Archive | May, 2016

Pigs in Full Flight…

18 May

Who’d have thought a bigoted, misogynist, racist, hair fly-away would make the Republican nomination for President? What black swan could have predicted an ageing, unreconstructed leftie, who tells his own truth, and doesn’t slag off others would lead the Labour Party into the next election? Who on earth would place money – even at 5000 to 1 – on little Leicester taking the premiership title, with some ease?

The world doesn’t always behave as the elites would want it to. Occasionally the proletariat realise that the tops dogs are, mostly, in it for themselves. Opportunism, advancement and wealth tend to be the guiding watchwords of the political elite – and the wealthiest soccer clubs. There is the assumption that top dogs can’t lose.

I read that George Osborne vociferously denounced university tuition fees more than a decade ago. He pledged that a Tory government would scrap them. Are we surprised that his apparent principled stance metamorphosed into a cackling scepticism once he had climbed up another rung on the ladder of ambition? Our parliamentary system – as well as our educational – breeds short-termism. Say anything you need to get elected; tell lies, breed fear, massage figures, slag off any opponent. And when you are at the top of the pile, continue in the same vein and jump into bed with any country whose economic, military and personal aspirations match yours. Tony Blair. George Bush.

Moving on – and leaving the Trumpmeister on one side for the moment, I haven’t seen Jezza Corbyn employ any of the standard elite tactics so far. He even disappoints his own party by not conforming to the normal rules of engagement, never mind his sartorial ineptitude.  He has perplexed our shallow PM with his principled agenda and refusal to Punch and Judy at PM’s questions. Very strange.

As for the football fantasy story of Leicester – this is more than just a victory for David over the Goliaths. The manner of the triumph, epitomised by the gentle, avuncular niceness of everyone’s favourite Italian, Claudio Ranieri, warmed the hearts of the nation. As we approach the Euro referendum I shall be voting to remain mates with Claudio despite both campaigns peddling untruths and smears as fast as Boz and Dave can think them up. Little Nicci Sturge in Scotland is keeping quiet; I wonder what game she is playing? She strikes me as someone who has yet to decide whether she wants to remain an honest politician or not. Her ship has sailed, I fear. The elites’ gravy-train sucks ’em in and spits ’em out with inherited wealth and pensions and book deals and the speaking circuit to look forward to in their dotage.

Now Claudio might write a book or two – he deserves a bit of glory in print – but I’m guessing that only the Leicester faithful would buy it. Claudio’s niceness doesn’t sell books. But could Leicester’s lightning strike again? Trump for President? Corbyn the PM? England winning the Euro Championship? Pigs might just fly…

Spitting Images…

10 May

It’s such a pity that the satirical hit-show of the 1980s remains in mothballs. Nicky Morgan’s thyroidic madness, as she leads our schools not so gently into that good night, would be a delicious but apocalyptic joy to behold. As I sipped tea with two jolly roofers in the back garden this morning, I offered them the prepositional conundrum presented to our year 6 kiddies in their English SAT this week. The laughter echoed around suburbia. Two roofers and an English teacher.

Now the dangerous Mrs M took no national test until GCSEs came calling when she was 16. Nor did she attend a state school – ie the schools which 94% of all children throughout the UK attend. Her rise to a degree in Jurisprudence at Oxford was via the leafy comfort of Surbiton High School, fees currently £16,000. Her life as a solicitor, then quickly professional politician, was a glittering race through the corridors of advantage and networking. And now she directs the education of the masses whose access to preferment is a tad shaky.

For many politicians born with silver spoons, I get the idea that their brains, desire for service and, hopefully, the ability to see the bigger picture, can overcome the disadvantages of a myopic view born of the playing fields of Eton or, indeed, the slums of Toxteth. But with Education (education, education…) the need for a sensitive, perspicacious leader is vital. We have been plagued by successive encumbents of high office being paralysed by a combination of their own privileged experienced combined with a corporate, profit-toxic view of how education should be organised and evaluated. Pupils and teachers, particularly at key stages 1 and 2, are the losers. Thank goodness a few parents this week stood their ground: enough is enough, they said. Children must be allowed to grow broadly before the examined world takes over;  not moulded from five to regurgitate irrelevancies which their young brains can’t compute anyway.

As I watched my roofing mates, Shaun and Dan, flash through their iPhones, we chatted about the schools they went to. Local lads from Carshalton. Housing estate. Fun growing up. Both failed 11 plus but the teachers at primary and secondary were OK, some brilliant. Quality of teaching was assessed by personality, running the soccer team after hours, engaging an interest – for Dan it was poetry, for Shaun history. Both were sport mad. Neither thought that those on high – Nicky Morgan – understand what education is really about. They admired their bright mates who went to university but it wasn’t for them. They wanted cash-in-hand and were pleased with the choices they had made. Dan calculated the VAT for the bill in a heartbeat.

The more we chatted, the more my glottal stops began to match theirs. Strange how we leafy suburban orators enjoy the chumminess of estuary English. Jack Whitehall tries plenty of innit-speak in his stage show but the Marlborough posh is hard to hide. I was pondering linguistic tics when a young woman wandered past me (by now I’m in London sitting in Victoria Embankment Gardens) hoicked up a substantial globule of phlegm and spit-fired into the rather beautiful tulip garden by which I was sitting, not spitting. Strange, I thought, that in gardens crowded with office workers enjoying the last minutes of a sunny lunch-hour, a rather chic looking filly (excuse, please the non-PC personification of a young thoroughbred. I had thought of revealing that the pretty thing in question was an olive-skinned Asian but, decided not to chance the rabid vitriol of my right-on readership) would choose to mimic the action of press-ganged sailors in 17th century whorehouses. My audible intake of breath resulted in an embarrassed explanation, en-passant, that a fly-dive through the glossed lips was the culprit. Big bloody fly, I smartly retorted.

She hurried on and my attention was drawn to the incongruous sight of a couple of young chaps, jackets off, playing table tennis. I had noticed the appearance of a number of these fun-tables in the various gardens along the embankment from Blackfriars to Whitehall. What a top idea! The two young men, with ties still on, looked a little sad, as if they were convicts getting exercise before returning to condemned cells. The spitting image of the tulip garden gobber and the bulbous-eyed Nicky Morgan faded as I wandered up Whitehall and met some retired teachers in the Harp (what a fine pub!). We didn’t mention education.


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