Category Archives: Michael Gove

Libya: Why us? Why him?


For all the talk of International Alliances to save lives in Libya it does become clear that the intervention is transatlantic: the USA and Canada and the old African colonisers Britain, France and Italy. As in all foregn adventures domestic electorates are told it is in the national interest and their citizens have a moral duty to save lives.  Britain has been almost continuously involved in foreign interventions in Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan with  forays into Kossovo, Serbia and Sierra Leone for the past 20 years. It is apparently always in our interest to do so and there is always a moral imperative. A war-weary British electorate has become sceptical: not another one, could not someone else do this and why this constant cranking up of fears might be their questions?.

Why is it in the national interest of Italy, France and Germany to intervene in Libya? Ghaddafi is no longer a threat to his neighbours. A brave Labour administration did a deal with him which seems to have tamed him. He does not threaten his neighbours in the Middle East and Africa. They do not like or trust him but that falls short of a reason for removing him. David Cameron tells us the Libya is a Pariah State, a social outsider,  on the southern fringe of Europe and therefore undesirable. Well , lets not invite Ghaddafi for tea. There is the argument that demcoratic states do not threaten anybody and are beter for trade and business. Maybe, but do we not have to live in the world as it is? So there is nothing to the argument of national interest.

What about our moral responsibility for saving lives? Yes, we should help if we can but Britain does not have a unique moral responsibility. Cannot someone else pick up the baton for a change? If they do not wish to do so does this make them immoral? What about Arab states, Libya’s immediate neighbours? Does not moral reponsibilty start here? The bewildered British elector might think, these Libyan people should sort out their own affairs. If they wish to be nasty and brutish to each other they can’t be worth much in the final analysis. We have problems of our own. Here the propaganda hots up. We are it seems our brother’s keeper.

 The fear factor hits in. Ghaddafi is about to commit genocide. I doubt it. There would be a terrible retaliation in Benghazi no doubt but the Libyan’s are very mobile. Those at greatest risk might beat it into Egypt where they would lead a better life.

Unfortunately the world is full of dictators and autocracies. Steadfastly the West refuses to step in. Anyone can prepare a list but how about Ruanda, Zimbabwe, Bahrein. Yemen, Iran and Saudi Arabia to name a few. I detect a streak of vindictiveness in Cameron. He has it in for Gadaafi and  is determined to see him punished.

Putin descibed the intervention  by the West as a medaeval crusade. He has a point. Isn’t it time we learnt a few lessons from recent history? Of course if it were Michael Gove’s version of British history. it wouldn’t deter Cameron  in the least.

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Filed under Afghanistan, Arab League, Bahrein, BBC, Cabinet, Cameron, Coalition Government, Colonialism, Ed Milliband, Egypt, Ghadaffi, Gulf States, Iraq, Labour Blogs, Labour leadership, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Voice, Libya, Michael Gove, Middle East, New Stateman, Obama, Politics, Revolution, Russia, Sarkozy, United Nations, Wlliam Hague, Yemen

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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Filed under Cabinet, Cameron, Coalition Government, Commons, Education, Michael Gove, Nick Clegg, opinion polls, Politics, Schools, Uncategorized

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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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

Poverty: a checklist approach


I think I must tell you once again that these posts of mine should  not be treated seriously but as fun. In my humble opinion there is too little fun in the world today and even a  chuckle is worthwhile.

Charlie. Thank you for coming along today, Dave,  and for your willingness to discuss your policies for reducing poverty in Britain. Dave. Not at all, Charlie, isn’t it?  The pleasure is mine Charlie. Could we start Dave by a definition? Poverty is usually defined as the difference in income between the poorest in society and those on average incomes. Is that how you define it? No. I prefer to think of poverty as people having too little income. We all know when we are short of a quid. Really Dave. Would a millionaire short of a few quid for buying the latest Ferrari be thought of as poor by you? Well he might be Charlie. he might be. He could be down on his uppers so to speak. I prefer not to concern myself with definitions. You might not be able to define an elephant but if one were to burst into this room we would certainly recognise it. Wouldn’t we? Early in my life I adopted a simple but effective way of dealing with problems. I put down all the factors involved in considering one and then I attempt to deal with them, factor by factor, one by one. For example, let’s take poverty. I write down: low intelligence; grotty home with inadequate parents, probably not working but living off benefits; poor schooling; heavy drinking; takes drugs; self-deluded about suffering incapacity; being a woman. I know that if I can help these inadequate individuals get into work all will be well. Dave, my dear chap that would be quite a programme and given the background of a recession and fewer jobs  do you really think  that  much can be done in the way you indicate, and even if you had some success,  wouldn’t it still be true that the unacceptable gap between the incomes of the poorest and those on  average incomes  would still remain? Charlie, Charlie, there you go again! Definitions, you are stuck with definitions. Can we help the poorest, of course we can. One to one is the answer. We send an experienced volunteer to their house and chat with them over a cup of tea. We identify the problems and help these unfortunates deal with them. The world is stuffed full of criminologists and sociologists, Charlie, every kind of ologist really, and a fat lot of good they ever do for the needy. Volunteers and more volunteers, that’s what’s needed. Will this be enough Dave, I don’t see how it can be? You need faith Charlie. The old ways have been broken. We can protect the very poorest but, as for the rest,  the way ahead is clear for them. Get fit, get rid of that hangover, keep off the pills and do not rely on the social for it won’t be there for you if you are a slacker, or benefit cheat. Get yourself a job. And if that turns out to be difficult, why not think of volunteering. After all who knows more about drug addiction than an addict? Common sense really, Charlie, have faith in your fellow human beings.

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Filed under BBC, Big society, Disabled, Guardian, Labour Blogs, Lib Dem blogs, Liberal Vision, Michael Gove, Politics, Poverty, Schools, Treasury, Volunteers

Rubbish Referendum


Readers, I am aware that referendums have been the principal tool of dictators over the ages. They can be manipulated in place and timing to produce a desired result. Nevertheless, they have their place in the scheme of things – my scheme of things! I have had an impressive  reply to my article  announcing proposals for a new National Volunteer Rubbish Clearance Scheme with many helpful comments on variations to our proposals (particularly, I admit, from Lib Dem strongholds along the south coast but from a number from other locations as well). We are able to divide the suggestions into three types of scheme which I shall describe and the thought is that  they could be tested in the National Referendum we propose to hold on 5 May 2011. As you know, this date was set aside for local elections in many areas but we have added a number of other subjects, covering such urgent matters as the gerrymandering of the voting system, CCTV cameras, legal rights for gay couples to be married in church, the future of the fishing industry off the coasts of Cornwall, Wales and Scotland and no doubt some other subjects. So why not the future of rubbish? These referenda will be great fun. The ballot papers are in different colours (we propose Green for rubbish), and a number of areas are planning the presence of brass bands at the polling stations. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but you cannot please everyone all of the time – of course, we can but that’s another story. Now here are the main choices:

1. A National Scheme. This might be dubbed the  expert approach. There are people who think it important to retain professionalism. Some people are very busy with their lives and say they do not have the time to collect rubbish. You might think this a selfish approach but it has some appeal. Their suggestion is that their should be a National Rubbish Officer with a small central staff and  a Rubbish Officer at every local area level. Former Council staff should be urged to volunteer their services to the community to make it all happen properly.

2. A Grass Roots Scheme. This suggestion might be summarised as a people friendly scheme. The task of coordination and the actual collection would be given to the new Free Schools and Academies who would be permitted to retain some of the profit. Free schools need a lot of money. (Michael Gove is keen on this). If need be spare land at these schools could be used for burying some of the rubbish. A number of Associations such as the Boy Scouts, the Girl Guides and the Territorial Army would join in to give muscle to collection.

3. A Special Needs Scheme. Some people have pointed out that there are practical difficulties with rubbish; collecting it from Tower blocks, frail elderly people,  and the disabled (there will still be some who cannot be forced out to work). You cannot expect children to cope with everything. These vulnerable people will need special consideration and in the Special Needs Scheme they will get it.

Well, isn’t it exciting! Who would have thought that we could get this far in organising the Big Society?

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Filed under Big society, Cameron, Coalition Government, Disabled, Education, Green, Labour Blogs, Liberal News, Liberal Vision, Michael Gove, National Service, Nick Clegg, Re-cycling, Rubbish, Schools, Voting reform

More Big Mouth


I am really surprised. I’m a straight speaking forthright sort of chap. I always speak out and give people my opinion and I am not going to stop now. Some Jonnies from the Foreign Office tipped me the wink that in foreign affairs it is not always a good thing to tell other countries  in public what you think about their policies and funny ways. At Eton we were taught not to worry about that kind of thing. Work out what you want to say and get it out  there. It’s always been my way. I put it to you that there is a limit to the number of countries who need to hear your views. Let’s say not more that a hundred or so.  If you arranged a short number of overseas trips you could p..s them all off in no time. Take a meeting of the European Heads of State, you could p..s of twenty eight countries in less than two hours! How about NATO? You can include North America in your mission.

And why am I dong this? I can envisage you saying this. In the modern Tory Party we have some interesting guys. I’m sure you will agree with this. Take Michael, for example, he can use words that you won’t find in the Short Oxford Dictionary. You’re laughing at me . Don’t believe me? I always take the Dictionary with me if I know he is going to be there. Well, Michael has introduced me to the idea of mutabilty. Now to you and I that is an unusual word but what it means is that we live and breath with the certainty of change. Or to put it bluntly, life is short – especially if you are a politician. You don’t have long. Of course there are exceptions, Mrs T? The  blessed Gordon. When I think of Gordon in the morning I imagine that as I look through the window at the back garden I see a rhino. No really, a rhino can do a lot of damage in a relatively short period of time and it is difficult to persuade  it to go away.You try, if you don’t believe me. Anyway, I digress, Michael makes the point that we do not have long to change Britain in our image and we had better get on with it. If it is worth doing, do it. Michael’s philosophy is my own. If you are bound to annoy all those Heads of State you had better get on with it. How long do we have? Well our Tory members think not long. When we asked them about the dangers to the Coalition and how long they thought it could survive, they were pessimistic. A lot of them thought we wouldn’t survive two years and many thought no  more than one year. George thought this far too short when it comes to the economy. He points out that there are twenty chapters in his economics textbook and he has only reached chapter four. (My advice was to read faster!!) Anyway, to come back to the main point. I do not have much time to tell all of these Heads of State what I think about their policies (Sarah, bring the Diary and remind me where we will be next week). But I shall. Count on it.

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Rubbish in the Big Society


I am delighted to announce a conclusion from the public consultation on local authority services that can be delegated to volunteers. Not surprisingly, given all the ingenious consideration  to the subject by Lib Dem members throughout the country by far the most votes were in favour of RUBBISH collection. From the many suggestions made by the public we can outline a new RUBBISH service that will save money, lead to the sacking of hundreds of local authority workers, and be green and environmentally friendly. This new RUBBISH scheme distinguishes between creating less RUBBISH, recycling and dumping. Collection is to be organised bottom up from street level. All streets of any length will need to appoint a RUBBISH Leader who will be responsible for making the scheme work. Once every two weeks RUBBISH can be collected. Into blue sacks will be placed paper, in green sacks bottles, red sacks will be provided for cans, and black one’s for general RUBBISH. Now a word about general household RUBBISH.  There is too much of it and with a little consideration you could create less. You will be rationed and any excess you must get rid of your self, Some of it will be useful in the garden with a little thought. Each street must designate at least two large garages or some other suitable space for paper and cans. It is the responsiblity of the RUBBISH leader to dispose of the RUBBISH to central collection centres. And here an imaginative and environmentally friendly change. No more trucks. Did you know  that these specialist vehicles can cost up to £100,000? They can be disposed of to other countries with less developed RUBBISH disposal systems and so raise money. In their place we propose that bicycles be hitched to wooden trailors. You can use your own bicycle if you wish. We suggest that the cycles and trailor be painted a distinctive colour so that other vehicles can make room for you. So you see the enormous advantages of our new scheme. Money will be saved, less rubbish will be created, and disposal of paper, tins and glass will raise much needed cash. This money will go back to your street and you can use it not only on RUBBISH collection points but  on community projects such as playgrounds and parks. less pollution will be created. A word aboiut pracical difficulties. Many people, the old and the infirm will have difficulties. Please help them cope. Remember too that  many Council RUBBISH operatives will have lost their jobs and be unable to get another. They will wish to join in. Please involve them and for FREE. Well done everyone. Splendid. You see what can be done in the BIG Society. We can do more. Keep it up. (And God help us, from the back of the audience!)

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Filed under Big society, Cameron, Coalition Government, Conservative Home, Environment, Green, Labour Blogs, Liberal Vision, Michael Gove, Nick Clegg, Politics, Pollution, Re-cycling, Rubbish

Not any Old School


Notice

This is an imaginery piece written in the spirit of good fun and not malicious to anyone – perish the thought!

Address by the Secretary of State for Education.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have been criticised for cancelling Labour’s school building programme. Quickly, so as not to spoil the occasion, I will go through my mantra – Labour’s recklessness, large public deficit, no money, a programme out of control etc etc. Now let us address the real problem. Dave and I want to create new Free Schools and this will cost us. Dave’s vision is lots of little Eton’s all over the country, my own, reflecting my childhood experiences, is somewhat different; but we agree on the essence of the matter, the desirability of creating lots of bureaucrat-free new schools in modern buildings with small classes, where children learn  in classrooms full of desks occupied by smiling well-fed children from good backgrounds. These schools will have the  the very best of teachers (no third class degrees to be seen anywhere) and will teach conventional subjects in the good old way. These children are entitled to know about the Romans, Edward the Confessor,  good Queen Bess , and the British Empire – and in that order (applause).

Where do we get the money from to build these aspirational, non-bureaucratically run schools? Look money doesn’t grow on trees: we have to spend new money and save some old money. The answer is to cancel school building projects for local authority run schools and give some of it to these better new Free schools. (applause). What could be more reasonable? We shall substitute these good new schools for those not so good old schools. Taken as a whole exam results would improve, children would behave better, and some teachers – the very best – would get higher pay. Is this not what Conservatism is about: some people, the nicest in society will do better and others, perhaps not so deserving, would do less well. We are in politics for this purpose, to encourage competition and to reward hard work. (applause) And we reject socialism with its tired old belief that everyone should be treated equally with bureaucratic controls to ensure that they were. (more applause)  If the result of this policy is to encourage people to quit sink Council estates and seek jobs and school places in towns that would welcome them in the North, perhaps in Scotland or Northern Ireland as well,  wouldn’t that be good too? (applause). Get them off welfare and into work! (more applause).

Friends, I have a dream. In this dream I am on a train to a leafy place in the Midlands. It is a foggy day. I walk through a misty haze of side roads and there ahead of me shining bright is a new school built in the traditonal way but pristine and proud with the smiling faces of children moving urgently to the school There is a Doric Arch and above it the words engraved in gold letters, ‘The Sandygrove Institute, one more Michael Gove Initiative’. I am human you see. If Tesco can get away with it , why not me? (laughter) All men should dream a little. Thank you for listening.  (prolonged applause).

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Lock Up Your Daughters


Two independent reviews of British crime statistics have given them a clean bill of health. Indeed they reveal and confirm dramatic reductions in recorded crime which has reached  the lowest level since 1981. Much of the recent decline in crime can reasonably be attrributed to the policies pursued by the Labour Government since 1997.  You might  expect the Conservatives to issue a public apology for all its nonsense on  the Broken Society, would you not? No chance. I have pointed out the tendancy of the Coalition when caught out in a lie is to lie some more. Strong words, yes! But true. 

Here are two examples. A Home Office Minister said it remained true that Britain was one of the most crime ridden societies in the world. Oh, come on. It is universally recognised that international comparisons are notoriously misleading and any quotation must be given with a health warning. I quote one such warning,  ‘ Crime statistics are often better indicators of law enforcement and the willingness to report cime than actual prevalence.’ Quite so. In Britain more policemen, more tools at their disposal, CCTV cameras and a big DNA database, more arrests, more people in prison. Secondly, Teresa May is quoted as saying that there is something wrong with these statistics which are known to her and which have eluded the experts and that she is conducting a review of how offences are recorded and presented. Cut it out! You are not a criminologist and certainly not a statistical guru. Of course the police could alter the way they record crime – perhaps they should – BUT even if they did these crimes would still be falling. There is no such problem with the British Crime Survey. The decline in crime is accurately described by the public itself. Don’t take my word for it. Read the reports published yesterday. There are costs in not telling the truth: higher levels of anxiety among the general public than is reasonable  and mistrust of the police. My advice to the Coalition is stop lying and live with the truth.

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