Posts Tagged ‘Francis Beckett’

George Galloway Documentary on British Fascism

March 26, 2018

Entitled ‘The Patriot Game’, and just under 27 minutes in length, this documentary British Fascism was post on YouTube on Friday. Presented by the former Labour MP, founder of the Respect Party, and now presenter with RT, George Galloway, this is a potted history of British Fascism. Some sensitive souls might want to skip some of this. This are vicious, ugly people, and the documentary includes scenes of violence where the Fascists are fighting the anti-Fascists and the police. There are also newsreel footage of the gas ovens in Nazi Germany to make a mute refutation of Martin Webster’s attempt to cast doubt on the truth of the conventional ‘narrative’ about the Holocaust.

It begins with the assassination of Jo Cox last year by Thomas Mair, and the all-too real Nazism and vicious anti-Semitism of Britain First. Not only did they want Cox dead, they also conspired to kill another female MP. From there he goes on to talk about Oswald Mosley and the British Union of Fascists and the Battle of Cable Street. This was when Mosley and his goons attempted to march through the East End of London. They were opposed by a huge crowd of trade unionists, Communists and Jews, determined not to let them pass. Violence broke out, but the Fascists were, as Galloway says, ‘routed’.

He then goes on to the Notting Hill riots of 1961 and the murder of Conseil Cochrane, an Antiguan carpenter. Now a very exclusive part of London, Notting Hill was then a poor area of slum housing and rapacious landlords. During three days of rioting, thousands of White youths rampaged to beat and attack Blacks. Galloway notes that the Daily Heil asked at the time ‘Should they keep coming?’ referring to the Black and Asian immigrants, who were there being attacked. The area was a hotbed of racism, and Colin Jordan was there with his White Defence League. There is then footage of Jordan at the microphone stating that if coloured immigration continued, it would lead to a mulatto (mixed-race) Britain, the extinction of the White race, and the fall of our civilisation. This is followed by Enoch Powell and his infamous ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech. Galloway mentions how Mosley tried and failed to get back into British politics, but the BUF’s place was taken instead by the National Front, led by John Tyndall and Martin Webster. After that collapsed, it was succeeded by Nick Griffin’s BNP, which in turn was succeeded by Tommy Robinson’s Islamophobic English Defence League. Robinson is shown at one of his protests against the Rotherham Asian grooming gang, holding up a Qu’ran and claiming that the rapists’ actions were based on ‘this manual’. This has now been succeeded in its turn by John Meighan’s Football Lads’ Alliance, which is also vehemently anti-Islamic. Meighan is shown arguing that they’re against all forms of extremism and racism. But Meighan himself is a former football hooligan, who was given a nine month suspended sentence for affray and banned from every football ground in the country. And John Sillitt, of Stand Up To Racism, describes how, when they tried to leaflet an FLA demo, they were met with cries of ‘We hope they bomb you!’. He states that they are not a non-violent organisation, and that their members hate Islam, not just Islamic extremism. He notes that for all Meighan’s talk, there wasn’t a Muslim speaker with him on the podium. He also stated that Portinari, another Fascist and gunrunner for the UDA, the Protestant paramilitary group in Northern Ireland, is a member of this wretched organisation. The documentary also shows Meighan with Tommy Robinson and other members of the EDL in a pub in Bristol, behaving like a gang of Fascist yobs.

During the documentary he talks to Prof. Matthew Goodwin of the University of Kent, Rob Hoveman, of the Central European University, Budapest, and Francis Beckett, the author of Fascist in the Family, as well as Martin Webster, the Black rights activist, Lee Jasper, and Mike Yardley, a security adviser. Goodwin, Hoveman and Beckett provide very brief definitions of Fascism. Goodman states that it differs from Conservatism in that, while Conservatism looks to the past, Fascism is all about national renewal and looks to the future. Hoveman describes how Fascism is marked by a defensiveness, a belief that society is being undermined, whether by Jews, Communists or liberals. Francis Beckett, whose father was another one of Mosley’s Blackshirts, defines it as being about the belief in an infallible leader ‘which is about as close to madness as you can get’.

Lee Jasper talks about the real fear the NF and other Fascist groups provoked in Black people, and their threat of violence, which could end with you losing your life. Matthew Goodman describes how contemporary Fascists, like the NF and BNP differ from the old style storm-troopers of Mosley’s BUF. Mosley had quite developed ideas about the kind of society he wanted to create and what he wanted to do with the economy. Contemporary Fascists don’t have any of that, just a crude racism and conspiratorialism, so that they are White supremacist organisations.

In his interview with Galloway, Martin Webster rants on about the need to preserve the White race from racial intermixing, drawing a rather spurious comparison with campaigns to save the whale. Galloway asks him how he sees Adolf Hitler. Webster doesn’t condemn him. He states openly that he admires him for some of the things he did, like giving the Germans back their sense of pride and overturning the Treaty of Versailles, and saving Germany from financial collapse and political decadence. Galloway then asks him the obvious question: what does he think about the Holocaust. Webster then replies that he isn’t a Holocaust revisionist, before going on to repeat their arguments. He acknowledges that Poles, Jews and Russians were brutally treated, but claims that scientists and engineers have produced a list of questions about the Holocaust, which are not discussed and for which you are jailed in Germany simply for asking them. But he states that he does not believe that there was a ‘machine’ for the murder of the Jews. As he makes this statement, the film shows footage from the death camps, of a human skeleton in one of the incinerators used to burn the bodies, and a mound of other human bones, all of which show very clearly that Webster is wrong and lying. Webster states very clearly that ‘any sensible government’ would send illegal immigrants back to their country of origin. When asked about non-White immigrants generally, he replies that they’re not happy here, and mentions the Black on Black violence in some of the ghettos. ‘Blacks’ he says, ‘are murdering each other at a terrible rate. He then talks about the failure of integration. This hasn’t occurred in the way ‘they’ wanted. He complains about the adverts with Black and Asian people, and especially bed adverts showing mixed, Black and White couples. These are supposed to be there to encourage the rest of us to follow their example where it is not occurring in reality. Galloway asks him what would happen to people of mixed race, like his children. Two of them are Arab, and two Indonesia. Webster doesn’t really answer the question, just says something about putting the nation first, and how he isn’t going to put off that by questions like that, Galloway’s children excepted. When pressed, he says he would make Black and Asian people an offer like the Godfather’s one ‘they couldn’t refuse’. The camera cuts to Galloway, staring daggers at him. As any loving parent would the person, who despises their children and wishes to harm them, or throw them out of their own country. As for the British people putting up with race-mixing, Webster maintained that they wouldn’t, citing the Leave Vote for the European Union as a demonstration of this.

Yardley makes the point that these Fascist organisations are racist and homophobic, and identifies one of the problems of trying to comb them. These organisations are constantly splintering, and then reforming. He also complains that the media pays very great attention to the threat of Islamic terror, while ignoring domestic Fascist terrorist organisations. The documentary does show the aggressively Nazi Britain First screaming ‘Hail Victory!’ and making the Nazi salute, and Amber Rudd’s speech declaring that they were now banned.

The programme shows these groups as exactly what they are: violent thugs with skinhead haircuts, marching, giving Nazi salutes and chants. The footage of an EDL march, or an FLA march, shows them chanting ‘There’s only one Oswald Mosley’. The young men in these organisations look very much like grotesques Kevin O’Neill and John Hicklenton drew as Terminators in the ‘Nemesis the Warlock’ strip in 2000 AD, which used fantasy to attack racism and bigotry.

It’s a chilling documentary. I found the newsreel footage of Mosley and his fellow thugs particularly disturbing, as this showed mass crowds all greeting him with the Fascist salute. It also has clips of Mosley speaking at the Olympia Palace. Waving his arms around dramatically in a chopping gesture, this shows how desperate Mosley was to copy Mussolini and then Adolf Hitler. Fortunately, he never achieved anywhere near their level of popularity. Despite the menacing tone of this documentary, it’s hard to know how much of a threat these groups pose. They are a real threat to the lives and property of ethnic minorities and left-wingers, whom they attack with extreme violence, going as far as murder. But these Fascist groups are also numerically small. I don’t think any of them has come close to having one of their members elected as an MP, despite the success of the BNP in winning a number of council seats in the 1990s. As for the Leave campaign, many of the voters were actually left-wing, and had an issue, not with foreign immigration as such, but with the stifling neoliberal policies of the EU. It also shows the success of the anti-racist campaigning of the last several decades that Fascistic groups like the EDL and FLA have to hide their racism, and instead project themselves as simply against Islamic extremism.

I am certainly not saying that we should be complacent about them. We shouldn’t. They are a threat, though at the moment this is being contained. But there is much racism in British society and racist violence outside of their ranks, which also needs to be tackled. And there is the grim possibility that if western governments continue to follow neoliberalism, and push more people into desperate poverty, more Whites will become attracted to racist groups as their rage seeks a scapegoat for their own anxieties and fears.

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Lib Dems Aim at Winning Blairites from Labour

September 21, 2016

Also in the I newspaper today, right opposite the report about the three pro-Corbyn councillors, who have been suspended from the local party in Bristol, was the news that the Lib Dem leader Tim Farron has made a bid to win over right-wing Labour voters in his speech at their party conference.

The article states

Tim Farron cast himself as the heir to Tony Blair yesterday as he delivered a direct appeal to disillusioned Labour voters to switch allegiance to the Liberal Democrats.

Only his party can prevent a 25-year-long Conservative “stranglehold over government”, he insisted in his keynote speech to the Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton.

Mr Farron coupled praise for many of Tony Blair’s achievements in office with a stinging attack on Jeremy Corbyn for viewing winning general elections as a “bourgeois distraction”…

Targeting the centrist Labour supporters, the Lib Dem leader said he believed Mr Blair made many serious mistakes, but admired him for achievements such as investing in schools and hospitals and introducing the national minimum wage.

“I respect him for believing that the point of being in politics is to get stuff done, and you can only get stuff done if you win. Otherwise, you’re letting your opponent get stuff done instead, ” Mr Farron said.

Farron and his supporters are keen to promote the idea that the party is undergoing a revival after losing all but eight seats in the elections last year. The same article quotes him as saying that by next year, his party will be the only thing standing between another Tory election victory.

But Farron has already confirmed my negative opinion of his party, and my decision that I won’t vote for them. Tony Blair and his supporters aren’t centrists. By the standards of the 1980s, they’re actually extreme right-wing Tories. I don’t mean they’re extreme right in that they’re racist, misogynist or hate gays. They’re not. But they are extremely right-wing in that they took over Margaret Thatcher’s neoliberal policy of privatising everything she could, including parts of the NHS. Blair took this over and massively expanded it. Alan Milburn wanted to reduce the health service to a logo on services provided by the private sector. See NHS-SOS by Jacky Davis and Raymond Tallis. As for investing in hospitals, this is a moot point that needs qualification. Blair did invest in hospitals under the PFI initiative, a policy set up by that prancing snob Peter Lilley deliberately to open up the NHS to private investment. Under the PFI, the hospitals built are smaller than those constructed using conventional financing methods, and are actually much more expensive. These costs are met by closing and amalgamating other hospitals. Farron might consider these as mistakes, but they are an integral part of the system. Blair was responsible for closing down local hospitals in order to create a part-privatised system that was more wasteful than the previous, wholly state-owned, state-funded NHS. But it got him plaudits from the Right as the true anointed heir of Thatcher, barrels of money given to him and his continuity group, Progress, from donors in the private medical industry.

Much the same could be said of his education policy. This essentially consisted of the Simpering Scrounger taking over Norman Baker’s policy of city colleges outside the Local Education Authorities, which even the Tories ditched as a useless dud. Just as he did with Anderson Consulting, who had also been ditched by the Tories, Blair picked them up and adopted the policy as his own. The only difference is that he tried to make the wretched scheme look better by calling them ‘city academies’ and then just ‘academies’. Like the PFI hospitals, they’re massively more expensive than ordinary schools. They can cost something like £24-35 million, far more than the funding given to LEAs for all the schools they have to run. And like the PFI hospitals, it’s another part-privatisation where the taxpayer effectively picks up the bill. They’re given over to the management of second-rate entrepreneurs, often with extreme dodgy ideas on what counts as proper education. Poor, and children with exceptional needs, like the less academic, or disruptive pupils, are not taken, or expelled at an alarming rate in order to keep the wealthy, intellectually able kids the schools needs to show they’re improving standards. But they don’t. They’re actually little better than state schools. Where they have improved standards, it’s simply due to the vastly larger funding they’ve been given. These would have also improved standards in state schools, if they had been so fortunate as been given them. See Francis Beckett’s The Great City Academy Fraud.

The only person, who’s shown a genuine commitment to restoring standards and the integrity of our schools and health service, after these have been decimated by nearly four decades of Tory and New Labour misrule, is Jeremy Corbyn. By aiming to win the Blairites over to his party, Farron has shown that he effectively supports all the policies Blair and the Tories have done ever since Maggie. The rise of mass starvation in our society, and the incalculable poverty, disease and despair that will result if the Tories’ privatisation of the NHS goes ahead, show that these are policies are country cannot afford. Like the Tories, the Lib Dems should not be given any power in forthcoming elections.

Book Review: The Great City Academy Fraud – Part 1

July 13, 2016

Academy Fraud Pic

By Francis Beckett (London: Continuum 2007)

This is another book I managed to pick up from a cheap bookshop, in this case the £3 bookshop in Bristol’s Park Street. Although published nine years ago in 2007, it’s still very acutely relevant, with the plan of the current education minister, Thicky Nicky Morgan, to try to turn most schools into privately run academies. According to the back flap, Beckett was the education correspondent of the New Statesman from 1997 to 2005, and also wrote on education for the Guardian. The book’s strongly informed by the findings of the NUT and other teaching unions, whose booklets against academies are cited in the text. And its a grim read. It’s an important subject, so important in fact, that I’ve written a long review of this book, divided into four section.

Academies: Another Secondhand Tory Policy

Much of New Labour’s threadbare ideology was just revamped, discarded Tory ideas. This was clearly shown before Blair took power in the early 1990s, when John Major’s government dumped a report compiled by the consultants Arthur Anderson. This was immediately picked up, dusted off, and became official New Labour policy. Similarly, PFI was invented by the Tories man with a little list, Peter Lilley, who was upset ’cause private industry couldn’t get its claws into the NHS. This again was taken over by New Labour, and became the cornerstone of Blair’s and Brown’s ideas of funding the public sector. Academies, initially called ‘city academies’, were the same.

Basically, they’re just a revival of the City Technology Colleges set up in the mid 1980s by Thatcher’s education secretary, Kenneth Baker. Baker decided that the best way to solve the problem of failing schools was to take them out of the control of the local education authority, and hand them over to a private sponsor. These would contribute £2 million of their own money to financing the new school, and the state would do the rest. Despite lauding the scheme as innovative and successful, Baker found it impossible to recruit the high profile sponsors in big business he wanted. BP, which is very active supporting community projects, flatly told him they weren’t interested, as the project was ‘too divisive’. Another organisation, which campaigns to raise private money for public projects, also turned it down, stating that the money would best be spent coming from the government. It was an area for state funding, not private. The result was that Baker was only able to get interest for second-order ‘entrepreneurs’, who were very unwilling to put their money into it. From being a minimum, that £2 million funding recommendation became a maximum. And so the scheme was wound up three years later in 1990.

After initially denouncing such schemes, New Labour showed its complete hypocrisy by trying out a second version of them, the Education Action Zones. Which also collapsed due to lack of interest. Then, in 2000, David Blunkett announced his intention to launch the academy system, then dubbed ‘city academies’, in 2000 in a speech to the Social Market Foundation. Again, private entrepreneurs were expected to contribute £2 million of their money, for which they would gain absolute control of how the new school was to be run. The taxpayer would provide the rest. Again, there were problems finding appropriate sponsors. Big business again wouldn’t touch it, so the government turned instead to the lesser businessmen, like Peter Vardy, a car salesman and evangelical Christian. Other interested parties included the Christian churches, like the Church of England, the Roman Catholic Church, and evangelical educational bodies like the United Learning Trust. There were also a number of universities involved, such as the University of the West of England here in Bristol, and some sports organisations, like Bristol City Football club. Some private, fee-paying schools have also turned themselves into academies as away of competing with other private schools in their area.

Taxpayers Foot the Bill

While the sponsors are supposed to stump up £2 million, or in certain circumstances, more like £1.5 million, in practice this isn’t always the case. The legislation states that they can also pay ‘in kind’. Several have provided some money, and then provided the rest of their contribution with services such as consultation, estimated according to a very generous scale. For Beckett, this consists of the sponsors sending an aging executive to give his advice on the running of the new school. This particular individual may actually be past it, but the company can’t sack him. So they fob the new school off with him instead. Sometimes, no money changes hands. The Royal Haberdashers’ Society, one of the London livery companies, decided it was going to sponsor an academy. But it already owned a school on the existing site, and so did nothing more than give the site, generously estimate at several millions, to the new academy. Other companies get their money back in different ways, through tax rebates, deductions and the like.

But if the private sponsors are very wary about spending their money, they have absolutely no reservations about spending the taxpayer’s hard-earned moolah. An ordinary school costs something like £20 million to build. Academies cost more, often much more: £25 million, sometimes soaring to £37 million or beyond. Several of the businessmen sponsoring these academies have built massive monuments to their own vanity, using the services of Sir Norman Foster. Foster was, like Richard Rogers, one of the celebrity architects in favour with New Labour, whose ‘monstrous carbuncles’ (@ Charles Windsor) were considered the acme of cool. One of these was called ‘The Learning Curve’, and consisted of a long, curving corridor stretching across a quarter of mile, off which were the individual class rooms. Foster also built the Bexley Business Academy, a school, whose sponsor wanted to turn the pupils into little entrepreneurs. So every Friday was devoted exclusively to business studies, and the centrepiece of the entire joint was a mock stock exchange floor. The school also had an ‘innovative’ attitude to class room design: they only had three walls, in order to improve supervise and prevent bullying. In fact, the reverse happened, and the school had to spend more money putting them up.

Unsuitable Buildings

And some of the buildings designed by the academies’ pet architects are most unsuitable for the children they are supposed to serve. One academy decided it was going to get the local school for special needs children on its site. These were kids with various types of handicap. Their school was not certainly not failing, and parents and teachers most definitely did not want their school closed. But closed it was, and shifted to the academy. The old school for handicapped youngsters was all on the same level, which meant that access was easy, or easier, for those kids with mobility problems. The new school was on two floors. There was a lift, but it could only be used by pupils with a teacher. The parents told the sponsor and the new academy that they had destroyed their children’s independence. They were greeted with complete incomprehension.

HM School ‘Belmarshe’

In other academies, conditions for the sprogs are more like those in a prison. One of the schools, which preceded an academy on its site, had a problem with bullying. The new academy decided to combat that problem, by not having a playground. They also staggered lunch into two ‘brunch breaks’, which were taken at different times by different classes. These are taken in a windowless cafeteria. The result is a joyless learning environment, and the school has acquired the nickname ‘Belmarshe’, after the famous nick.

Book Review: The Great City Academy Fraud – Part 3

July 13, 2016

Academy Fraud Pic

Francis Beckett (London: Continuum 2007)

Academies and the Curriculum

There are also major concerns about what academies actually teach. Beckett writes from a secular viewpoint, and is very sceptical about the involvement of the churches and evangelical groups in running schools. He states that there may be a democratic argument to be put forward in favour of handing schools over to religious organisations, but this has not been made. Instead, he cites quotes from Peter Vardy and the Roman Catholic spokesman for education in Scotland, McGrath, who regret that the churches have relinquished schools to the state. He shows how the churches, including the Church of England, are trying to get into education with the aim of indoctrinating a new generation of believers. Beckett isn’t entirely opposed to religious involvement in schooling. He has nothing against the traditional compromise, in which schools offered religious education and an act of daily worship, but were otherwise left to get on with things. But the religious character of some of these schools does become a problem, such as their refusal to employ staff of a different faith, or when most of their pupils are non-Christians, such as Muslims. Or when the Christian ethos is expected to get down into lessons like pottery. Peter Vardy and his organisation are a matter of considerable concern, because of Vardy’s determination to teach Creationism as an acceptable scientific theory, which has been criticised by the Royal Society, amongst others.

It is not just the religious organisations that present problems with the subjects taught at academies. Sponsors are also able to set the curriculum, and so this reflects the particular interests of the businessman or organisation sponsoring the academy. In academies run by particular firms, the emphasis may be on those skills the firm requires, even though several of them have denied that they are in fact doing so. Beckett makes the point that these firms are effectively training ‘the worker bees of industry’ for tomorrow. Where the sponsor is a sports club, the academy, naturally enough, specialises in sport. The result is that subjects like technology and business are favourite subjects with sponsors, but ordinary, valuable subjects like English, Maths and languages, for which there is also a need, are much less well represented.

Driving Down Other Schools

Beckett also describes how academies also work to drive down the other schools in their areas. Academies may received massive funding from government – like £37 million – while something like £2 – £6 million may be granted to maintain the other state schools in the area. Academies thus may become the favoured choice for parents. They are also highly selective. There is evidence that very many of the academies expel difficult pupils, thus passing them on to the conventional state sector. Many of them also opt to select 10 per cent of their intake according to ability. Or they may choose to take them by banding. In this instance, children are divided into three bands of above average, average, and below average educational performance/ capacity. Schools following this method of selection take equal numbers of all the above bands. However, as academies were designed to raise standards in areas where there may be considerable deprivation, the lowest bands may fill up very rapidly, because of the way poverty brings down educational performance and expectations. So the new academy doesn’t take on all the ‘failing’ pupils in its deprived areas. Several of the academies in deprived inner cities targeted not local parents, but those further out in the leafy suburbs, who could be expected to be more affluent and send brighter, more capable pupils to their schools.

The Poorer Performing Schools Doing well In Spite of Disadvantages

And some of the schools that were declared ‘failing’, and slated to be turned into academies, actually were performing very well under circumstances over which they had no control. One of these schools, for example, was in an area where there was a large number of refugee children, none of whom were fluent in English. This school, however, had high staff morale, and provided value for money in the considerable improvement it made on these children’s grades from a very low base. This was before ‘value’ was taken into consideration, however, and Blair and his minions decided that the school wasn’t performing well enough.

No Improvement over State Schools

It is also very unclear whether academies provide any value for money or improvement over conventional state schools. Beckett presents a number of stats, which show that at one time, 11 out of 14 academies were in the bottom 200 schools. Where they did improve, it was quite often through transferring the less academically able pupils from GCSEs to GNVQs, which count as four GCSEs in the stats. When this is accounted for, the supposed superior performance of academies simply vanishes. And some of the improvements are simply achieved because vast sums of money were thrown at a failing school. Any school would have improved under these circumstances, and it’s a good question whether these schools would have improved more, if they had been under proper LEA control.

Academies and Cash for Honours (and Tony)

One of the book’s chapters is on the individuals, that Tony Blair took on board to sponsor the academies. As with so much of Blairite New Labour, there was more than a whiff of corruption about this. Money changed hands, so that sponsors could get a seat in the House of Lords or some other honour. One member of the department dealing with setting up the academies found the full force of the law, when he was caught in a sting operation by the Sunday Times. He had supposedly offered a lady journalist, posing as potential sponsor, the possibility of various honours. He was then arrested at 7.30 in the morning, and flung in jail on potential corruption charges, his career in government at an end. Meanwhile, the Blairite spin machine went into overdrive, with various Blairites, including David Miliband, declaring that no such sale was taking place. But politics was deeply involved, as many of those sponsoring academies had made generous donations and loans to the Labour party. Several of these were under investigation by the rozzers.

Book Review: The Great City Academy Fraud – Part 4

July 13, 2016

Academy Fraud Pic

Francis Beckett (London: Continuum 2007)

Academies: A Lesson in Failure

Beckett makes it very clear that academies are a failed policy. They don’t bring the improvements they are touted as bringing, and the scale of their failure is shown by the way that New Labour was determined to change, expand and prop up the system. They were originally intended to improve and turn around failing schools. That has stopped, as they are now the preferred choice for building schools. The ‘city’ part of their names has also been dropped, as that was considered to link them too closely with failing inner city schools. So now they’re just ‘academies’. He states that they are an attack on the 1944 requirement of local authorities to provide education for all children in their areas. Local authorities are now required to ‘commission’ schools, not provide them directly or run them. He also cites a New Labour crib sheet to provide spin doctors with the answer they need for critics of the system, which states that they are to take schools out of the control of Local Education Authorities, which are to be destroyed.

The Return of the 11 Plus

He wonders why the system is being promoted, when it is so obviously a failure. He speculates that, apart from undermining the 1944 education act, it serves another purpose: the return of channelling the less able into vocational education. He notes that before the abolition of the 11 Plus, the educationally able were supposed to go to grammar schools, while the less academically gifted went to technical colleges to learn manual or technical trades. This is coming back, with some academies specialising in GNVQs for their less academically gifted pupils. The private school, which became an academy, meanwhile is definitely retaining GCSEs, and will specialise in languages. So it’s effectively hanging on to its grammar school status, even if it is not, technically, a grammar school any longer.

Beckett states that the return of vocational education and what is effectively the 11 plus is not a policy any socialist party can openly admit to pursuing, and so Blair was bringing it in through the back door of the academies.

What Should Replace Them?

In the last chapter, he discusses what should replace academies. He acknowledges that they were set up to answer a real need – that of failing schools, some of which were in appalling conditions. He argues that there is a need to reform and abolish Local Education Authorities. There are too many of them, and some of them are very small, too small to be effective. Furthermore, less and less power and importance is being given to local authorities anyway, and education is just one of a number of services local councils provide. But he is impressed with how much people care about education, and how much time and energy local people invest in their schools. He therefore argues for the creation of Local Education Councils, whose members are democratically elected, with wide powers over the schools in their areas, and which are outside the stifling tangle of local government regulations. These LECs may choose to approach sponsors, but they would have ultimate control over the schools, not the other way around, as it is now with academies.

My own feeling is that academies are being promoted for much more cynical reasons by the industrial and political elites. They give power to industry, which then gives money to the political parties. It’s another part of the corporatist corruption of politics in Britain and also in America, as many of the companies seeking to set up academies over here, were also involved in setting up charter schools up on the other side of the Pond. Those angling to get a cut of the action in the academy chains include one Rupert Murdoch, through his sideline in educational publishing (don’t laugh).

Academies and Nicky Morgan’s Lies

This mess needs to be cleaned out, and cleaned out now. No new academies are to be built, and I fully agree with Beckett that ways need to be explored to return those that have been to full state control. They are a massive failure. So far 25 academy chains this year have had to be taken over by the state. But you wouldn’t know that from Thick Nicky Morgan’s interview on the Beeb, where she consistently refused to answer his question, and just kept repeating what she’d been told about how unfair it was to keep failing schools open and deny parents the opportunity of seeing their children succeed in an academy. As we’ve seen, this is rubbish. Parent’s ain’t presented with a choice so much as a command: you will get an academy, whether you like it or not.

It’s high time to throw out academies, and the Blairites and Tories with them.