Michael Gove, New Stateman, Nick Clegg, Politics, Schools, State schools