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.

Every Little Helps, Spock would not approve.

Matthew Elliott the chief executive of The TaxPayers’ Alliance, earlier this week, issued this statement;

‘These cuts are a really good start, and a vindication of all the work we have done over the last six years to make the case for cutting spending. Taxpayers have suffered the pain of a recession and rising taxes, and they will welcome the news that a government is finally making the public sector share the burden.’

A point so devoid of logic that Spock himself would be left opened mouthed and some what lost for words. The point that Matthew Elliott seems to be making doesn’t pay any consideration to the fact that public sector workers, do, in fact, also pay tax…all be it less tax than private sector workers as generally if you work in the public sector then you get paid less.

You can’t just rely on the private sector stimulating the economy as they are more interested in stimulating their profit margins. The argument that the Con-Dems seem to be using hasn’t worked already…Labour tried it with the banks and it failed. We injected large sums of money into them, in the hope that they would lend much needed money to business. What happened instead? They either hoarded it or spent it out in bonuses. A prime example of the private sector doing what is best for themselves and not that of the country. Do they really think that we are stupid enough to believe that Tesco will run their business at a loss just to stimulate the economy? Tesco would close down the less profitable shops quicker than you could say ‘Every Little Helps’.

So going back to Matthew Elliott’s point…by the inevitable job losses that these cuts will produce the government has now reduced the amount of money they will be able to inject into the commercial/private sector and they have reduced the amount of tax they will be able to collect in general. They can’t collect income tax on people who now don’t have an income…and people who don’t have an income, generally don’t have any money to spend in Tesco or Marks and Sparks.

It’s bloody hard to ‘Live long and Prosper’ when you can’t afford to feed yourself or your family Mr Elliott!

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.

Lasting moment of change?

So it’s all change at the top…yesterday saw the start of something special, something very special. That’s right yesterday saw the start of Junior Apprentice…over the next few weeks we get to see ‘Lord’ Alan beat the shit out of little, annoying teenagers, most probably because they are little, annoying teenagers. Ironic really that as we see the birth of a new government, a government rooted in the Thatcherite policies of old, that we also see on our screens the birth of the next generation of ‘Loads-A-Monies’.

So we ask the question, has this new Con-Dem government really brought the change in politics that they proclaim so loudly? Nick Clegg has spent the past 4 weeks trying to convince everyone, which he has done to some degree, that he is the 2nd coming (the first of course is his new friend Dave Cameron). He has told us repeatedly that he wants to change the way that Westminster works, that “the only choice you have is between the two old parties who’ve been taking it in turns to run things for years.”, hitting us with his campaign mantra of ‘Change that works for you, building a fairer Britain’. We all know where ‘Dave’ stands on change, its change this, change that, vote for change. Well how well do Con-Dem stand up to this idea of change? Lets look at some figures (Courtesy of Newsnight);

  • 65% of the the new cabinet went to either Oxford or Cambridge (15% of Tony Blair’s first cabinet were Oxbridge)
  • 61% of the new cabinet were educated at private schools
  • 4 members of the cabinet are women (would we even have Theresa May in the cabinet if Chris Grayling, ironically, hadn’t come out as a raving homophobe (the word ‘change’ once again rings loudly in the ears. Their were 8 women in Blair’s & 5 in Brown’s first cabinet)
  • 1 cabinet member is from an ethnic minority (she’s also a woman)
  • There are no ethnic minority MPs within the Parliamentary Lib Dem party.

Surely if you want to sell a different type of politics then you need a different type of face? What we see is that the change that they offered was a change from a progressive, representative cabinet to a change back to a government that now once again looks very white, very male, very upper middle class and very elitist. At least the Tory party from the 70’s and 80’s had a woman that was there simply not to make up the numbers.

Where does that leave them on the ‘change’ front? Well after 3 years of rebranding from ‘Dave’ and all the trumpeted ‘change’ nonsense from ‘Nick’ we see very little change in the look of the government. How about the ‘change’ to their policies? Lets take the ‘Big Society’ that Dave offered us.

When Cameron stated in his first speech as PM that he wanted to ‘change’ Britain from ‘One where we don’t just ask what are my entitlements, but what are my responsibilities’, he was selling his vision of change to the country. 23 years earlier Maggie stated that ‘People have got the entitlements too much in mind, without the obligations’. The words may have changed but the sentiment hasn’t – its worth noting that Maggie also said in the same speech that ‘there was no such thing as society’ – we all know what happened next – society itself crumbled…we are still suffering the hang-over from that 80’s party.

So in the same week that the budding ‘Loads-a-monies’ of the early 21st century launch their quest for loads of money, the old ‘Loads-of-monies’ of the late 20th century launch their quest for change…the only problem is, they haven’t!

The government of change. Source BBC