Take Me To Your Leader Writer

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...has written more leaders (newspaper editorials) than anyone alive or dead, an honour still to be recognised by the Guiness Book of Records or the Nobel judges. I have produced them for the Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, Sunday Mirror, Today, the Sunday People, the Evening Post (Hemel Hempstead), the Caithness Courier and the Student (Edinburgh). My creed is: Have opinions, Will travel.

Thursday 21 June 2012

When will he ever learn.....

Unfortunately, an awful lot of people in this country don't know the difference between education and passing exams. Even more tragically, one of them is the Education Secretary.
Like many very clever people, Michael Gove doesn't understand that not everyone is as brilliant as he is. In his rarefied world, every young person can do intricate maths, have no problem grasping Greek and Latin, and sail through whatever examination paper is put before them.
He has no insight into how people function because he has no insight into himself. Which is why he is like he is.
I know a bit about exams because I am one of those fortunate people who could pass them without breaking into a sweat. My mother used to half laugh about it - only half because she didn't really like my lack of application.
There are some people - my two youngest daughters, for example - who can't pass exams however hard they work. And work hard they do.
Once you understand this, you realise that passing exams does little more than get you a certificate which you put at the back of a cupboard and forget to take with you when you move.
What is the point of most traditional exams? What do students learn from taking them? What good do they do the individual, the employers who will hopefully hire them, and society? Very little.
GCSEs are far from perfect but by making pupils do course work and by introducing them to a wide range of subjects, some of which they might actually be interested in, they may achieve something really important. And that is to educate the child.
Michael Gove isn't interested in doing that, though. His only concern is to ensure that children lower down the social and intellectual scales are kept firmly in their place. And to establish his own credentials for becoming leader of the Conservative Party.

Tuesday 1 May 2012

Yes, it is the worst government ever

In her Guardian column today, Polly Toynbee says this is the worst government of her political life. An exaggerated claim? I don't think so.
Some months ago, a long-time friend who has been at Westminster for 40 years told me the coalition was the most incompetent government he had known. Yet what it has done since then makes its first year in office look ordered by comparison.
The one thing that might be said about the Tories in the past was that they could at least run things vaguely well. Not this lot. They are utterly, totally hopeless. Wherever you look, they have created chaos.
Some of it is because they don't have any real beliefs but it is their absurd over-reaction to avoid (at least, they hope to avoid) criticism from the Mail and similar papers that shows them at their most ridiculous.
The queues at passport control have been caused by hysteria at the accusation they are soft on immigration. Ditto the block on foreign students coming to the UK, which is proving disastrous for many universities.
Not bending away from complete reliance on austerity, as just about every other European country is now considering doing, is due to fear of being thought of as  weak - always a sign of weakness.
The most sickening aspect of Cameron's defence of Jeremy Hunt yesterday wasn't his disgraceful aggressive bullying attacks on Labour but the braying masses of Tory backbenchers behind him. Can it really be that everyone in the country knows Hunt has a case to answer, to put it mildly, except for Conservative MPs?
At the core of the problem for the Government is not its coalition with the LibDems - most of whom aren't much better -  but ministers' total lack of understanding about what governing is or, indeed, what management is. It is the nature of the party now that it chooses such inadequate representatives.
As it happens, there are a few rather good new Tory MPs but they won't get anywhere purely because they are rather good.
Meanwhile, the country sinks ever deeper into economic woes, structures and organisations that have been the backbone of our civilised society are being dismembered, voters are understandably becoming ever more disenchanted and the Right continues its remorseless rise.
We are in heavy seas on a rudderless ship with a crew of hopeless incompetents at the wheel.

Wednesday 29 February 2012

Who are the Trotskyites now?

It seems a long time (more than a quarter of a century, actually) since the Trots were regularly being denounced  and it is something of a political wonder that they have survived into the 21st century.
But when the Tories' backs are to the wall, you can rely on them to haul out the invective against these ultra-left demons.
David Cameron was at it today at PMQs. Asked about the government's workfare scheme, he lashed out at "the Trotskyites" (sic) who, he said, are organising the opposition to it.
It makes a change to have a new target after the beating the bankers have taken. To paraphrase Peter Mandelson: "They have suffered enough."
So who are these Trotskyites attacked so robustly by the prime minister?  Well, they are the people who run Boots. And McDonalds. And Tesco. And dozens of other major retail companies.
I thought they were capitalists but it turns out they are Trots. Presumably Cameron thinks proper business leaders could see that the workfare scheme is a wonderful opportunity for young people to work for nothing in menial jobs with the threat of losing their meagre benefits if they should dare to prefer not to be exploited.
In fact, these companies have been rather swift to respond once they realised what was going on and that they, in turn, were being exploited by the government in an attempt to make a sordid scheme look good and successful.
Can't David Cameron tell the difference between the people who run some of the biggest companies in the country and the rag-tag of the SWP? Apparently not.
Stand by for him to accuse doctors and nurses of being "Trotskyites" for opposing his health bill.

Monday 27 February 2012

Who are the really stupid ones?

Stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid. They are just so-o-o-o dumb. All those doctors, nurses and other health professionals, including people who ran or run the NHS. Just ignorant, thick and useless.
At least, that is what the government is saying about those who criticise the health bill.
There is a bit of a problem for Cameron and Lansley, though.  Funnily enough, the British public doesn't see it that way.
They don't consider that the people they rely on for medical treatment are stupid. On the contrary, they consider them to be knowledgeable, experienced and caring - caring for their patients and caring for the National Health Service.
So it is hardly surprising that a clear majority of people not only say they trust health professionals more than politicians, but that they believe the health "reforms" are going to be bad for the NHS.
Let me go further. The stupid ones are the politicians who not only think they can get away with changes that will eventually wreck the principles of the health service, but who treat the professionals as idiots.
Apart from alienating just about everyone in the health sector, it reinforces the public's view that politicians are shallow, objectionable thugs who treat all who dare to oppose them with contempt.
Cameron is treading on very thin ice. Hopefully it will crack and he will fall in before the NHS does.

Friday 24 February 2012

Where is the champion of true capitalism?

They just don't get it. Certainly David Cameron doesn't and neither do the media.
No one - apart from a few extremely eccentric extremely old-fashioned extremely left-wing comrades - thinks business is bad. Business creates job and makes money which pays wages and taxes.
But in the past half century a form of "business" has developed which only makes one thing - money for the people involved in it.
Ed Miliband appeared to want to draw the distinction when he talked in his conference speech of "predatory capitalism", The language was too difficult, he didn't explain it and quickly moved away when Cameron ridiculed him.
Now the prime minister has gone out of his way to praise capitalism without drawing attention to the differences between the innovative entrepreneur or small shopkeeper and the fatcats of the City and private equity whose only purpose is to enrich themselves.
Bonuses are a symbol of what has happened. It isn't the Left which is doing down capitalism, it is the people who claim to be its strongest supporters. The greedy few who care nothing for genuine business are the ones undermining capitalism.
Yet where is the politician who can articulate this? Not on the horizon.
Money equals power, so those who want a bit of power feel they have to bow the knee to the obscene money machine. David Cameron is in the best position to champion true capitalism. But either he is scared to or simply doesn't understand. Or both.

Wednesday 22 February 2012

It's an ill wind for the NHS and Cameron

This blog has been delayed for the past couple of weeks due to a technical hitch.  The hitch which is delaying the health bill is hardly technical.
Just what a disaster it is proving for the government can be seen from Prime Minister's Questions. It isn't so much that Ed Miliband is doing well but that David Cameron is clearly floundering.
He flusters and blusters and flails around. He not only doesn't even attempt to answer the questions, it is the ludicrous nature of his replies that is so revealing.
Surely there must be someone around him who can suggest a better line of defence. Unless they have all come to accept there is no defence to these reforms.
There is widespread acceptance that the NHS is currently working rather well. It has its faults and problems but, on the whole, it is far more efficient than it used to be.
The inevitable conclusion the public has drawn is that the changes the Tories want to introduce will make it worse. And, of course, when you have all those health professionals saying precisely that, it can only reinforce the worst fears.
Without this bill, the Tories might just have hoped for a narrow overall majority at the next election. With it, they could well go down to defeat.
That is what a growing number of senior Conservatives dread. In which case, it won't only be Andrew Lansley who will be looking for work.

Tuesday 24 January 2012

It's lucky for the Tories that voters are economically illiterate

The one thing the Tories - and the rest of the coalition government - have got going for them with voters is the conviction that they are the ones who will sort out the economy.
How could anyone believe that after today's figures.These show not just that public-sector debt has topped £1 trillion for the first time - a headline-grabbing statistic - but that the coalition has added £225 billion to the £779 billion debt it inherited. Far more than Alistair Darling forecast for a Labour government.
And by the time of the next election it is projected to soar by another £390 billion.
This is failure by any standards but when you consider it is happening while public-sector jobs are being slashed and huge sums taken out of public spending, it is a monumental disaster. The international financial institutions which have smiled kindly on coalition policy so far will surely turn nasty eventually. We could even join France in losing our triple A status.
At what point will voters wake up and realise that this government's economic policies are not just a failure but a catastrophe? At the moment, the Tories are unbelievably ahead in the polls.
Surely it can't last.  Can it?

PS at 15.40: The Government has been dealt a blow this afternoon as the IMF confirmed it was lowering its projected growth target for the UK from 1.6% to 0.6% (from P0liticsHome). What a bad, bad day for them.

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Stick to the day job, Michael

As regular readers of this irregular blog will know, one of my first acts on becoming unchallenged ruler of this kingdom will be to ban anyone who worked as a journalists from ever holding positions in government.
Those who doubt the wisdom of this need look no further than Michael Gove.
The basic requirement of anyone running the country should be to think about what he is doing and what he proposes to do. This is the opposite of what columnists do.
What happens when you have a column to write - an occupation Gove followed for a number of years at The Times before becoming a minister - is that you sit around scratching your head and wondering what on earth you can do it on.
There are some sensible columnists who actually write intelligent pieces on thoughtful topics. Sadly, some do not. Michael Gove in government is following the latter path.
You can imagine him striding around brainstorming, demanding of himself: "What can I write about this week?" and then hurriedly correcting himself: "No, no, I mean, What great measure can I introduce this week?"
That is how we got the ludicrous proposal that the people of Britain, facing an ever tighter squeeze on their finances, should cough up tens of millions of pounds on a new yacht for one of the world's richest people.
Now he has come up with another one - I can't even remember what it is at this time in the morning - as his department makes a humiliating climbdown over trying to force successful schools into academy status. Which was another brilliant Gove idea.
I didn't even think he was a good columnist. But he was a genius at it compared to his ability as a minister.

Tuesday 10 January 2012

In praise of Kelvin Mackenzie (not)

I don't know if I hate Kelvin Mackenzie more than he hates me or he hates me more than I hate him. Either way, it's a close thing.
What is most extraordinary and despicable is that so many people in the media (and possibly politics) think he is a bit of a laugh. "Good value" as I heard him described on the radio yesterday after his evidence to the Leveson inquiry.
I was present for his first performance at Leveson - at the second seminar - which was so disgraceful that Paul Dacre made him apologise in his Mail column.
But Mackenzie is not really repentant because he is so stupid, he doesn't care what he is doing.  But when people continue to laugh at his behaviour, how could he be expected to learn? Even The Guardian thought his mimicking John Major was amusing.
Why should there be any tolerance of anyone speaking to a Prime Minister in the way Mackenzie did that day when the UK fell out of the ERM? That should be even more of a sackable offence than libelling Elton John and having to pay a million of Murdoch money in compensation yet Rupert was more concerned about the damages rather than the contempt he showed to Major.
Consider for a moment how this will be viewed by someone who is not a member of the tittering media classes but a judge or anyone who lives a vaguely respectable existence. What do you then make of Kelvin Mackenzie and, particularly, the fact that he was editor of The Sun for 13 years? How did he get away with it for so long? Because he was "successful". Because he made waves. Because he was amusing.
That is surely the conclusion Leveson will draw about the way the tabloid press operated. And will he really be persuaded that much has changed since the Mackenzie era, despite the soothing words of Dominic Mohan?

Monday 9 January 2012

Slow train to nowhere

HIGH speed 2, the proposed super-fast train service from London to Birmingham, isn't only a monumental waste of £32 billion for the sake of knocking off a few minutes from the journey.
It is another step on the road of Beechifying the railways.
Dr Beeching was the technocrat who, in the '60s, destroyed this country's train network.  By axing two-thirds of the lines and leaving only main routes, he changed what had been a comprehensive network which allowed easy access to most of the population into one which fundamentally travelled between major cities and towns.
Now comes the next step. If you want to travel from London to Birmingham - or Birmingham to London, of course - HS2 will be fine for you, though it's sure to be even more expensive than at present. But most people don't want to go all the way. They are commuters who travel in and out of London and in and out of Birmingham. Not to mention all those who commute in and out of dozens of other cities and major towns and hundreds, if not thousands, of smaller towns and villages.
That is where the crush is, as anyone who has travelled on rush-hour trains (which obviously doesn't include politicians or the business leaders pushing for HS2) knows. Where is the analysis of what is wrong with our rail system and what can be done to put it right? There isn't one.  
The Government has picked up a lunatic Adonis idea and run with it because it is a grand project and will put huge sums into the pockets of the construction industry. 
The problem for people who live in rural areas isn't particularly that their beautiful countryside will be despoiled but that they will get absolutely no benefit from high speed rail. But they will still have to pay for it through their taxes.