Posts Tagged ‘Academies’

Is Keef Stalin Planning to Lose the Next Election So Streeting Can Be the New Blair?

October 1, 2021

It’s a horrifying thought, but that’s what this fortnight’s edition of Private Eye suggests in their piece, ‘Project Keir’ in the ‘H.P. Sauce’ column on page 14. They speculate that Starmer is deliberately planning to lose the next election so that he will be replaced by Wes Streeting, who will win the following election. He seems himself as the new Neil Kinnock, who lost his election but prepared the way for the success of Tony Blair. The article runs

“Don’t let anyone tell you that this is a two-term project,” shadow minister Wes Streeting told moderate group Labour First at his party’s conference last weekend. This phrase is familiar to the party’s right: a two-term project would mean Keir Starmer losing the next election but his sacrifice clearing the way for a properly moderate leader.

It was an acknowledgment that many on Labour’s right – including some in Starmer’s office – believe the leader’s focus on fixing Labour’s internal selections might not impress voters but will clear out the hard left, subdue the soft left and prepare the ground for the only way they believe Labour can win: Starmer must be a “Kinnock”, who loses elections but clears the way for a Blair figure who ultimately wins.” The rest of the article describes how Keef and his minions are already in talks with various big businesses. Well, Starmer is a Blairite, and Blair became notorious for granting favours to big corporations, including seats in government, in return for donations.

Before I start critiquing the article proper, look at the bias in its writing. Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters are ‘hard left’. Labour First is ‘moderate’. Not so. Jeremy Corbyn is actually very traditional Old Labour: a mixed economy, strong welfare state, properly nationalised and funded NHS, and strong trade unions. He wants the nationalisation of the utilities and the railways, which was the social democratic consensus, accepted by both Labour and the Tories, from 1945 to 1979 and the election of Maggie Thatcher. This is far less than the demands for further nationalisation from the real communist and Trotskyite left, who sneer at reformist socialist politicians like Corbyn. And Labour First is not remotely moderate. It’s far right in the same way Blair was far right. Blair was further right than the Tories in many issues. The Conservatives had tried taking schools out of the control of the LEAs, the precursors of Blair’s academies, found that they didn’t work and duly binned them. Blair took the idea out of the bin and then expanded it. He also went much further in privatising the NHS than the Tories dared. At the 2008 elections Cameron pretended to be further left than Blair in order to win. I think this lost him votes from traditional hard right Tory voters, but unfortunately it did give him the keys to 10 Downing Street. And we’ve been suffering ever since.

This scheme all depends on several factors, one of which is whether Starmer truly realises he’s going to lose the next election. He certainly doesn’t seem like it. Despite losing a whole series of local authorities and constituencies, including the north, he seems determined to present what few seats Labour did retain up north as stunning victories. In fact in many of them Labour only managed to scrape in. Now I think Starmer really is hoping that Tory voters, along with big business and the media, will turn to him, or his version of the Labour party, when they get sick of the Tories and their incompetence. But that’s a dangerous assumption. Blair was able to win over Murdoch and the majority of the press, but the Daily Mail held on to its wretched principles and carried on supporting the Tories. There is no guarantee that the British public, media and business will embrace Streeting if Labour does lose the next election and Starmer makes way for him. And even if Streeting did win the following election, it would probably be by a smaller number of people voting than actually voted in the 2019 election. At the 2017 election, Corbyn lost with a higher number of people voting for him than Blair did when he won. It’s been forgotten that when Blair was in power, people drifted away from Labour en masse and that there was a general feeling of alienation and disenfranchisement. People didn’t feel the parties represented them and some of them stopped voting. This will happen again, even if Streeting or someone like him wins.

And its dangerous, because when people feel alienated from supposedly democratic parties, they turn to the real extremists, the Communists or Fascists. Both of those are pretty much dead at the moment, despite the screams about Corbyn, but they could well revive, if under a less extreme guise, like UKIP or the Brexit party at the elections a few years ago.

My own guess is that such a plan would destroy Labour, at least as a mass party. Starmer treats the rank and file members with contempt, and as result they’re leaving. Without their membership subscriptions, Labour is facing bankruptcy. Starmer has also driven away the baker’s union, BFAWU, so he went get any money from that union either. If he drives further unions away, which he well might, that could provoke an even worse financial crisis. He needs those donations from big business, but there’s no guarantee he’ll get them.

Starmer’s slowly turning Labour into a minor party with little funding and small membership, also so he can appeal to business and hopefully get his rear end, or Streetings into power. It’s a truly risky strategy, and could kill the party long before either he or Streeting get anywhere close.

And as they’re doing this, they’re damaging democracy by ignoring the electorate and its wishes in favour of big business. A few years ago a report by Harvard University concluded that America was no longer a functioning democracy because of this. Instead it was a plutocracy or something like it, government by the rich.

Which is exactly what Starmer will bring in here.

Brexit Britain’s Collapse also Reveals Failure of Free Market Capitalism

September 26, 2021

I wonder sometimes if the Communists and Trotskyites didn’t throw in the towel too soon. They were always looking for the collapse of capitalism, and while that didn’t happen and probably won’t, they would have realised that Thatcherism, at least, isn’t working and made real efforts to make the British public realise it. Communism collapsed with the velvet revolution in eastern Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s as the countries of the former Soviet bloc threw off their chains and embraced democracy and free market capitalism. Francis Fukuyama declared that it was ‘the end of history’. Liberalism in the broad sense of the mixture of liberal democracy and capitalism, had seen off its rivals and would now reign supreme and unchallenged as the global ideology bringing peace, freedom – both political and economic – and prosperity to everyone.

But it hasn’t worked out like that.

Thatcher’s privatisation of the public utilities here in Britain haven’t brought the necessary investment these sectors needed. As Ken Loach’s superb documentary, The Spirit of 45, makes very clear, the power, water and railway industries are natural monopolies that need national planning and support. This has been particularly shown time and again in the management of the railways. Major’s privatisation of British Rail in the 1990s and its breakup into separate companies resulted in a spate of horrendous train crashes. Insult was added to injury by the rail companies passing the buck and accusing each other of responsibility for the disasters. As a result, the company owning the railway network itself, Railtrack, had to be renationalised in 2002. Privatisation did not work. And it has continued to fail with the private railways companies. Several have had to be taken back into state administration after providing poor service. However, this has always been excused as a temporary measure and the government has insisted on finding some other private company to run those services afterwards. After a series of such failures, this strategy now looks more than a little desperate. It’s an attempt to fend off the obvious: that private enterprise isn’t providing a proper, decent rail service and the only way to run it properly is to renationalise it.

It is very much the same with the government’s part-privatisation of Britain’s schools. Declining standards in state schools led Thatcher to experiment with privately-run schools outside the control of Local Education Authorities. These were then called ‘city academies’. They were another failure, and her education secretary, Norman Fowler, was forced to wind them up quietly. Unfortunately, Tony Blair thought it was a wizard idea and it became a major part of New Labour education policy. Simply called ‘academies’, these schools would be run by private companies. Some of these would specialise in particularly subjects, such as Maths and science. Expertise from private industry would ensure that standards would be high, and they would provide a powerful incentive through their competition for the remaining state schools to improve their performance. Except that didn’t happen either. The academies don’t perform any better than ordinary state schools once the massive difference in funding is taken into account. An academy may receive tens of millions of funding compared to a fraction of million that the Local Education Authority receives to spend on all the schools it runs. Furthermore, many of the academies have only been able to maintain their high standards through being highly selective about their intakes. Pupils that may not reach the marks demanded by the schools, including those with behavioural problems or who come from poorer families, are often excluded and expelled. Educational performance and standards in many academies has been so abysmal that the chains managing them have collapsed and the schools once again taken into public administration. But private enterprise under the Tories cannot be allowed to fail, and so we had the grim spectacle a few years ago of Nicky Morgan, the Tory education secretary, repeatedly not answering the questions on the Andrew Marr show why the government was pushing ahead with turning schools into academies when just a little while ago 25 academies had had to be taken over by the government again.

Now, thanks to a mixture of Brexit and global problems elsewhere, the gas industry is in crisis. There are shortages of gas, a number of the smaller companies have already collapsed and customers are being faced with sharp price rises. Novara Media have even said that the government has admitted that if there are severe problems with the major gas suppliers, then they will have to be nationalised.

Gas, like electricity, should never have been privatised in the first place. When it was initially privatised, the company was not split up into separate, competing companies and so it was able to dominate the market as a private monopoly. Now some of those companies are suffering because they are unable to cope with free market conditions. This says to me very much that Jeremy Corbyn was right – that the public utilities need to be publicly owned and rationally managed as part of an integrated system. This is another point that Ken Loach’s documentary makes very well.

And Brexit has created further problems. The establishment of a customs border with Eire overturns one of the terms of the Good Friday Agreement and so threatens to return Northern Ireland to sectarian violence and chaos. There is a shortage of CO2 as a result of which some foods and other goods may suffer shortages. And there may be further shortages, including petrol and other fuels, because Brexit has also resulted in fewer haulage drivers. Some are even now predicting a new ‘Winter of Discontent’, like that in 1979 that resulted in the defeat of the-then Labour government and the election of Maggie Thatcher.

I remember the petrol crisis of the ’70s, when OPEC suddenly raised oil prices and there were queues at petrol pumps. Just as I remember how Ted Heath’s dispute with the coal miners resulted their strike, the three-day week and power cuts. It got to the point that by the middle of the decade the right were expecting a Communist takeover and the end of civilisation as we know it. There were supposedly private militias being formed by bonkers right-wingers while parts of the establishment wanted to overthrow the minority Labour government in a coup to be replaced by a kind of coalition government composed of representatives from all the parties. Well, that was what the Times discussed in its articles. The security services, however, were forming plans to round up trade unionists and left-wing politicians and activists and intern them on a Scottish island somewhere. The editor of the Mirror went to Sandhurst to interest them in overthrowing the government but was met with a no doubt polite refusal. I think he, or one of the other plotters, even went as far as Paris to see if that old Fascist, Oswald Mosley, would be interested in leading the new government.

All that has been used in the Tory myth that socialism doesn’t work, and only creates the economic and political chaos that helped bring Britain to its knees. Chaos that was only ended by the glorious reign of Maggie.

Except that these problems look like they’re coming back, and this time the fault is Brexit and the free market.

I think Boris will be able to find temporary solutions to alleviate, but not cure, some of these problems. He has, for example, introduced new legislation to encourage lorry drivers from the continent to come over here. But the underlying structural problems remain. The only way to solve them is through nationalisation.

The Labour party is in an excellent position to drive this home, at least in the case of gas. Even if it doesn’t go that far, it should still be landing hard blows on Johnson and the Tories because of Brexit’s massive failures. But Starmer isn’t doing that. Instead, as Zelo Street pointed out in a piece published a day or so ago, the Labour leader is more intent instead on destroying democracy in his party as part of his war on the left.

Which is why I’m almost nostalgic for the old Socialist Workers’ Party. They’re still around, rebranded as ‘the Socialist Party’, but they’re nowhere near as active as they were. Whenever there was any kind of crisis or major issue you could count on them turning up with their megaphones and copies of their newspaper to harangue the masses and demand further action against the problem. Unfortunately, in many cases the Socialist Workers’ Party were the problem. They colonised left-wing issues in an attempt to turn protest groups into front organisations, which they could then use to produce further discontent. Rock Against Racism collapsed when the SWP took over the leadership of that organisation, formed to protest against the rise of Fascism. They were also busy infiltrating the Labour party and other left-wing parties here and abroad with the intention of radicalising them. I think the eventual hope was to create some kind of mass revolutionary movement. It didn’t work, and has only resulted in purges, such as that of Militant Tendency by Kinnock in the 1980s. In fact, the policy has helped strengthen the right in the Labour party, as they smeared Momentum and Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters as Trotskyite infiltrators as the pretext for their continue purge.

The Trotskyites lived, however, in the firm belief that capitalism would eventually fail. Well, it isn’t doing that now, but it should be abundantly clear that Thatcherite free market capitalism isn’t working. The SWP would have realised that and tried to get the message across. The Labour left, which isn’t remotely Trotskyite, realises too that Thatcherism isn’t working. Their solution is simply a return to the mixed economy of the social democratic consensus. This wasn’t perfect, but it operated far better than the free market shambles we have now. And no, mixed economies are not ‘Communist’, ‘Trotskyist’ or ‘far left’. The real Communists and Trotskyists hated it as a form of capitalism, just as they hated reformist socialist parties like Labour.

But Starmer’s leadership is pledged to propping up the same wretched free market capitalism. Which is why I really feel there should be a mass movement driving home the point, again and again, that Thatcherism is ideologically and economically bankrupt. It is doing nothing but producing chaos in the economy and industry, and poverty and starvation to Britain’s working people. And this poverty will get worse. This is why I’m almost nostalgic for the wretched SWP, as they would have been determined to drive this home. And who knows? Perhaps if they behaved like a reasonable party, they might have gained further support and forced the Labour party to rediscover its socialist heritage in order to head off a challenge from real Communists.

Starmer Finally Reveals Himself as Blairite

August 8, 2021

And what a sordid, depressing spectacle it is too! But we can’t say it wasn’t expected. One of the most dispiriting pieces of last week’s news was that Starmer had appeared in the pages of the Financial Times, declaring he was only intent on power and would take Labour back to the glorious policies of Tony Blair.

Yes, Tony Blair! The unindicted war criminal who pressured the intelligence agencies into ‘sexing up’ the ‘dodgy dossier’ on Saddam Hussein and lied about the dictator having weapons of mass destruction that he could launch within forty minute. This was all done to provide the pretext for an illegal invasion with his best mate, George ‘Dubya’ Bush. It was all done ostensibly to liberate the Iraqi people from a murderous tyrant. The reality was that it was all done so western multinationals led by the American-Saudi oil industry could grab Iraq’s oil reserves and its state enterprises. The result was the destruction of one of the most secular societies in the Middle East and its welfare state. The country’s economy was decimated as the neo-Cons turned into the kind of low tax, free trade state they’d like America to be, unemployment hit 60 per cent and society descended into sectarian violence and chaos. Women could no longer pursue careers outside the home, the American army colluded with local thugs in running deaths squads while the mercenaries also employed by the occupying forces ran prostitution and drugs rings and shot Iraqis for sport. Then, a few years later, Blair joined Bush’s successor, Barack Obama, and Immanuel Macro in helping to overthrow Colonel Gaddafy in Libya, with the result that one half of that country is in the hands of militant Islamists, who have re-opened the slave markets to sell Blacks.

Blair’s domestic policies have also been horrendous. Blair pushed the Thatcherite programme of privatising the Health Service into a much higher gear, so much so that it astonished some Tories. They remarked that he got away with doing more than they would have dared with Labour in opposition. Blair set up to the Community Care Groups, the doctors’ organisations charged with running doctor’s surgeries so that they could raise money privately and buy services from private healthcare companies. The new health centres and polyclinics he set up were also to be privately run. More contracts were given to private healthcare companies and more hospitals closed or turned over to private healthcare companies to run instead. His health secretary, Alan Milburn, wanted the NHS to become nothing more than kitemark on services provided by private healthcare companies. The same Milburn is in this fortnight’s issue of Private Eye following an article Milburn wrote in one of the papers calling for more of the NHS to be given over to private industry. Milburn is not a disinterested observers, as the Eye’s article shows his connections with any number of private healthcare companies.

This is the same Blair who gave positions in government, including regulatory bodies, to the chairmen and senior staff of big businesses that donated to him and his party. He applied the Public-Private Finance Initiative to industry as a whole, resulting in costs and delays massively increasing in public works projects. He favoured the big supermarkets over small, family run stores, thus putting many of them out of business. At the same time, the farmers who supply the supermarkets found themselves locked into extremely exploitative contracts.

He also carried on the Tories’ policy of destroying state education. Thatcher’s project of revitalising schools by privatising them as ‘city academies’ had been a failure and was actually being wound up by her education secretary, Norman Fowler. But Blair fished it out of the dustbin, rebranded them as ‘academies’ and forged ahead with the idea, even against local opposition. The result has been a series of scandals over schools run only narrowly religious lines with draconian and humiliating disciplinary codes. At the same time, the academies have also been criticised for seeking to maintain their academic standards through highly selective admissions policies excluding the less academically able and those with behavioural difficulties. These academies have been boosted with the expenditure of tens of millions on them while ordinary state schools are starved of funds. When this is taken into account, they don’t perform any better than ordinary state schools. In fact they often performed far worse, as a string of academies have folded or their schools taken back into state administration.

At the same time, Blair, Mandelson and co also demonstrated their hatred and contempt for the unemployed, the poor and disabled. They fully believed in Thatcher’s ‘Victorian value’ of less eligibility, in which the process of claiming state benefit was to be made as humiliating as possible in order to deter people from claiming it. Based on spurious, fraudulent research cooked up by American private health insurer Unum, they decided that most people claiming disability benefit were malingerers. The result was the infamous work capability tests, which were set so that a specific percentage of claimants were found to be ineligible and thrown off benefit. The result has been even more despair, starvation and deaths for hundreds of genuinely disabled people, who have had their only source of income removed. It was also Blair, who introduced workfare as part of his risible ‘New Deal’. Under the guise of teaching long term benefit claimants the necessary skills to get them back into work, the unemployed were handed over to work for various businesses and private sector organisations, like the big supermarket chains and charities. If they refused, they lost their benefits. Contrary to what Blair and his Tory successors claimed, this does not help unemployed people get back into work. In fact it does the opposite. The unemployed actually do far better looking for jobs and voluntary work on their own.

Blair also hated the trade unions, the working class organisations that have been part of the Labour party since it was founded in 1905 or so. The Labour party was partly set up to protect trade unions and their members. But Blair did everything he could to smash their power further. When he became head of the party c. 1997 he threated to cut the party’s ties with them if they didn’t back his reforms.

Yes, Blair won three elections, but the cost was a massive drop in membership and support amongst traditional Labour voters and activists. From this perspective, Jeremy Corbyn was actually far more successful, turning Labour into the biggest and best funded of the UK parties. This was through the simple technique of putting forward a traditionally socialist, truly Labour set of policies: end the privatisation of the NHS, renationalise the utilities, restore the welfare state, remove the restrictions on the trade unions and give working people proper rights at work. Corbyn became massively unpopular only due to a concerted campaign of personal vilification, but his programme was genuinely popular. Unlike Blair’s, who only won the election because almost two decades of Tory rule had made them even more unpopular.

But the Labour left and the continued popularity of socialism continues to worry the Blairites. Hence Starmer’s determination to purge the party of them, and most specifically socialist Jews. On Wednesday there was a Virtual meeting of left-wing labour politicos and activists on Zoom discussing Starmer’s continuing persecution on the Labour left. One of the great speakers quoted the late Tony Benn. Speaking during the purges of Marxists from the party in the 1980s, Benn stated that it would start with the Marxists, go on to the socialists and end with a merger with the SDP. It was all about protecting capitalism. Occasionally the party would be given a chance to govern the country, but nothing really would change.

And that’s really what you can expect from Starmer’s return to Blairism. It’s just going to be more Tory policies, put forward by people who claim to represent ‘real Labour values’ but who in reality have nothing but absolute contempt for the working class and the ideals of the people who founded the party.

As Mike has pointed out, it was clear which direction Starmer really was going from the outset. Despite his declaration that he would continue Corbyn’s manifest promises, he broke every one of them as soon as he could. He carried on the purges under the pretext of clamping down on anti-Semitism – and who knew so many anti-Semites were self-respecting Jews! – and then had the whip withdrawn from his predecessor. He has also done his best to destroy the party’s internal democracy, suspending individuals and constituency parties at a whim and imposing his own candidates against the wishes of local activists.

Somehow Starmer has managed to convince himself that a return to Blairism will be a vote-winner. Well, it hasn’t so far. Coupled with the islamophobia and anti-Black racism of his supporters, it’s led to the party massively losing members and working class support. The result has been a string of election defeats.

Blair was a mass-murderer, whose wars have turned the Middle East into a charnel house and whose economic and welfare policies have further impoverished this country and its awesome, hard-working people. But they kept capitalism secure and further enriched the already obscenely wealthy.

And to Thatcherites like Starmer and his supporters, that’s all that really matters. Expect Labour to lose, and continue to lose, with this open move to the right.

History Debunked Attacks Racially Segregated Schools, Demolishes Free School System

June 26, 2021

Here’s another video from another Conservative youtuber, Simon Webb. Webb’s channel, History Debunked, specialises in attacking various myths and pseudo-history being pushed as authentic Black history. In this video he attacks the call from supporters of Critical Race Theory that there should be separate schools for Black pupils, and particularly for boys. He has seen for himself how such schools actually lead to worse academic performance and behaviour in such a school in Tottenham in Haringey. But some of the reasons for its failure – management by parents, instead of qualified teaching staff – are also a major problem for the Thatcherite free school project, which was intended to allow parents to break out of the state education system.

Webb begins by quoting a passage describing how one Black activist, Derek Ball, urged Blacks to abandon their demands for integrated schooling during the Civil Rights struggle, and instead concentrate on building good, all-Black schools to boost Black educational achievement. The argument for these is that, despite attending the same schools as Whites and Asians, Blacks, and particularly Black boys, still fall behind because of the lack of suitable role-models.

Webb describes how the Seventh Day Adventists in Haringey in 1980 set up their own, all-Black school as part of this ideology. Staff at the school, John Loughborough, were good, moral, upstanding people. Unfortunately, they had a problem recruiting proper teaching staff, so they were being taught by the friends and relatives of the people who founded it, who wanted a job. Webb states he noticed how the academic achievement and basic behaviour of the children of friends, who sent their kids there, progressively decline. Their interest in and performance in vital subjects like maths and physics declined. At the same time, their interests narrowed to Black music, culture and politics. The teaching staff were unable to keep discipline, and so their behaviour became worse, instead of better. By the 1990s, when Haringey closed it down, it was the worse school in the borough.

Webb states that he has heard similar stories from across the Pond, and there are also similar stories about Muslim and Orthodox Jewish schools in this country. In the case of the Orthodox Jewish school, the educational curriculum was extremely narrow, so that its former pupils were left unprepared for life in wider British society. The same is true of the Muslim schools, while many of the pupils at the former John Loughborough school have a chip on their shoulder about how poor their schooling was, and its inability to prepare them for mainstream British society. He states that the problem with schools is that their management requires a very specific set of skills, which most parents don’t have. He states that in all the similar schools of which he knows, Black, Muslim, Orthodox Jewish, there are similar problems – a narrow curriculum, safeguarding issues and poor discipline.

The demand for racially segregated schools to benefit Blacks goes back several decades. I can remember the idea being debated in the 1990s. Round about the time Bristol City Museum was setting up its ‘A Respectable Trade’ exhibition about the city’s role in the slave trade, a women wrote into the local paper, then the Bristol Evening Post, calling for such schools. There were similar moves before then. After the riots in the St. Paul’s area in 1981/2, the council sent into schools various teams and advisors to teach the children not to be racist. This included the school at which my mother taught. This was accepted by staff and parents, though I do remember that the headmaster at the time refusing to allow the same anti-racist educators to take Black children out of the school to have special lessons on their Black identity, or something like that, as he was firmly against any kind of segregation.

I also recall Thatcher’s attempt to break up the state education system. As well as the City Academies, which were so terrible she and her education secretary, Norman Fowler, were actually winding up before Blair later relaunched them as academies when he came into power, she also announced she was passing legislation for free schools outside Local Education Authority Control. No longer would parents have to tolerate sub-standard education as the hands of evil lefty teachers and local councils. No! Parents would now have the power to break free and found their own schools, run how they wished. Which would undoubtedly do well due to market forces. All absolutely tripe, of course. Teaching really is a skilled profession, which not everyone can do. But right-wing governments like those of the Tories and Blair have been able to use it as a political football and partially privatise it by playing on the general belief that ordinary people know how to teach and manage a class better than the professionals. I remember back in the 1980s how the right-wing press, including the Bristol Evening Post, was constantly attacking teachers with scare stories about Communist teachers indoctrinating children. Thatcher herself, in one of her wretched speeches, was scathing about ‘anti-racist mathematics’, while her lapdog paper, the Scum, ran the story about children in Brent or Lambeth being taught to sing ‘Ba Ba Green Sheep’ because the original nursery rhyme, ‘Ba Ba Black Sheep’, was supposedly racist.

And the concerns about the narrowness of the curriculum in some of the free schools and academies run by religious organisations are perfectly justified. A few years ago there were concerns about the Muslim schools up north, with allegations that they were being run very strictly in accordance with traditional Islamic practice. The sexes were segregated, discipline harsh, and the curriculum narrowly religious. There have been allegations since that this wasn’t the case, and such concerns were the result of Islamophobia. The Christian schools set up by a the evangelical Christian head of a haulage company have also been criticised for their severe and humiliating discipline, as well as teaching Creationism as science. As for Orthodox Jewish schools, the French academic, Alfred Kepel, in his book about the rise of religious fundamentalism, The Revenge of God, describes one such school in Paris where the only secular subject was maths.

I am certainly not against faith-based schools. Both Mike and I went to an Anglican church school and got a Christian education. But the school also strongly condemned sectarian and racial prejudice, and did take children to other, non-Christian places of worship, like the local mosque, as a way of teaching them about those faiths.

Nevertheless, the very narrow focus of some religious or racial organisations in the education they wish to provide should be of concern. Whatever their faith or none, children need and deserve a broad education which promotes their personal achievement and growth and prepares them for wider British society rather than isolating them in self-imposed ghettoes. And they also need to be taught by properly qualified, experienced and skilled staff, rather than ordinary people, who wrongly think they can teach thanks to decades of being told so by the right-wing press.

The free schools and academies may not provide this, and in many cases they certainly don’t. But they make profits for the academy chains and support the Tory ideology of attacking the state provision of education.

I’ve no doubt that racially segregated education is a failure, regardless of whether it is intended to benefit Blacks or other ethnic minorities. So are the free schools and academies generally.

All of them should be wound up, and schooling returned to the state and control of local authorities.

Tories Once Again Demanding Clampdown in Schools for No Reason At All

April 8, 2021

Why do the Tories hate schoolchildren? Why are they so determined to make school as miserable as possible? I ask these questions, ’cause yesterday Mike put up a piece on his blog about the education minister, Gavin Williamson. Williamson has claimed that there’s a lack of discipline in schools because children were allowed greater freedom during the lockdown. Mobile phones are a particularly destructive influence, and shouldn’t be allowed.

Now I agree with Mike about this, who does agree with Williamson. They shouldn’t be allowed in schools because of the danger that children can use them to cheat. Quite apart from the temptation amongst some pupils to play Tetris or whatever at the back of the class instead of concentrating on Miss trying to teach them trigonometry. But this isn’t a new problem. People have been talking about the problems caused by mobile phones in school ever since children started taking them into class in the ’90s. What is remarkable is Williamson going on about the lack of discipline among school students when there’s absolutely no evidence for it. I haven’t heard anyone complain about a decline in schoolchildren’s behaviour in my neck of the woods, and I’m pretty sure you haven’t either.

In fact, not only is there no evidence that the returning pupils are particularly badly behaved, there appears to be plenty of evidence to the contrary. One of our friends down here in south Bristol is a school governor. They told us that the children coming back to school had actually been better behaved. So where does Williamson’s claim that discipline has declined come from?

I think it’s partly due to an habitual Tory distrust of youth. Ever since the ‘youthquake’ of the 1950s and the emergence of modern youth culture, there’s been a particular distrust of young people on the right. This wasn’t entirely unwarranted. I remember the annual fights during the Bank Holidays between Mods and Rockers at Weston Super Mud and elsewhere in the country, and those were frightening. There was a rise in juvenile delinquency, and for years the papers were full of stories about the terrible lack of discipline and poor educational standards in many schools. These were real problems. Private Eye devoted a whole section in one issue to complaints from teachers about the problems they were faced with teaching entirely uninterested, disruptive and sometimes violent students, compounded with lack of support from the headmaster or the education authorities. I dare say in some schools this is still the case, but it doesn’t seem quite the issue it once was. But school discipline is something of a Tory ‘talking point’. School standards are breaking down, and it’s all due to modern, progressive schooling. Kids are being indoctrinated into rebellion by Marxist feminist teachers of ambiguous sexuality.

Except that I don’t think they are. I wondered if this was a response to events at Pimlico academy last week, when the children and some staff decided that the headmaster’s new dress code was somehow racist, as was the flying of the union flag, which some idiot decided to burn. I don’t support the protests there – I think they’re unwarranted and show instead a nasty streak of racism amongst the protesters. But as far as I can make out, it was an isolated incident that was a response to very specific circumstances that has not been repeated elsewhere.

But it also seems to fit with the Tory determination to remove any kind of joy from schooling. When the Tories took over ten years or so ago, they declared that they were going to enforce school discipline and make sure the children worked hard, introducing homework for primary school children. There does seem a determination on the Tories’ part to make school as grim as possible.

And this attitude is shared by some of the academy chains that have been brought in to run schools. Before I came down with the myeloma I did voluntary work listening to children read at one of the local school in south Bristol. This was a normal primary school, whose walls were decorated with the children’s work and paintings along with the usual school notices, and the usual hubbub when the children came in from playground or moved between classroom. It came across as a normal, happy British school, full of normal, happy children.

And then the school was handed over to an academy chain, whose headquarters, incidentally, were registered in Eire as the usual tax dodge. The whole ethos changed. When next I arrived, the walls were bare except for the school notices and children were expected to move from class to class in silence. The children still seemed to be as happy as ever, but a vital part of the school experience had been excised. The place seemed far more dour. I suppose this new austerity was to show that there was now an emphasis on learning and the importance of discipline. It now seemed actually rather joyless and forbidding. I think that putting students’ work up on school walls is enormously encouraging – it rewards pupils for their good work but putting it up for the appreciation of the rest of the school. Or the kids’ parents at parents’ evenings. Ditto with the art. I think it helps to create an attitude among schoolchildren that it is their school, and creates a sense of a common school community. It’s what makes a school a school, rather than a prison.

I think this dour, very authoritarian attitude to education comes partly from Tory authoritarianism. The people at the top set the rules, and the lower orders have to obey, work and suffer. Conditions must be made as hard as possible to encourage people to work and improve themselves. It’s an attitude they’ve introduced into the welfare system by trying to make it as hard as possible to discourage people going onto benefits. This means making benefits all but impossible to obtain and doing their best to hide the fact that people are dying as a result. Now they’re introducing it to education.

I think it also partly comes from the Japanese school system that the Tories are desperate to emulate over here. I got the impression that discipline is extremely strict in Japanese schools, with staff even checking the children’s underwear to make sure they’re the right colour. It’s so strict in fact that in one year in the ’90s, five school kids were beaten to death by their teachers. But this discipline, supposedly, has led to the Japanese and other far eastern countries leading the world in high educational standards. However, a friend of mine told me years ago that this isn’t quite the case. Yes, the east Asian countries do lead the world in their educational standards, but the discipline and extremely hard work are actually typical of a relatively few Chinese and Japanese schools, not the system as a whole. And seeing how hard the schoolchildren in these countries are expected to work, you wonder if something is being lost. Hard work is important, but childhood should also be a time for fun.

Except to the Tories and Gavin Williamson, who seems to be so obsessed with a decline in school discipline that he’s seeing it where it doesn’t actually exist. Perhaps it’s another attempt to put state schools down after the failure of the algorithm he introduced a year ago to predict exam results. This aroused massive outrage because it unfairly assumed that pupils from state schools were perform far less well than those from private schools. Mike and the peeps on Twitter have suggested that Williamson might be trying to revenge himself on schoolkids after one of them tore apart his wretched algorithm on social media.

Whatever the cause, the fact remains that there has been no decline in school discipline. In fact, I’ve heard that in some schools the kids were actually better behaved. This means, as Mike has pointed out on his blog, that children have actually developed self-discipline. And good for them!

As for Williamson, this just shows how out of touch he is with real conditions in schools, and how determined he is to push the Tory view that all schoolchildren and young people are ill-behaved and need the firm hand of authority to keep them in order.

The British Class Room War and the Tory and Elite Feminist Promotion of Private Education

August 15, 2020

There’s massive outrage at the way the education authorities in England, Wales and Scotland have downgraded pupils’ marks according to a set a algorithms. This has unfairly affected the mass of these children, damaging the hopes of all-too many for a university education. In the poorer areas, according to an I headline yesterday, 36 per cent of students have been affected. This is despite the hard work, time and effort these children and their teachers have put in despite the lockdown and necessary school closures. Teachers are angry, students and their parents are angry, and the schools are protesting. The Scots are trying to correct their errors, but there’s been precious little from the education secretary, Gavin Williamson, except excuses and bluster. And only the mildest criticism from the useless Blairite leader of the Labour party, Keir Starmer.

Private Schools and the British Class System

But strangely, none of this downgrading has affected students at the elite private schools, like the Eton from which our clownish, mass-murdering prime minister Boris Alexander, DePfeffel Johnson and so many of his cronies and cabinet have attended. Mike has published a couple of excellent articles pointing out the class dimension to this marking down of the hoi polloi on their schools.

And he’s right. This isn’t accidental. The elite private schools are an intrinsic part of the British class system. They supply and educate this country’s elite, who heartily despise not just those below them, but the state schools that educate them.

Britain is one of the few country’s in Europe that has this devotion and the attendant promotion of elite private schools. It simply doesn’t exist in France and Germany, where most children, I believe, attend state schools. Private schools exist, but there isn’t the same cult surrounding them. There have at times been attempts to introduce it in Germany, but it’s failed. And a Fabian pamphlet on education I read in the 1980s stated that in France many pupils at private schools were there because, er, they were less intelligent than those at the state schools.

Some of this difference in attitude comes from the different history of education on the continent. In France following the French Revolution, there was a bitter conflict over schooling between the Church and the liberal, secularist authorities. This has been decided in favour of the latter, so that French republican society has an official policy of laicism – secularism. Germany also had its Kulturkampf with the Roman Catholic church in the 19th century over the Roman Catholic schools. But I think both countries, as well as Italy, had a very strong tradition of state support for schools and state or parish school provision. There was mass illiteracy in these countries in the 19th century, but I got the general impression that after the Napoleonic invasions where education was provided, it was through local school boards. In Britain education tended to remain a matter of private industry and provision. I’d also argue that the attitude that Eton and the rest of the private schools represent the acme of the British education system is actually only quite recent. Well into the 19th century wealthy children had a broader education at the grammar schools – the public schools were criticised for their narrow specialisation on the Classics – and bullying and brutality by the teachers was rife. The diet was also so poor that the pupils boarding there sometimes died of starvation. This changed after Matthew Arnold became the visionary headmaster at Rugby, and his massive improvement in the standards there and influence across elite private education.

There is, apparently, also a class divide in France in their secular, state education system. The children of the technocratic elite attend a set of similarly exclusive, but state-run schools, which are very difficult for someone outside that class to get into. This was part of the argument the Daily Heil advanced in favour of the British public school system in article back in the 1990s, when Eton and its fellows were coming under attack again as bastions of class privilege. According to this article, British public schools were superior because they developed in their pupils an independence of thought impossible in the French state system. This was roughly at the same time the journo Danny Danziger was interviewing old Etonians in his book, Eton Voices, who droned on about how wonder the old school was, praising it for its tolerance. How ideologically independent private school education is, is a highly questionable point. I’ve met a number of ex-public schoolboys who have rebelled against their upbringing and affected a very working class persona. But for the most part, since Arnold there has been a definite emphasis on moulding character – no bad thing in itself – and the existence of these schools and their very narrow class background is responsible for the maintenance of the British class system and all its attitudes against those further down the British social hierarchy.

Tory Hatred of State Education

And the Tories themselves hate state education. Some of us can still remember how they tried to part-privatise it in the 1980s by encouraging schools to leave the Local Education Authorities to become City Academies. That failed, and was quietly wound up. Until it was revived and expanded again by Blair and New Labour. And the Tories have continued, expanding the academy chains and even trying to bring back grammar schools to absolutely zero enthusiasm. I also remember the ignorant pronouncements of some Tory businessmen in the 1980s, who showed their own contempt for education. Pupils, according to these ignorant blowhards, should just be taught reading, writing and arithmetic. Nothing else was necessary, and they should then be sent out to work. But although it wasn’t said, they probably didn’t mean children from the upper and upper middle classes.

Elite Feminist Attacks on State Education

And part of the defence and promotion of elite private schools has come from ex-private schoolgirls arguing from feminism. There’s a reasonable point there, but it’s mixed up with much elite class ideology. And it includes the liberal, Blairite elite as well as Tories. Way back in the 1980s there were articles in the paper during the debate about girls’ education which pointed out that girls in single-sex schools had better grades than their sisters in mixed schools. Girls tended to be pushed into the background in school performance by boys. I don’t know if this has changed, but since then there has been a reversal in academic performance between the sexes. Girls have been outperforming boys for several years now, and the worse performing demographic are White working class boys. Despite this reversal, feminist arguments are still being used to defend what it basically class privilege. Single-sex schools are centres of female excellence, and away from boys, more girls take STEM subjects. So said an article by one of the female hacks in the I. I don’t doubt she’s right.

But this does create some very skewed attitude towards state education in ex-private schoolgirls. I came across about a decade ago when I studying for my Ph.D. at Bristol Uni. Passing through campus one day, I overhead two former private school inmates, who I think I had just met, who were overjoyed to find that they both had the same educational background. They were glad to find another you woman, who went to the same type of school. Which, one of them declared, was better than ‘the little woman thing they teach in state schools.’

What!

Not in my experience, nor my mother’s. I went to the local primary school, and my mother was a teacher in one of the other primary schools in Bristol. Mike and I were also lucky to get into a church school. This had been a grammar school, but was now a state-assisted comprehensive. And in none of them was there any teaching about the ‘little woman thing’. Now there was a debate within the education system at the time about gender and schooling. There was an article in an edition of Child Education about whether girls should be allowed to play with traditionally boys toys in school, like Meccano sets. But this debate, I think, has been settled a very long time ago. And I do remember that there was a positive attitude towards feminism amongst some of the staff at the Church school. I was in our house master’s office one day – I honestly can’t remember why, but I don’t think it was as a punishment for anything – when one of the women teachers came in. She had some materials on the Suffragettes she wanted to show him. ‘Ah, excellent!’ said the housemaster, ‘a bit of feminism!’

By  contrast, I’ve also come across teachers of both sexes, who in my opinion couldn’t teach boys. One of them was a male teacher, who gave sneers and put downs to the boys if they couldn’t answer questions or gave the wrong one, but was extremely encouraging to the girls. He clearly thought that girls needed gentle encouragement, while boys needed to be kept in line by shaming and humiliation. But it gave the impression he didn’t like teaching them. I’ve also come across some horror stories about the way girls have been treated in schools as well. Another story I heard back in the ’80s was about the headmaster of a London school, who immediately decided to divide the pupils into two classes, an ‘A’ and ‘B’. And all the boys ended up in ‘A’, and the girls in ‘B’. The headmaster, apparently, was Turkish, and this looks like the product of a traditionally Islamic cultural attitude to education. It was mostly definitely not common throughout the British state system and there were very loud complaints.

Blairite Feminism and Class Snobbery

My guess is that these skewed ideas about the sexism of state education are shared not just by Tories, but by Blairite liberals. The hacks writing in newspapers like the Groaniad and the I, although that’s technically non-aligned politically, seem to come from the same wealthy, privately educated class. And I think they share the same attitudes towards social class as the Tories, but argue for it from a liberal, feminist perspective. A few years ago the I carried a piece about a female Labour MP or activist, who was very definitely a Blairite. She commented on how male-dominated the old, trade union dominated Labour movement had been. And so we see the same attitude directed towards state education, by people, who have never once set foot in a state school except perhaps on an official visit.

Conclusion

Boris Johnson famously declared that every school should be like Eton. Well, every school could if it had the money spent on it Eton has. As for the academies, ditto. Once you account for the masses of money they have had spent on them, far in excess of the state sector, and the way they skew their results by excluding difficult and underperforming pupils, they are very definitely not better than state schools. See the book The great Academy Fraud for a very detailed discussion of their failings.

But ‘failing state schools’ is a nice mantra to justify the privatisation of the education system, even though one academy chain has gone down the toilet after the other. The Tories hate state education, and, in my opinion, will do anything to sabotage it. As will the Blairites.

And that includes deliberately marking down state school pupils, while awarding high marks and grades to the privately educated children of the elite.

 

Trump Blames Imaginary Far Left Conspiracy and the Press for BLM Protests and Riots

June 3, 2020

Someone really, really should take Trump’s phone away from him and shut down his personal internet connections. He really has no idea how to calm things down. His idea of pouring oil on troubled waters is to throw petrol onto fire. He didn’t address the American people about the crisis that has engulfed his country after former police officer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd by asphyxiation by kneeling on his neck. Instead he tweeted ill-chosen comments about shooting looters. Then his bodyguards rushed him to a ‘special secure bunker’ in case the crowd outside the White House tried to storm it.

As Mike has shown in his article about the incident, quite a few of the peeps on Twitter also drew comparisons between Trump, and a couple of other people with extreme right-wing beliefs, who also went into hiding. Like a certain A. Hitler, who likewise hid in a bunker, and our own Boris Johnson, who ran away from awkward media questions in a fridge.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2020/06/01/trump-hides-in-a-bunker-while-us-descends-into-chaos-over-george-floyd-killing/

Now he’s made more inflammatory texts, blaming the disturbances on a ‘far-left’ conspiracy and stating it seems that this is concert with the lamestream media. Other far right nutters, like Andy Ngo of The Spectator USA, have also claimed that this is some kind of revolution that the far left has been preparing for years. According to today’s I, Trump tweeted about the rioting in New York, “New York was lost to the looters, thugs, Radical Left & Scum. The Governor refuses to accept my offer of a dominating National Guard. NYC was ripped to pieces.” New York’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, said that he was not going to use the National Guard, as when forces not trained to handle New York City crowds intervene, ‘still with loaded weapons and under stress, horrible things happen.’ Some of this reluctance may come from the memories of the 1968 race riots and the shooting of four people at Ohio University by the National Guard, called in by Richard Nixon.

I doubt very, very much that there’s any far left conspiracy behind the protests and rioting. The issue of police brutality towards Blacks, and the unprovoked killing of unarmed Black people by the cops has been simmering away for the past few years or so. It’s what Black Lives Matter was formed to protest. And underneath that are the continuing problems of racism, poverty and poor Black academic achievement in schools. Only a few years ago Barak Obama was being lauded for winning the race to the White House and becoming America’s first Black president. The country, it was said, had now entered a ‘post-racial’ age. In fact, the divisions remained under Obama. Things were undoubtedly better under him for most Americans than if the Republicans had won, but Obama was a corporatist Democrat. He described himself as a ‘moderate Republican’, and so the neoliberal policies that have created so much poverty in America and round the globe, continued. American jobs went overseas and Obama went ahead with trying to close down America’s public (state) school system by transforming them into Charter Schools, the equivalent of the privately run state academies over here. Their transformation is often against the wishes of parents, teachers and the wider community. But the privatisation was still pushed, and is still being pushed by Trump. Welfare is being cut, and wages for ordinary Americans, of whatever colour, have remained stagnant for years. If they haven’t actually fallen in real terms, that is.

America has also become more racist as the trade unions and old industries, which employed both Whites and Blacks and brought people of different races together were smashed. It’s created a more atomised and racially segregated society. The old forms of community which crossed racial barriers have declined partly due to the ‘White flight’ which saw White people migrate away from the inner city towards the suburbs. The book attacking the Neocons and their toxic policies, Confronting the New Conservatism, argued that this is what fueled the rise of George Dubya Bush’s administration. And the same processes are at work in Britain too. Hence the victories of the Tories over here, the disproportionate numbers of British Blacks and Asians dying from the Coronavirus, and the consequent Black anti-racist protests in Britain.

There might be some extreme left-wing malcontents stirring the crowds up. I remember during the race riots that hit St Paul’s in Bristol in the early 1980s a White man with a long, grey beard hanging around the school gates with a megaphone as we went home. He was haranguing us, trying to get us to join the rioting. I didn’t realise it at the time, but thinking about it, it seems to me very likely he was from the Socialist Workers Party or similar far left organisation. They have a reputation for joining any kind of protest and trying to radicalize it or exacerbate the problem. But the SWP in Britain was and is miniscule. They’ve been criticised by their left-wing opponents because they don’t ever start protests, they merely colonise those of others. The riots in St. Paul’s started over heavy-handed policing, and specifically a raid on the Black and White Cafe, which had a reputation for drug dealing. The underlying grievances were the same then – racism, unemployment and poverty. The SWP, Workers’ Revolutionary Party, British Communist Party or any other radical left group weren’t behind the riots then, whatever White guys with megaphones may have tried to do. They aren’t behind the protests and riots in America now.

There is no far left conspiracy at work here. Just poverty and despair caused by four decades of neoliberalism, Neoconservatism, Reaganomics, Thatcherism and just plain, old Conservatism. Tackling the protests will mean not only tackling racism, but also the economic and social grievances underneath them. Grievances that the Conservatives and Republicans exploit to bolster their own horrific policies.

If we want to create a better society for everyone, regardless of their colour, it means getting rid of Conservative policies as well as stopping the police from killing people.

And in the meantime, Trump should also stop making things worse with his stupid Tweets.

Flyers For Deputy Leadership Candidates Dawn Butler and Rosena Allin-Khan

February 3, 2020

I went to the hustings for the Labour deputy leadership in Bristol on Saturday. It was held in afternoon at a hall in Bristol City football ground in Ashton Gate. The hustings for leadership itself was in the morning, but unfortunately I couldn’t get tickets for that. They’d gone almost as soon as the news of them and how to apply for them appeared on line.

It was a really great afternoon, and very good indeed to see the five candidates appear and speak in person. They were Dr. Rosena Allin-Khan, Dawn Butler, Angela Rayner, Richard Burgon and Ian McCulloch. They spoke with passion, energy and intelligence, answering a series of questions that had been submitted by members of the local party. These covered issues like the NHS, mental health, racism, women and minorities, and even the role of cooperatives and the third sector. It was very clear that, whatever their differences, all of them were committed to getting Labour back into power and defending Britain’s working people from the Tories and their cuts. Angela Rayner, one of the centrists, went up in my estimation when she announced how much she despised the academies. I was also immensely impressed by Richard Burgon’s ringing denunciation of neoliberalism and his statement that he wanted to see Clause IV – the statement that the Labour party stands for the nationalisation of industry – back into the party’s constitution. It should never have been removed.

I’d like to blog further about the hustings in general, but in this post I simply want to talk about the flyers for two of the candidates I picked up. These were for Dr. Rosena Allin-Khan and Dawn Butler.

Here’s Dr. Allin-Khan’s.

Dr. Allin-Khan explained that she’s the daughter of a Polish mother and an Asian father, and made it very clear that she owed her success to the Labour giving her the opportunity to study medicine at Cambridge and become a doctor. She was very passionate about defending the health service, and mental health issues. She mentioned that her father was suffering from dementia, and she was extremely concerned about the children and young people she saw as doctor who were self-harming.

I think the front of the flyer is clear enough, but in case you can’t read the rear, it runs:

Why I’m standing

Growing up on the breadline, as a mixed race child, with a single mum, under Margaret Thatcher’s Government of the 80s, meant that the odds were stacked against my brother and I.

Constantly told that there was a ceiling on what I could achieve, when I failed my exams, my dreams of serving my community looked to be over.

A Labour Government transformed me life and enabled me to go to medical school and become an A&E doctor, where I still do frontline shifts. I am determined that no person should have a limit placed on them by this Conservative Government. As an MP, I’ve taken my passion for Labour values across the world in humanitarian crises, working with the most vulnerable. Only when we give a voice to the voiceless, can we create a more equal society.

We face a huge challenge ahead and we need to prove to the country that we can deliver on our promises.

As Deputy, I will lead from the grassroots, working hard across the UK. I will listen to members and together evaluate why we lost the last four general elections, then move forwards, starting by winning the elections in May.

I would give our emergency service workers a voice on shaping their future by offering them a reduced rate to join our party – we will fight to save our NHS from the Tory sell-off.

My aim is clear: to take Labour forward together and win the next General Election -join me.

Doctor Rosena Allin-Khan,

MP for Tooting.

And this is Dawn Butler’s.

In addition to the four points of Campaign, organise, Recruit and Educate, Butler added a fifth on the podium – Discipline. The party has to be united in order to defeat the Tories.

I hope you can read the five points of her plan as itemised on the card. If you can’t, they are:

  1. Unite our party and bring the party together, harnessing the talents of all, to take on the Tories.
  2. Invest in campaigning infrastructure in the regions, towns and cities and embed professional Organisers in more seats.
  3. Continue to champion great policies like the Green New Deal, equalities and strengthening employment rights.
  4. Work loyally with the Leader to elect a Labour government.
  5. As I have done throughout my role as Shadow Equalities Minister, I will fight bullying of all minorities to ensure we are an open and accepting society.

Like Dr. Allin-Khan, Butler has also had to fight to get to her current position. She says that when she was at school she was told she’d never make anything of herself, and that she should stick to running. She also said that even after she became an MP, she was so out of place as a Black woman, that when she entered a lift reserved for MPs, one of the others pointed this out to her and told her it wasn’t for cleaners. She is, as you might expect, very passionate on the subject of minority rights.

I’m afraid I can only put up flyers for Dr. Allin-Khan and Dawn Butler, as they’re the only flyers I was personally handed. I hope they help people in the Labour party wondering what the candidates stand for, and who they should back for this crucially important role.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Free Schools Not Serving White Working Class

October 27, 2019

The I newspaper last week also carried a report by Will Hazell, ‘Free schools ‘are failing to reach white working-class communities’ in their edition for 17th October 2019, stating that few free schools were being built to serve white working class children according to a report by the Education Policy Institute. The article ran

The Government’s free schools programme has failed to help white working-class communities where education outcomes are the lowest, according to research.

The analysis by the Education Policy Institute found that the performance of free schools was “mixed”, with the strong results of some schools partly driven by the fact they take pupils from neighbourhoods which generally achieve good results anyway.

Free schools are directly funded by central government and operate outside local authority control. Michael Gove introduced them in 2010. However, the EPI’s report says free schools have failed to reach the worst-performing parts of the country.

The EPI found that secondary free schools have created just five new school places per 1,000 in the lowest-performing parts of England, compared with 18 places per 1,000 in the highest-performing areas.

When free schools are serving economically disadvantaged pupils, the EPI said these tend to be students in urban areas and from ethnic minority backgrounds who typically perform highly anyway.

David Laws, executive chairman of the EPI, said: “If additional money is to be allocated to this programme, it needs to have more impact on the truly left behind educational areas.”

The schools minister, Lord Agnew, said, “We opened applications for more new free schools earlier this year targeting areas with low educational standards.”

There was also a brief snippet at the end of this article reporting that the Queen’s Speech confirmed that 220 new free schools are to be opened over the coming years.

I am not surprised that the free schools aren’t serving white working class children. They were never meant to. Like the academies, they were set up as a part-way house to privatisation. They are meant to take schools out of the hands of the Local Education Authorities, who are left serving the less able and more disruptive pupils that these schools don’t want to take. The academies have been shown discriminating against and disproportionately excluding such pupils because they bring down their results in the league tables. It’s also been shown that the results from academies are no better than those of state schools, if they had the same amount spent on them. There have been instances where they government has poured tens of millions into the budgets of academies many times more than that allocated to the LEA.

From the way the article is phrased, it’s assumed that if free schools were expanded into white working class areas, the educational performance of those areas children would improve. But what is needed isn’t the extension of free schools, more academies or a return of the grammar schools. It is the proper funding LEA-run state schools.

Anything else is contributing to the further privatisation of British schools and the creation of a two-tier educational system.

News Rottweiler Richard Madeley Throws Gavin Williamson Off Programme for Not Answering Question

May 31, 2018

This is a turn up for the books. Richard Madeley is probably the last person I would have considered an aggressive, uncompromising interviewer, trying to hold the government and the authorities to account. But on ITV’s Good Morning on May 29th, 2018, Madeley showed he was not prepared to put up with Gavin Williamson’s repeated failure to answer his questions about the Skripal poisoning. And so, rather than let him continue, Madeley ended the interview, wishing him good luck with his project for Africa.

Mike put up a piece about this yesterday, remarking that not only had Williamson not answered the question, he was carrying on with a smug smirk on his face. Mike wrote of Williamson’s refusal to answer the question

He was deliberately withholding, not only his opinion on his ill-chosen words about the Russian government, but information on whether the Conservative government acted prematurely in blaming Russia for the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

The Tory narrative that the Russian government was responsible has collapsed beneath a barrage of factual information suggesting otherwise, with no facts to support it.

If Mr Williamson had admitted his words were ill-advised, he would have been accepting that the anti-Russia stance was a mistake – and opening the UK government to an investigation into its own activities. So he was between a rock and a hard place.

And he thought he could brazen it out on TV because mainstream media interviewers are now notoriously soft on Tories.

Mike noted that this deference to the Tories had changed with Madeley’s actions, but was unsure whether it would spread to the Beeb because so many of the Corporation’s top news team are Conservatives. However, the public are also turning away from soft interviewers like Andrew Marr and Evan Davis, and this may force the BBC to adopt a tougher stance when interviewing Tory politicians.

Mike’s article also compares it to the incident, 21 years ago, when Paxman ended an interview with Michael Portillo because the future presenter of programmes about train journeys around the globe refused to answer a question on his party’s policy towards the single European currency. The incident happened in a good-humoured way, and Paxo was probably able to do it, according to Mike, because Portillo was out of Parliament at the time, and his political influence was due to be confined for the foreseeable future to being one of the commenters on Andrew Neil’s The Week.

Mike’s article is at: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2018/05/30/the-madeley-moment-is-it-really-21-years-since-an-interviewer-dismissed-an-evasive-politician-for-failing-to-answer-a-question/

RT, as well as a number of other news sites on YouTube, also reported the incident. Here’s RT’s video of it.

Way back in the 1990s Jeremy Paxman was called a ‘Rottweiler’ for his persistent, aggressive questioning of politicians on his show, and his refusal to take any nonsense from them. Which was shown in his repeated questioning of Michael Howard whether he overruled another Tory minister. His ‘take no prisoners’ style of questioning enraged the Tories, and Michael Heseltine actually walked out during one interview, ‘angrily tossing his mane’ in the words of Ian Hislop later that week on Have I Got News For You.

The Tories responded as they usually do by claiming that Paxman and the BBC were biased against them. There was an article in the Spectator comparing Paxman to a similar TV interviewer in the Republic of Ireland, who went in hard with establishment politicians, but didn’t dare adopt the same stance with Sinn Fein or spokesmen for the IRA. And so eventually Paxo left Newsnight, and went instead to harass university students on University Challenge.

Then when Labour got it a few years later, the Tories showed once again how two-faced they are by lamenting how sad it was that Paxo had departed from political journalism, because now the country needed him to interrogate Blair and co with his aggressive refusal to allow his guest to get away with talking nonsense.

And so began the situation that prevails today, when members of the government turn up on television with the attitude that they can more or less say what they want, without being corrected or pressed by the interviewer. Some of us can still remember how Nicky Morgan repeatedly refused to answer one of the Beeb’s interviewer’s questions when she was minister for education. This was when Tweezer decided that every school should be an academy. The interviewer asked her a question about the number of academies, that had to be taken over again by the state, and all Thicky Nicky did was to repeat a line about how terrible it would be if children continued to be badly educated through attending failing state schools. In fact, the number of failing academies was high – about 21 or so, I seem to recall. Thicky Nicky clearly couldn’t admit that, and so she carried on repeating government propaganda. Just as the interview ended, the journo said, ‘You know the number’. He was clearly annoyed and frustrated at Morgan’s failure to answer the question, and made it very clear.

It would solve a lot of problems if interviewers did adopt a more uncompromising stance, and did throw politicians off the programme if they didn’t answer their questions. Reith was an authoritarian, who supported Mussolini, but he was right when he said that broadcasting to the nation was a privilege, not a right. This is a democracy, and the role of the press and the media – the Fourth Estate, as they’ve been called – has traditionally been to hold the government to account. Of course, this collapsed at least a decade ago, when the media became dominated by a very few big proprietors, who made sure that their papers represented their interests and those of the Conservative government, including Blair’s Thatcherite New Labour.

It’s good now that some TV interviewers are tired of giving the government such soft treatment. And as I said, it’s remarkable that this should come from Richard Madeley, who would be the last person I would have thought would do it. But obviously he decided he’d had enough, and something snapped. All hail Madeley, news Rottweiler. And I hope this attitude carries on and spread, so that we get something like the media we deserve in this country, rather than the one that’s foisted on us by the Beeb, Murdoch, Dacre and the Barclay Twins.