School report for citizenship – could do better.

What a nice break that was (although adding another child to my family could/should hardly be considered a break).

I’ve worked nearly every day I can since the age of 16. I worked so I could put myself through college; I worked so I could put myself through university; I worked so I could experience all the trappings of ‘Old London Town’, recently I have worked to keep a roof over my family’s head. Cards on the table time….I’m a teacher, a nurse, a diplomat…I’m a public servant. I, like most public servants, pay taxes. I also pay student loan repayments and pension contributions. I don’t have a credit card or an overdraft, in fact, apart from my student loan I’m totally debt free. I have never been arrested…I am a public servant. However, I am the only bread winner in my beautiful family of four. By 2013 I will earn just above the cut off limit for child benefit. Since May I have seen my pay frozen for the next two years, my children’s child benefit taken away and now I face the prospect of a de-facto pay cut if the findings from the Hutton report are implemented. I am a public servant.

I am told that in order to be a good citizen it takes more than just, raising a family, paying taxes, abiding by the law and teaching the leaders of tomorrow. I’m told that I have to do more…my country needs me. I, like most citizens of this country, work extremely hard. Since September I have worked an average of 55 hours a week (this includes Sunday)…I am most definitely not on my own and there so many more people that work harder and longer, and for less. I am a public servant. I guess my point is, what more can I do?

I didn’t go into teaching for the holidays or the generous pension at retirement; I went into teaching because I wanted to offer children a better standard of education than I received…I wanted to make a small difference to the country in which I grew up in. I don’t feel that I should be bribed into doing it and I don’t feel that I should be bullied into leaving. I am a public servant.

We were told today by Emma Boon, campaign manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance: ‘It is not right for taxpayers to be subsidising million-pound retirement benefits for the public sector elite while seeing the value of their own pensions plummet’. I look forward to announcing to my colleagues tomorrow morning that we no longer pay tax, not only that, we also each get a million-pound on retirement. Now I’m not saying that being the campaign manager for the TaxPayer’s Alliance isn’t a proper job but Ms Booth is clearly not good in her current role as she has failed to understand, recognise that public servants also pay tax.

I’m sure that when the coalition have finished demonising the unemployed, public servants, the north, local councils, the police, the NHS, Europe, immigrants then I’m sure they will get around to the tax evaders and the bonkers bank bonuses. The coalition are some what correct in their approach to citizens that choose not to seek work or undertake work if they believe it beneath them. However, the proportion of those that fiddle the benefits system doesn’t come close to the proportion of those that fiddle the tax system. The top 10% of this country own 90% of it’s wealth, this leaves 10% of wealth to 90% of the country.

So to sum up, I need to work longer for less money, I have no right to financial assistance through the taxes that I pay and I have to work for free during the only time that I get to spend with my family. I am a public servant…is this fair?

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Top Trumps – Labour Leadership 2010

September 1st 2010 is a significant date in the diary for many reasons. For most schools in Britain it heralds the start of the new academic year. It marks the 25th anniversary of the wreckage of the Titanic being discovered. Uzbekistanis celebrate the 19th year of independence from the former Soviet Union. For Ed, Ed, Dave, Andy and Diane the 1st of September takes on a special significance as it marks the day in which the Labour leadership ballot begins to drop. Throughout the month, Labour party members will be voting in their thousands until the 25th when the results are announced.

Regular readers of the blog will know that this isn’t the first time I’ve strayed from the subject of the coalition. As I’ve stated before you can’t separate the coalition from the Labour leadership election because the winner will have a direct impact on the success or failure of the Con-Dems. If the correct candidate is elected, then they will have the challenge of trying to form a credible opposition.

When I was growing up, my friends and I used to argue about who would win in a fight…who would win between Optimus Prime & Megatron; Dalglish & Kendall; Stallone & Schwarzenegger; Thatcher & Kinnock (ok I made that last one up). Optimus was a truck but Megatron was a plane; Kendall had Sharp but Dalglish had Rush; Stallone had Rocky but Schwarzenegger had The Terminator; Kinnock had Hattersly but Thatcher had Tebbit. We loved nothing more than debating the minute details of each opponent. Sometimes we would fall onto the statistical debating cards, Top Trumps, to assist us.

Well, in a throwback to those salad days, my friends and I were in the pub the other day sharing stories of our complicated lives. During one of our discussions, two of my more troubled friends started to debate the leadership election. As the debate grew to include all of the table, it became clear that we all seemed to share different views of the candidates.  One area where we were all in agreement was on the importance this election has on the country. We just couldn’t agree on how best to judge the candidates…who would win? David has more support from MPs but his brother has the overwhelming support of the Unions; Diane is a woman, the rest all look the same; Well, just for fun, I’ve made these cards to help me choose and I hope they help you decide…the Cameron card is also included in the pack. (Cards not to be used for serious debate…watch out for the ‘special’ election reform referendum pack soon).

Ed 'I'm not David' Miliband

Ed 'I almost lost my seat' Balls

Diane 'I'm a woman' Abbott

Andy 'I'm northern' Burnham

David 'I'm not Tony but by god I want to be' Cameron

David 'I'm not Tony or Gordon' Miliband

The one with politics all over the gaffe.

Cameron the new Bush

Source Guardian.co.uk

When the coffee house phenomena hit the States we still had the humble cafe (pronounced caff). Several years later the cafe has all but disappeared and in its place are the egregious green & white caffeine oubliettes. It took several years but America found a way of exporting them to our peaceful land. We lapped them up.

My first job was working in a coffee shop in a shopping centre, churning out ‘Expresso’ and ‘Frothy Coffee’ by the vat load like some Indian sweatshop worker (this was in the day before the minimum wage). I produced these bastardised coffees to the general public and they queued up in their thousands as if they were the best things since sliced bread (which is ironic really as we also sold that but like Pacman and Amstrad computers it just wasn’t that popular anymore, replaced by the grandiosely titled Wrap). We all wanted to be ‘Friends’, to sit around all day talking about sex & relationships. We couldn’t stop the invasion, in fact we welcomed it.

We’ve allowed it to happen again. Only this time it’s not addictive hot beverages, this time we get bad political oratory. We all mocked the Americans for voting in a man that was more into his gaffes than a cockney describing his house. You would have hoped that we learnt the lesson of history, well we didn’t.

Over the past week, our illustrious leader Dave Cameron, has thrown a few in of his own. What with his comments on World War 2, his demonstration of world class diplomacy with his ill-advised India pandering comments about Pakistan. Then came his comment yesterday when he stated that Iran had nuclear weapons. His PR machine span the line that the PM had simply mis-spoken, of course he knows that Iran doesn’t have nuclear weapons (yet) and he just made an error. I’m not a politician, I didn’t go to Eton, I didn’t even do that well either at school, college or university for that matter. However, even I know that if you’re going to screw up, don’t do it about nuclear weapons. It’s probably a good thing that the Conservative pin-up, Lady Thatcher (or as she was known back then ‘The Milk Snatcher’ or ‘That woman who stole my job and then my community) was in charge during the Cold War and not him otherwise who knows what damage could have been done.

Having a quick trawl through the YouTube archives, I’ve found Dave’s recent gaffes as well as a couple of older ones, just in case we were thinking that the pressure of the job was getting to him.

The one with Cameron and the Gay gaffe

The one where Cameron equates China and Iran

The one where Cameron rewrites history

The one where Cameron accuses Pakistan of promoting terror and thereby pissing off nearly a billion people

The one with Cameron, the public, Iran and the Nuclear weapons.

… just for laughs The one where Cameron checks the cameras are on him and his excellent Blair impression.

The count-out begins

Over the past week two heavyweights of British politics faced off against each other, again, and again, and again. Gove threw the first punch, kick starting a match off  that is sure to continue throughout the duration of this parliament.

Ladies and gentlemen, this week’s main event. In the blue (and slightly yellow) corner, the elected representative from Surrey Heath; MP since 2005; the Secretary of State for Education…Michael ‘The Cleaner’ Gove! In the red corner, the elected representative from Morley and Outwood (Just); MP since 2005…Ed ‘Spender’ Balls; brought to you by the people of Great Britain, in association with the Lib Dems…Lets get ready to crumble!!!!!

Round One – Last Monday saw Gove land the first knock down after he announced that he was axing the BSF programme. Although it wasn’t a knock down that was entirely unexpected by Balls and his team, he was still sent reeling from the loss of his Education legacy. Gove wins the fist round; Gove 10 – 8 Balls

Round Two – However, Balls was soon up off the canvas as he started throwing some counter attacking punches on Newsnight that very evening. Gove almost went down as Balls came in with a crunching uppercut. An uppercut that was delivered not from his own hands but that of the Permanent Secretary for Education. That afternoon, Balls had received an apology from the secretary over claims that Gove had made during the announcement in the House that afternoon. Bewildered by this assault, Gove was left blinking, his eyes stinging from the pain that surged through his body from this winding body blow. However, the wiley Scotsman wasn’t finished, he countered with the charge that Balls had made a large mess and he was cleaning it up. These two seemed to throw counter punch after counter punch at each other until Paxman, the ever vigilant referee, broke them apart as the bell sounded. Both fighters landed some strong blows in that round so honours even; Gove 10-10 Balls

Round Three – After a motivating pep talk from his corner, Balls came out swinging at the sound of the bell. It turned out that he didn’t need to. In a strange twist, Gove had spent the interval punching himself in the head with the assistance of his own corner. Gove now lay withering on the canvas…Balls, arms aloft, danced around the media outlets claiming victory. Gove was all but out, the countout was ringing in his ears…members of his own corner were baying for his blood…Gove, however, was saved by the bell. Balls storms round three; Gove 8 – 10 Balls

Round Four – Firing on all cylinders now, Balls jumps from his stool as the bell sounds, pumped up, scenting blood. He charges into the ring and demands an apology, which Gove feels like a right cross slamming into his jaw. For a full 30mins Gove stands, Rockyesque, as punches are thrown and land like hammer blows to his coalitions…spurned on by the few remaining voices of support from his blue corner, the voices from the red corner fail to land the killer haymaker. Once again Gove survives and staggers back to his corner. Balls wins the fourth round; Gove 8 – 10 Balls

Round Five Nothing round really. Balls and his red corner, dance around, slightly tired from their unrelenting attacks of the previous rounds. Gove hides in the corner occasionally sticking his neck out to apologise once again. Both opponents feeling the pace; Gove 10 – 10 Balls

Round Six – Has Gove been using the risky Rope-a-Dope strategy? Well just when it looks like he could be down and out, punched out, ready to throw the towel in, he delves deep and finds something. He looks into the stands as he sits, waiting on his bench, he sees a mystical figure, he cries out through bloodied lips CAMERON!! What was said could only be conjecture, it seemed to do the trick, Gove came out of his corner, cocked locked and ready to rock! Gove lived up to his name to land a few killer blows of his own. Every charge that was thrown at him he ducked with ‘it’s all their fault’. With every tired punch he countered with ‘it’s all your mess’. When it came to blocking those haymaker punches he simply held his guard up high to his face and proclaimed ‘you left us with no choice’. An Ali like recovery; Gove 10 – 9 Balls (Gove 57 – 58 Balls)

The fight will continue but as it stands Balls is ahead by one point. Who are the real winners of all this political sparring? Sadly I don’t think it’s parents, teachers, building contractors and most importantly children. Some will argue that the BSF programme was highly bureaucratic and riddled with over spends. However, most will argue that the end justifies the means. Value for money shouldn’t come in to it.

The BSF programme leaked money not because it was a bad idea, it leaked money because it was badly managed. If a school starts to fail because it’s badly managed, you get rid of the Head teacher and you employ someone who can get the school back on track. You don’t simply close the school and say everything about it was failing. What better way to prove that the previous government weren’t up to the job?

We all know that Gove has cancelled BSF for ideological and political reasons. The money that he will save will go towards funding his ‘Free School’ project. It mustn’t come as a surprise that on the list of cancelled projects, academies don’t feel the same level of disappointment as state controlled secondary schools. Once Gove has managed to divert all funding to his pet projects, and as a consequence state controlled schools fall even further behind, he can sit back in his blue corner and pontificate about how successful his ideas were.

Sadly I feel that cancelling the BSF programme was the real and hardest felt haymaker thrown this week. It knocked state education to the canvas, the countdown began, and unless we help it back to its feet, the fight could now nearly be over.

What’s in a name?

Juliet:
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Romeo & Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

This got me thinking, what is in a name? Do our names reflect our personalities? Do our names make us predisposed to certain actions, to certain ways of thinking, political ideologies even? For instance if you look up the meaning of the word ‘Gove’ (Michael), it means ‘A mow‘. Look up the word ‘Mow‘ and you receive this rather ironic meaning;

‘mow 1 |mō|verb ( past part. mowed or mown |mōn|) [ trans. ]cut down with a machine’

‘cut down with a machine’…well that is what a lot of teachers, parents, students, building contractors & architects were screaming yesterday after his needless dismantling of the BSF programme.

Lets try again, if you look up the word conservative in the dictionary the first description happens to be, ‘disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change.’ We also get, ‘having the power or tendency to conserve’ The problem here appears to be that the current Conservative party wants to be all things to all people, it wants to ‘limit change’ while actually proclaiming the opposite; and on the matter of having the ‘tendency to conserve’, well it doesn’t seem that interested in conserving any jobs at the moment.

So lets take a closer look at some other names and their meanings;

Liberal – ‘willingness to give-in large amounts‘  – they have certainly done this. The tories are always stating what influence the Lib Dems have had on the shaping of policy but have they really? Cleggs statement on the referendum for voting reform is a case in point. For as long as I can remember the Lib Dems have been banging on about ‘Proportional Representation’. Now they are willing to compromise and take a new voting system that is the weakest, watered down form of voting reform available. They argue of course that it’s the only deal they could get. By that thinking the next time anyone buys a car we should just take any deal offered to us because at least that way it’s a deal…no matter what ramifications that deal may have.

Labour – ‘productive activity, esp. for the sake of economic gain’ or ‘to act, behave, or function at a disadvantage’ or ‘to burden or tire’ – all three of these meanings could be levelled at the current and previous incantations of the Labour movement/party. They certainly went into government with productive activities for the sake of the country’s economic gain (New deal, Minimum Wage, etc). They have always been hampered or have always had to function at a disadvantage due to the nature of the class system that is still prevalent in the country. Finally no-one could argue that they became burdened and they certainly began to tire.

Cameron – ‘one who had a wry nose’ – On the face of it this is quite amusing…however, if we look up the meaning of the word ‘Wry’, the trend continues. ‘Wry’ means ‘devious in course or purpose; misdirected; contrary; perverse; distorted or perverted, as in meaning and finally bitterly or disdainfully ironic or amusing‘. The disdainfully ironic thing being that Cameron seems to leak every inch of these descriptions. His policies are seen to be devious in course, his ideology is misdirected, contrary to what the public really wants, his party’s mandate to govern is a perversion of our political system, he has distorted and perverted the Lib Dems into his thinking through the purchase of their souls for the mere hint of power.

Clegg -‘one who came from, or lived near Clough (dweller at a hollow or ravine) – Clegg came from or was a dweller of a ravine and that is right where he has left his party. Sadly for the Lib Dems they have been led down a ravine that has now had its natural entrance and exit cut off by the Conservatives. The only way out for them is to climb the steep slopes of mounting public condemnation of their machiavellian pursuit of power.

In all honesty these names are meaningless, no logical free thinking person believes that the decisions that we take are determined by our given names. It could all work out well in the end…someone said to me today that it doesn’t matter that schools aren’t going to be rebuilt because ‘people make a difference  not buildings’. I suppose he was right, however, buildings and facilities aid a students self worth. When walls fall down they need to be fixed, that money needs to come from somewhere, inevitably it will come from monies earmarked for text books, computers, etc.

Martin Buber said ‘The real struggle is not between capitalism and communism, but between education and propaganda.’ – We all need to look past the propaganda and educate ourselves to the true cost of cutting education.

Ladies and Gentlemen…it’s war!

This was written in response to someone’s suggestion that the ill’s of Britain fall squarely at the feet of the Labour Party.

Why is it that people lambast Brown and Blair for the deregulation of the banks? At least they included some level of deregulation within the industry…the Tories wanted the whole kit and caboodle deregulated…so lets not play that game fella. Lets try and move the argument on from non-doms shall we, all parties have benefited from this loop hole and we’re trying to have a serious debate about the death of our nation.

What would you rather do about Europe? Pull out? We need to be at the heart of europe if you want to influence it and signing the Lisbon treaty moves us closer to that goal. I don’t think we should be playing the ‘we’re not Britain anymore’ card…our population are just as capable moving to France, Germany, Belgium for work.

For those of you who have some weird belief that the public sector is some how not doing their bit, ask yourselves these two questions. Do you think that people who work in the public sector don’t pay tax? Do you think that Schools don’t make national insurance contributions to the treasury? Every organisation has to contribute to taxation. I’d love to know the public sector workers that have been subsidised…please tell me of these subsidies. Your argument seems to be that because the Private sector is struggling then the public sector has to foot the bill. You Tories can’t have it both ways…you can’t say that you want excellent schools and hospitals and then take the required personnel and money away that facilitates this aim.

The tories are fighting an ideological war…they don’t believe in the state, they believe in free market, capitalism and privatisation. They believe in self interest; the tory only understands the acquisition of wealth, not the enrichment of society through helping those that may not be able to help themselves. They don’t understand why someone would want to give up the pursuit of material wealth for a life of helping others.

Chuckle more than Abel?

The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you furious? And why are you downcast? If you do right, won’t you be accepted? But if you do not do right, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

Wise words and ones that should be heeded by messers Ed and David Miliband if they are to revitalise a disconsolate Labour Party. A party still reeling from an election defeat that has left many believing that the party has no immediate future. Now I know that this topic doesn’t relate directly to Camegg but the winner of this brotherly battle will have a direct impact on the Con-Dem coalition. The Conservatives spent years in the political wilderness because they didn’t or couldn’t form a creditable opposition. If Labour get it right now then they could be returned to power in less than 5 years.

Let’s examine a little further the future of this legitimate brotherhood that seeks to rip a hole into the illegitimate bond between Cameron & Clegg. There is evidence to suggest, throughout history, that two brothers working together leaves one less well placed than the other, especially when they both fight for superiority, so how should Ed and Dave proceed? Furthermore, does age count? Will Dave triumph over Ed simply because he is the elder brother? Lets look at some of the evidence;

Cain & Abel – History’s biggest and oldest brotherly fall out. Cain being the first murderer in history, killing his brother when feeling rejected by God and jealous of his brother. Cain was then forced to wander the earth as a punishment. Cain was the elder brother, so 1-0 to Cain. However, you could argue that Abel won as he was the winner in God’s eyes, so maybe it should be 1-0 to Abel…so lets call it a draw.  Elder 1-1 Younger

Isaac & Ishmael – Ishmael being the first son of Abraham, was banished along with his mother Hagar, when his younger brother Isaac made an appearance on the scene.  As we know both Isaac and Ishmael are credited to be the founders of the worlds two oldest religions, Judaism and Islam. Both religions still carry a grudge and refuse to talk to each other…Broigus to an extreme! Isaac was the younger brother so 1-0 to him. Elder 1 – 2 Younger

Gary and Phil Neville – Both started out playing for the biggest football team in the world with varying degrees of success. Gary still plays for Man Utd but poor Phil was farmed out to a lesser club after several inconsistent years. Who knows if there is any animosity around the Christmas dinner table? Gary has continued to win league medals whereas Phil has won nothing since leaving Utd therefore an emphatic win for Gary 1-0. Elder 2 -2 Younger

Rudolf and Adolf Dassler – Both brothers started making sports shoes in their mothers laundry room during the 1920s. Thought to have both fallen out with each other during an allied bomb attack during  1943. Rudolf called the Allied warplanes ‘dirty bastards’ and Adi thought he was talking about him…typical of any brotherly relationship. Then in 1948 they split their business, Adi set up Adidas and Rudi set up Ruda (later changed to Puma). Adidas is by far the more successful brand so Adi wins this one for the younger brothers. Elder 2 – 3 Younger

Noel and Liam Gallagher – founding members of legendary Indi band Oasis. Noel left the band recently because he found the constant arguing with Liam too much. Liam still believes that he is the more talented brother…Noel still believes that he is. Difficult this one really,  Noel the superior songwriter is undoubtedly the most talented out of the pairing, but Noel’s songs are nothing without the chutzpah and vocal stylings of Liam. Draw. Elder 3 -4 Younger

So the younger brother just wins but what can Ed and Dave learn from these historical relationships? Well it’s probably not a good idea, no matter how jealous you get, that you murder your brother…thats the first and most obvious thing to bear in mind. Both David and Ed have said the right things about blood being thicker than water and that first and foremost they are brothers before politicians…but can that last? One thing that these case studies have shown us is that  ambition seems to win out in the end.

There is always an exception and this is no different. A case where both brothers work together in partnership, working together for the common good…’The Chuckle Brothers’. Both Barry and Paul work very well together, although you would have to admit that Barry is the lesser of the two brothers, always seeming to come off worse.

What we can say is that the commonality between all sets of brothers is that neither would have been as successful or notorious without the other. Without Cain there wouldn’t have been an Abel, without Ishmael there would have been no Isaac, no Barry without Paul.  The brotherly rivalry spurred each of them on to achieve more than arguably they could have done alone.

So I suppose the best advice that both Ed and Dave could take would simply be to look no further than their party cards. They should simply turn them over and read, ‘By the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more together than we do alone.’

Lets hope that both Ed and Dave look to this Labour core value and they simply don’t play ‘To me, to you’ with the party for too long.