Thursday 28 July 2011

Am I dreaming, or were we all told that the massive security cost to the taxpayer of the royal wedding back in April would be rewarded many times over by the shot in the arm (over half a million) that it would give to the “British” (for which read south of England) economy? Nope, I checked back, and it seems we were, in fact, told just that. So why is Gideon (Call me George) using his chums’ wedding as an excuse for the appalling mess he is making of running the financial affairs of the UK with growth figures a derisory fraction of comparable countries?

I was moved by the quiet demonstration of solidarity all over Norway in the wake of the atrocities in Oslo and on Utoeya. In Oslo alone, from a population of around half a million, it was reckoned that over 150,000 people took the streets carrying flowers to demonstrate that they want no change in the open and democratic society in which they are lucky to live.

I was listening to the 7 o’clock news this morning, wondering if I could doze for just a little longer, when I was shaken awake by Sarah Montague (no, it wasn’t a dream, but she was only on the radio) telling me that the Westminster government wastes vast amounts of money on IT. I could have guessed this, of course. After all they waste vast amounts on most things... but one of the examples they gave was the cost of a normal PC... something you or I could buy for a few hundred pounds from PC World, but which is (despite economies of scale) costing the government over £3,000. Question to Call me George: Why are you taking money away from people who are likely to die of the cold this winter, when you waste £2,500 on every PC you buy?

There seems to have been an extremely unhealthy relationship between News International on one hand and the UK government and its opposition on the other. Cameron, Miliband, Gove, Osborne and Hunt seem to have spent half their waking hours with management of media organisations, and a surprisingly large number of them with News International (and I don’t include in that Michael Gove’s wife who works for NI). I can only imagine that now that Cameron has ordered the statistics for such meetings to be published, the number of contacts will fall dramatically. Or do they intend to make prison visits?

Another government minister is in trouble. Jonathan Djanogly paid £5,000 to a private detective to monitor his constituents following the publication of a Telegraph article about his expenses. Now preliminary inquiries, conducted by the Information Commissioner’s Office, are underway. This is embarrassing given the prime and deputy prime ministers’ condemnation of the practice of “blagging” and his position in the Justice Department, tasked with overseeing changes to legislation regarding the use of private detectives to garner information. Of course Djanogly denies all wrongdoing (don’t they always) but I find it rather suspicious that the detectives’ report was sent to the offices of the law firm where, until recently, he worked (almost like he was trying to hide it), and that the report admit having used subterfuge to obtain the information it contains. Quite apart from the dodgy situation that this leaves a junior justice minister in, it begs the question: why was he spying on his constituents, his employers?


  1. Ah, I see CH. The thing that is most likely to stir this set of vipers' stumps is the fact that some of the lard arses might lose their seats.

    Never mind wars and nuclear weaponry and all the soldiers' lives lost; never mind pensioners freezing and sick people dying while waiting for a tribunal to overturn the money grabbing ATOS's decisions to take away their sick benefits; never mind crime, or the fact that electricity and gas are increasing by 2 and 4 times the supposed rate of inflation respectively...

    Nah. None of that affects their salary or their passport to another 5 years at the trough.

    What was it Betjeman said...

    "Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough
    It isn't fit for people now"

    For Slough, read Westminster ... and for people, read MPs.

  2. Djanogly's father endowed a City Technology College (CTC) in Nottingham. This was a Conservative idea, rather like today's free schools but based in inner city areas and concentrating on technology. There was huge opposition to a CTC for Derby from the teaching unions and the Labour party. I was the odd man out at a meeting of about 300 teachers, education officers and school governors. I told them that Sainsbury was only as good as it was because it had Tesco for competition. (not a popular idea in that company) So I helped to arrange a coach trip for Derby people to see what was happening in Nottingham.

    I was most impressed. It was a very purposeful institution and the high spot for me was a welding class where the teacher had some very husky youths well under control. They jumped when told. She was a little slip of a thing!
    "Where on earth did you find her?" I asked the head. "Vickers" he said. The people with me were far more interested in the building and facilities and what the school would look like on the planned site in Derby than they were with what was going on in the classrooms.

    When Derby got its CTC ,the first head told me he had taken on a failing Comprehensive and gradually built it up until it was oversubscribed. When he started making improvements, the local education authority (LEA) had been very supportive. But, as he started to overtake the results of other schools, they asked him "to slow down to let the others catch up".. He said that he would be pleased to show his methods to any other school. They were hard work but nothing difficult. Nobody took him up. So, in the face of increasing obstruction from his LEA, he moved to the CTC.

    Off topic I know (I'm in my anecdotage), but I am sure that breaking the cosy conspiracy between LEAs and teaching unions is necessary to break the anti-achievement ethos of many schools. The good schools in the system manage to thrive in spite of it.
    Djanogly senior played a part in that. I don't know whether the son is of the same stamp.

  3. It’s always more fun with the nasty party in charge (if you are not poor or disabled that is). The preposterous lies and excuses are guaranteed to keep us all falling about laughing while everything else is just falling about! They will I have no doubt all survive, however, because they have more collective front than Blackpool.

  4. You can always go off topic here Mr S, and many would say that the comments are far far more interesting to read than the posts included

    I'm always interested in good ways to teach, or to provide education. We live in an ever changing world and it doesn't seem unreasonable that we should change the way we deliver services in order to fit with the changes elsewhere.

    I despair of people who are, before they read about, or see something new, absolutely sure that it will not work.

    And it's no use saying, "back in the day....". Back in the day has gone. Back in the day they didn't have to cope with 2011 conditions and, although many of the changes are for the worse, many are for the good, and much of all of that depends on where you stand anyway.

    One of the things about teaching that I remember from my own school days is how utterly disengaging some teachers were...and are.

    You can't expect children to understand that learning how to spell, or how to decline Latin nouns, do differential calculus, or recite "The Night Mail" by heart, or measure and and execute a mortise and tenon joint will help them in the future, or why any of it should be more interesting than who will win the Scottish Cup or what Britney's new single is...

    Most subjects don't instinctively sell themselves. Teachers have to do that. And so often teachers make their own lives miserable by making their pupils' lives miserable.

    The effort to break the cycle has to come from the teacher... and of course he, or she, needs to be supported in this by sound management including sufficient funding.

    (That said one of my best teachers, Miss Ross, was able to make almost everything interesting with no more than her voice and a blackboard.)

    So, although in Scotland we have none of these 6th form colleges or foundation schools or any of the other changes that have come about over the past 20 years in England while English education fell farther and farther behind the European average, I think that they are interesting experiments and some good may come out of them.

    The trouble with introducing competition into so many of these things is that a child (and its parents) only REALLY have the choice if they can afford to move to where the kind of school, or actual school of their choice is located.

    And that certainly rules out most people.

    I've often wondered what you do in England if your local school is a music specialist and you have a burning desire to be a classicist.

  5. Munguin:

    Never before, surely, has any government been so incredibly amusing (as long as you don't have to live under them). They make Hugo Chavez look dull.

    In the first year they have executed more U-turns than George Best had hangovers.

    I can't think of one single success that they have had. Cameron is King Midas Upside Down.

    Even his proudly made visit to Egypt to proclaim the Arab spring a resounding success, seems to have been a bit of an error, as the population take to the streets again to protest at the lack of any change since Mubarak has gone.

    Their collective involvement with News International gets more hilarious as the days go on, and the arrests by a tarnished police continue.

    And as fir their economic policy.... bwa, ha ha ha.

    Daily I thank my lucky starts that domestic policy is the responsibility of a proper government or responsible people.

    I feel bad for all my English friends.

  6. The figures on the cost of the PC might not be as straightforward as you think. Because public-sector IT has had 2 decades of internal Market bollocks what you probably have there is the internal Market price.

    The IT department might not have it's own budget, so it charges an internal price not only for the equipment, but also for the network, services, such as email, storage and some programming work, plus support.

    Not saying that there are not problems with Government IT, gutting your departments of skilled professionals will do that, but this figure might not be the simple $50,000 hammer it appears