Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A word about our Patron...

Time was, being asked to be a patron of a charity was nice gesture to a local big-wig. Or maybe an automatic response if you were a large charity and the sovereign deigned to grace your letterhead. However, some Tory MPs - particularly those who decided to toe the party line and support the £30 weekly reduction in Employment Support Allowance - are now finding their charitable patronage of disabled groups facing serious and sustained opposition. None more so, it seems, that Stephen Crabb MP, the replacement for the suddenly principled IBS at the Department for Work and Pensions. Crabb is Patron of the Pembrokeshire branch of Mencap, even though he supported the ESA cut and has some rather strange views on 'curing' homosexuality. Suddenly being a figurehead is nowhere near as much of a safe sinecure that it used to be.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

George would really like to do a Trump

Here's a scary thought. After his failure to hide his lack of economic success behind a slogan-strewn Budget, Osborne seems to have set his sights on becoming Cameron's annointed successor. Forget financial probity and economic management skills (he plainly has), Budget 2016 was an attempt to push all the right buttons with those Tories who aren't yet unhinged enough to go with Boris, or those who aren't attracted to Mrs May's stern treatment. But - and this is the scary part - while Donald can (and hopefully will) be stopped by enough Americans voting for anyone but him in a full election, here Cameron's successor will only be chosen by the Tories themselves. British parties that change PMs mid-Parliament don't generally accede to the inevitable calls to let the country have a say - remember Brown/Blair? With the Tories, the end of the old and launch of the new tends to be even more brutal, as Thatcher's famously tear-stained last 'we' on leaving Downing Street showed. The question remains, will George be a blow in - and will we have any say in the matter whatsoever?

Friday, March 11, 2016

Cameron's cannon fodder aims to get 'em young

Cadets in schools. First mooted during Gove's tenure at DfE and now the focus of a wodge of cash to enable state schools and academies to get their pupils into uniform and learn some discipline. Just think, the young learning how to wear a decent suit (khaki, navy or air-force blue), do up their ties and sing the national anthem - oh, and how to shoot straight should they come across some goddam liberal pinko surrender-monkeys. I can think of a many more worthwhile places where that cash could go, and none of them involve indoctrinating the young.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Academies can be as bad as LEAs - would've thought it?

Wilshaw's criticisms of multi-academy groups - and the pay awarded to senior management - highlight the danger of weakening public control over education. The government obsession in breaking local government control over schools is shown to be based on ideological, as opposed to educational grounds. The current crop of academy leaders, while doubtless keen to justify their salaries, are drawn from the ranks of teachers who have proved adept at climbing the greasy pole of school management and, as such, highly adept at 'talking the talk'; which in educational terms is another language to that of the everyday life of the classroom. Good teachers have to learn to swim in this pool of 'talent', the alternative being to remain in the classroom - promotion is predicated on management. And this is where Wilshaw is now aiming his axe. However, this is the very pool that Wilshaw - a former academy head, came from. Taking aim at his former colleagues and irritating the Tories, will probably only hasten his replacement by an American import.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Keeping pace with the Pacers - for 36 long years...

The best part of 36 years ago, the British Rail (remember that?) took delivery of some new trains for use in the north of England, they were called Pacers. Apparently, British Leyland had some bus bodies left over, so some bright spark decided to turn them into trains. From the start, they were a disaster - early crews nicknamed them Torville and Deans, because the brakes were so bad, and the bodies so light and badly-balanced, that some trains used to slide past platforms if the brakes were applied too hard, or the track was wet (it rains a lot up here...). Well, we've been stuck with the damned things ever since. Except, now that Gideon had decided we live in his virtual-reality Northern Powerhouse, and rail franchises are up for renewal, even the blighted old north can expect some relief from the Pacer. So the BBC has, very-belatedly, discovered the joy of Pacer travel. Thirty-seven years too late.