Tag Archives: double standard

The double-standard of western media that treat Palestinians as sub-human

An injuried girl lies on the floor of Nasser Hospital in Gaza on January 22: apparently what happens to her isn’t anything like as important as what happens to the Israeli troops who attacked her because she is Palestinian, and Palestinians don’t matter. Why is that?

You are being misled by the mainstream media into believing that every Israeli death in Gaza is a tragedy but Palestinians are sub-human and their deaths are unimportant.

Hopefully, This Site will be able to redress the balance a little – with your help. Please share articles like this on the social media so your friends and contacts can understand the real situation.

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Here’s an article from Declassified, explaining the difference between the handling of Israeli and Palestinian deaths:

Twenty-four Israeli soldiers were killed in two separate incidents in Gaza on 22 January. Mainstream media outlets around the world reacted in unison: that this was the “deadliest day” for Israel since 7 October.

This exact phrase was used in headlines on 23 January carried by news agencies such as Reuters and AFP, and major broadcasters including the BBC, CBS, NBC, CNN, ABC and ITV News.

The exact same phrase was also used by leading news titles including the New York TimesWashington PostWall Street JournalTime magazine, Daily Telegraph, the Sun, Jerusalem PostGuardian, London’s Evening StandardFinancial TimesIndependent and Yahoo News.

On the same day, Israeli forces killed almost 200 Palestinians in Gaza including at least 65 people in Khan Younis alone.

These deaths received no headlines in the above outlets. Where they were reported, they were listed as part of the regular daily round-up of events in an unfolding genocide that has now seen more than 26,000 people killed in Gaza.

How is it possible that the world’s media could embrace exactly the same phrase in relation to Israeli victims but largely ignore the identities of the much higher number of Palestinians killed?

Why would 22 January be described as “deadly” for one group of people but not for another?

Please read the rest of the article and tell us all why you think it is.

Source: For western media, Israel’s bombing of Gaza is not ‘deadly’


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One rule for them: shocking government double-standard over pay is revealed

Under a cloud: considering the number of MPs who work long hours on multiple secondary jobs, it’s a wonder any of them ever have time to set foot in this place at all.

Once again Rishi Sunak is undermined by the behaviour of his own MPs.

In the week he insisted that a below-inflation, six per cent pay rise for junior doctors (meaning it is a real-terms pay cut) is not negotiable, the obscenely inflated amounts his fellow Tories (and a couple of others) earn from secondary employment have been revealed.

And some MPs are saying they need the extra cash from these second jobs because they can’t make ends meet otherwise.

Their MP salaries put these people among the highest-paid in the UK and they still reckon they can’t live without having more. They cannot justify this while pushing down pay for public sector workers including the junior doctors.

Here’s Sunak, follow by commentary that puts him right in his place by the great Peter Stefanovic:

The pay imposition means that, depending on their experience, junior doctors will receive a raise of between £3,000 and £3,700 per year (rising to £32,300 and £43,900 respectively).

If that seems like a lot, bear in mind that these are highly-skilled jobs for which they spend many years in training.

MPs, on the other hand, are unskilled; you don’t need any training for the job – you just need to persuade people to elect you.

Then you receive £86,584 a year as your basic wage (this is the figure as of April 2023), rising to £167,391 (as far as I can tell) if you are prime minister Rishi Sunak.

This puts him in the top one per cent of earners – and all MPs in the top two per cent.

And still they want more.

Sky News has published an exhaustive list of MPs’ earnings from second jobs, and it is a catalogue of greed, with those who have held ministerial jobs among the top earners. Now why would that be…?

The article states:

MPs with second jobs have an average wage of £233 per hour, Sky News can reveal.

The typical rate for MPs is 17 times the national average – and over 22 higher than the minimum hourly wage.

Indeed. According to the pay deal Sunak is determined to impose, junior doctors will get just £14 per hour, which is only slightly better than the absolute minimum wage.

Ms Truss’s most lucrative work since leaving Number 10 has been a speech in Taiwan. She was paid at a rate of £20,000 per hour – nearly 1,500 times the UK average hourly wage – for her insights into global diplomacy.

Even higher than Ms Truss is Boris Johnson, who resigned as an MP last month. His hourly rate comes in at £21,822, but having left parliament, he is free to work without having to publicly record his earnings.

The leaderboard of the MPs with the 20 highest hourly rates in this parliament reveals a clear pattern: 18 have government experience, suggesting a ministerial background is valued by some employers.

Or it means employers have been paying them in order to influence their decision as ministers?

Here’s Sky‘s Sam Coates explaining it:

Let’s have a look at the list.

Top is Boris Johnson (Conservative) – now an ex-MP after one Partygate scandal too many. He worked 117 hours outside Parliament and earned £2.5 million. That’s £21,800 per hour.

Then:

Liz Truss (Conservative): 12 hours, £189,200, £15,700 per hour.

Alok Sharma (Conservative): four hours, £20,000, £5,000 per hour.

Theresa May (Conservative): 622 hours – that’s nearly 12 solid working weeks! £2.7 million, £4,400 per hour.

Fiona Bruce (not the broadcaster)(Conservative): 245 hours, £733,100, £2,900 per hour.

Sajid Javid (Conservative): 174 hours, £412,300, £2,300 per hour.

Julian Smith (Conservative): 67 hours, £147,800, £2,100 per hour.

Greg Clark (Conservative): 14 hours, £17,770, £1,200 per hour.

Ian Blackford (Scottish National Party): 31 hours, £38,120, £1,200 per hour.

Michael Gove (Conservative): three hours, £3,100, £1000 per hour.

The next 10 are all Conservatives, most notably including Sir Geoffrey Cox at 12 (2,560 hours, £2.4 million, £960 per hour). This means he worked nearly 49 weeks solidly for other employers than Parliament. Has he actually turned up to represent his constituents at all? Even if he has, how can he be expected to have done a good job, working full-time for other employers?

And Jacob Rees-Mogg is at 18 (123 hours, £92,910, £750 per hour).

Some MPs are saying they need multiple jobs because the current salary isn’t enough for them. One can only agree with Richard Burgon:

Nor does our democracy need Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey, who earns almost as much in a week as many of us do in a year, and wants employers to push your wages through the floor. Here’s Jon Trickett:

Yes it is. “Do as I say – take home rapidly-decreasing remuneration for the grinding hours of hard work that you do, while I spend increasingly less time in the job where I’m supposed to represent your best interests so I can moonlight for the big corps and earn 17 times as much as you.”

Put like that, do you think you’re getting value for money from your Tory MP?

I don’t.

Note this also:

Now consider this:

These are the kind of people we need in Parliament. But Keir Starmer is doing his best to purge Labour of its left wing in order to make it into his dream: a Substitute Tory Party (STP). The SNP is incapable of forming a government because it would never have enough MPs. And the Green Party is habitually ignored by voters who think they have to support Labour or the Tories because their choice is the only one they think can keep the other one out.

Without better representation, the situation described by Robert Peston below will worsen:

Finally: the information provided in this article is vital for anybody in the UK who has a vote. It tells you what you need to know in order to make an informed decision when you come to vote. But I can predict that only around 200 people will read it.

This is because Vox Political must depend on the social media platforms for articles to be seen, and they are run by corporations that depend on other corporations’ advertising revenue to make their own profits, and fear regulation by a right-wing government that wishes to suppress dissenting viewpoints. So of the 42,000+ people who supposedly like This Site’s page on Facebook, only around 300 will actually see the link to this article on their newsfeed.

This is how Sunak, Bailey and the other greedy fatcats keep you down:

By making sure you don’t know how to impose change.


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Corbyn’s ‘worst meeting as leader’? No – just biased reporting from the Graun

Cosy at the top: Concerns raised by MPs at Monday’s Parliamentary Labour Party meeting have no substance and should not bother either Jennie Formby or Jeremy Corbyn – but the fact that they are being allowed to discuss these matters openly, in violation of party rules, lays open the double-standard that may make the party unelectable.

On the face of it, it looked bad.

“Labour MPs tore into Jeremy Corbyn’s Brexit strategy at a party meeting on Monday night,” according to The Guardian.

The same report went on to say: “The parliamentary Labour party (PLP) meeting came amid anger about how Corbyn’s office had handled harassment complaints against two senior Labour figures, as well as an investigation into Labour antisemitism by the equalities watchdog.”

But it turns out this is nothing more than hyperbole from the paper that misrepresented Labour’s new commitment that every UK citizen should have a chance to succeed as “Corbyn to drop social mobility”.

In fact, it was reasonable for MPs to want to re-examine Labour’s Brexit policy after large falls in voter share at the European Parliament election and the Peterborough by-election.

Reading between the lines, the regrettable aspect of the report is that it shows no willingness on the party of Jeremy Corbyn’s critics to accept that they are at least partly responsible for the confusion over Labour’s position.

MPs – and indeed shadow cabinet members – who know a divided party cannot win elections went into the most recent campaigns spouting any old nonsense that came into their heads, rather than the official party line.

Where were their apologies?

This ties in with Mr Corbyn’s plea for MPs not to publicly attack party staff or shadow cabinet members, which was knocked by Lloyd Russell-Moyle at the meeting, to his shame.

Let us be clear: MPs pleading for the right to attack other Labour members is a demand for rights that rank-and-file party members don’t have.

The reason This Writer was expelled from Labour wasn’t the false charges of anti-Semitism that were made about me – it was the fact that I had discussed in public the failures of the party machine to correctly address the issue – even though these were matters of public knowledge and it was my job as a journalist to report on them.

(From this it should be clear that the party’s National Constitutional Committee was demanding that Labour-supporting journalists must show a bias towards the party that conflicts with their duty to report facts. This would, of course, prevent any honourable journalist from being a party member or supporting it. Perhaps NCC boss Maggie Cosins didn’t think of that.)

It was clear that, as a rank-and-file Labour member, I was expelled for discussing internal party issues in public – but that is exactly the privilege Mr Russell-Moyle was demanding at Monday’s meeting.

That is not acceptable. There must be a single rule for all party members, no matter how high in the party hierarchy they have risen.

Steering this back to Brexit, it is clear that – had MPs honoured the obligation to support party policy, rather than criticise it or contradict it – Labour could have won a far larger voter share.

And Labour’s policy really isn’t that hard to understand.

As long as we have a Conservative government that is determined to honour what is now widely accepted as a fatally-flawed plebiscite (consider the recent Swiss decision to invalidate a referendum result after it was decided voters had received false information), Brexit is going to happen.

Labour’s policy is to limit the amount of harm this will cause to the general public.

This policy is to be carried out initially by the measures available to the party in Parliament, as laid out by Mr Corbyn many times in the past.

It would also be carried out in policies which address the effect that Brexit would have on the lives of UK citizens – tackling the so-called “burning injustices” that Theresa May said she would solve, back in 2016, about which she then did exactly nothing.

It’s actually a winning combination, if only the party blabbermouths would shut up and think for a moment.

Of course, the real solution to Tory Brexit is a general election and a Labour government, but that is a dream as long as the same party blabbermouths continue to preach division. And they will.

As for the issues around harassment and anti-Semitism: If complaints have been made, then these matters are under investigation and it is not only inappropriate but itself a disciplinary matter if MPs discuss them in public.

So the words allegedly said by Jess Phillips to Jeremy Corbyn – “If you abuse women in the Labour party and they’re a friend of yours, they get away with it” – should result in her suspension from the party while her own transgression is investigated, as it seems she is attempting trial-by-media.

But of course, the Labour leadership won’t take any such action, because there really is a two-tier system in place and Ms Phillips is on the level that need fear no disciplinary action, no matter what she does.

This is the matter for concern – not the whinges of a few out-of-order MPs.

Mr Corbyn has been told about it. Labour general secretary Jennie Formby has been told. So have leading members of the NCC.

The general public see that.

And perhaps that hypocritical double-standard is what will keep Labour out of office, more than anything else.

Source: Jeremy Corbyn lambasted by Labour MPs in ‘worst meeting as leader’ | Politics | The Guardian

The double-standard that is crippling Labour

Tom Watson: As a member of the Labour Party’s privileged few, he can say whatever he likes. It is only rank-and-file members who are threatened with suspension and expulsion for expressing an opinion.

On Monday (March 11 – possibly today, by the time you read this), Tom Watson will launch his new Future Britain Group of Labour Party MPs – and it will be based on at least one enormous hypocrisy.

It can be explained very quickly:

When I attended Labour’s tribunal – the kangaroo court set up to find me guilty of anti-Semitism, no matter what the evidence showed – I was not questioned on the facts of my case. My argument was not disputed at all.

Instead, I was asked repeatedly why I had discussed an internal Labour Party matter in public. As a party member, did I not think that such things should remain confidential?

My response was that the anti-Semitism row was not an internal Labour Party matter, and had not been an internal Labour Party matter since Labour MPs had created such a fuss about it in the media, starting in 2016 with the Naz Shah affair. It was now a matter of public interest and it would be a mistake for Labour Party members to avoid the debate; false arguments would be allowed to go unchallenged.

Of course the tribunal’s members were well in favour of those false arguments, as their verdict shows.

Mr Watson, on the other hand, has done little else but agitate about anti-Semitism in the Labour Party since the current allegations first came to public attention. I don’t see him having to argue for his continued membership of the party before a tribunal.

The contradiction is clear.

Labour was founded to be a party representing those who did not have the benefits of privilege, in which ordinary people would have an equal voice.

But the party as it currently exists doesn’t want to hear the voices of ordinary members; our their purpose is to work for those who are privileged enough to be elected representatives and/or candidates; to listen, but not to speak. And under the Blairite system, elected representatives and/or candidates owed their positions to the patronage of the leadership. It became a system of privilege – exactly what Labour had been founded to oppose.

Mr Watson considers the party’s current direction of travel to be away from this; his Future Britain Group is an attempt to halt that movement and restore the Blairite system of patronage and privilege.

You can hear the proof of it every time he speaks up in support of the anti-Semitism witch-hunt, while ordinary party members who dare to do otherwise have their memberships suspended and are threatened with expulsion.


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Case proven? Government stays away from benefit deaths tribunal

Seen to be done: The tribunal took place at the Law Courts in Cardiff (pictured), in public - which allowed friends of Vox Political to hear the case.

Seen to be done: The tribunal took place at the Law Courts in Cardiff (pictured), in public – which allowed friends of Vox Political to hear the case.

The Information Commissioner’s Office and the Department for Work and Pensions have highlighted the weakness of their own case for hiding the number of people who have died while claiming sickness and disability benefits – by failing to turn up at a tribunal on the subject.

They had the opportunity to explain why mortality statistics for people claiming Employment and Support Allowance since November 2011 have been suppressed, at a tribunal in the Law Courts, Cardiff, yesterday (April 23).

But, rather than be grilled on the reasons for their decision by a judge, a specialist in this area of law, and a ‘lay’ person (representing the opinions of right-thinking members of the public), they chose to stay away.

The tribunal had been requested by Vox Political‘s Mike Sivier, after he made a Freedom of Information request for access to the information – and it was refused on the grounds that it was “vexatious”.

The Department for Work and Pensions said he had written an article about his request on the blog, containing the line, “I strongly urge you to do the same. There is strength in numbers.” According to the DWP, this line constituted a co-ordinated, obsessive and protracted campaign of harassment against the department.

One line in a blog article, added as an afterthought – an obsessive campaign designed to “disrupt” the workings of the DWP. It’s ludicrous.

The DWP claimed it had received 23 requests that were similar or identical to Mike’s, in the days following his own, and inferred from this that they were from other members of this fictional campaign. Mike has only been able to track down evidence of seven such requests and, of them, only one mentions him by name. Without a tangible connection to Mike or Vox Political, the case is not made out – and one connected request does not constitute a campaign.

In fact, Mike’s own request was made after he read that a previous request had been refused – that of disability researcher and campaigner Samuel Miller. Mr Miller had published this fact in the social media and expressed that he was “furious” about it, and this inspired Mike to write his own request. Who knows how many other people did the same in response to Mr Miller? Yet he has (rightly) not been accused of starting any conspiracy.

Mr Miller’s original request has now received a reply, after the Information Commissioner’s office ruled that it had been mishandled by the DWP. This reply contained the wrong information and Mike urged Mr Miller to point this out. Clearly Mr Miller’s claim is not being treated as vexatious, even though it has inspired others to follow his example – as Mike’s article shows that he did. The contrast in treatment betrays a clear double-standard at the DWP (and the Information Commissioner’s office, after appeals were made to it in both cases).

Perhaps it is because of this fatal flaw in their logic that neither the ICO nor the DWP saw fit to send representatives to the tribunal. This left the floor free for Mike to make his own case, with nobody to speak against him or cross-examine him. Tribunal members asked questions, but these were entirely helpful in nature – allowing Mike to clarify or expand on his argument.

So the claim that the number of similar requests, received soon after the blog article appeared, indicated a campaign against the DWP was refuted with the simple observation that the subject was of topical interest at the time, because of what had happened to Mr Miller. Mike said an appropriate comparison would be with complaints to the BBC over the now-infamous radio show involving Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand. The corporation received only a couple of complaints from people who listened to the show at the time, followed by thousands from people who heard about it later. Mike asked: “Were all those thousands of complaints vexatious in nature? Were they the result of organised campaigns against Messrs Ross and Brand? Or were they genuine expressions of horror at behaviour they considered to have gone beyond the pale? The BBC accepted the latter choice because logic mitigates in its favour.”

The claim that abusive or aggressive language exhibited by blog commenters indicated harassment that was likely to cause distress to members of the DWP was batted away with the argument that nobody from the department would have seen it if they had not gone looking for it (after reading the FOI request from a Vox Political reader who referenced the blog).

Mike said it would be “like a social landlord gatecrashing a residents’ association meeting, listening to the grievances of the tenants and then saying they are harassing him and he’s not going to service any of their requests for repairs. That is not reasonable”.

The DWP had claimed that actioning the 24 requests it insisted on connecting with Mike’s “could impose a burden in terms of time and resources, distracting the DWP from its main functions”, but Mike showed that this was not true, as an email to the ICO, dated October 21, 2013, makes clear: “We can confirm that the Department does hold, and could provide within the cost limit, some of the information requested.”

Nevertheless, the ICO had upheld the claim, saying on November 27, 2013: “For the DWP to respond to all of the requests, it is not simply a matter of sending an email to 24 people. There is a requirement to collate the information, consider exemptions under the Act which may apply, provide a formal response and then, if necessary refer the decision to an internal review…. The Commissioner considers that 24 requests on the same topic in a few days could represent… a disproportionate use of the FOIA.”

In his speech to the tribunal, Mike responded: “It is reminiscent of the line in the TV sitcom Blackadder The Third, when the title character, butler to the Prince Regent in Georgian times, demands a fortune in order to buy votes in a by-election for a ‘tupenny-ha’penny place’. Challenged on the amount, he responds: ‘There are many other factors to be considered: Stamp duty, window tax, swamp insurance, hen food, dog biscuits, cow ointment – the expenses are endless.’” He said the ICO’s claim “smacks of desperation”.

One aspect that worked in Mike’s favour from the start was the fact that both the DWP and the ICO have accepted that there is a serious purpose to his request – publication of figures showing how many people have died while claiming ESA. This is important because the assessment regime for this benefit has been heavily criticised as harmful to claimants and the government has claimed that it has made changes to decrease any such effect. The only way the public can judge whether this has worked, or whether more must be done to prevent unnecessary deaths, is by examining the mortality statistics, but these have been withheld. This is the matter at the heart of the request and the fact that the ICO and DWP acknowledge this is a major element in Mike’s favour.

Perhaps realising this, the ICO tried to claim that the intention was changed by the volume of requests submitted: “The purpose of the totality of the requests as a whole may have gone beyond the point of simply obtaining the information requested and may now be intended to disrupt the main functions of the DWP.”

It is not reasonable to suggest that the purpose of an action changes, just because other people carry out the same action within a similar time-frame. Mike put it this way: “Millions of people make a cup of tea in the advertising break after Coronation Street; would the Information Commissioner suggest that this was a campaign to overload the national grid?”

With nobody on hand to provide the ICO/DWP side of the case, the hearing ended at around midday, after Mike had been speaking for two hours. He was grateful to be supported by his McKenzie friend, Glynis Millward, who provided help and advice, and by a group of Vox Political readers who attended to hear the case.

Now the bad news: No decision was handed down on the day. The tribunal judge explained that the panel must now think about the issues raised and discuss their findings. He said they would aim to provide a full, written decision within 21 days.

It is interesting to note that Mr Miller has acted on Mike’s advice and has been advised that a revised response to his request should be with him soon.

If this response contains updated information under the same headings as the original ‘ad hoc’ statistical release provided by the DWP in July 2012 (and from which we derived the 73-deaths-per-week figure that shocked so many people at the time), then a decision by the tribunal to release the same information may seem redundant. In fact, it is possible that the DWP may provide the information to Mr Miller, simply to spite Mike.

But this would be yet another misunderstanding of what this case is about. Mike doesn’t care who gets the mortality statistics first; for him, it is not about who gets to say they were the one who forced the government into submission – this is about getting the information out to the public, so the people can decide whether ESA does more harm than good.

The tribunal’s decision will still be important as it will establish whether the DWP – and other government departments – will be able to manipulate the principles behind the Freedom of Information Act to avoid providing politically inconvenient information in the future.

In Mike’s opinion, a decision in the government’s favour would effectively turn the Act into a dead letter.

So – for now – the long wait continues.

But it is nearly over.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Jobseekers told to do more to find (non-existent) work

Esther McVile: The employment minister, who claims adamantly that changes to housing benefit do not constitute a 'bedroom tax', is pictured complaining about a so-called 'tunnel tax' in her own constituency in a blatant display of double standards.

Esther McVile: The employment minister, who claims adamantly that changes to housing benefit do not constitute a ‘bedroom tax’, is pictured complaining about a so-called ‘tunnel tax’ in her own constituency in a blatant display of double standards.

WARNING: This article has been edited using the ‘Guide to DWP euphemisms’ published by Richard Hutton, and with inspiration from it.

New rules coming into force at the end of the month mean jobseekers will have to do more to find work – even though there are currently five of them for every job available – the Department for Work and Pensions has announced.

Simply ‘signing-on’ for benefits will be a thing of the past under the draconian and repressive new rules.

Employment Minister and double-standards queen Esther McVey has hailed the new rules as undermining the range of support available, which helps diminish aspects of the social security system so that it no longer protects anybody from being left impoverished – in this case by making sure people cannot start claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA) by just signing-on without first humbling themselves before the Tory-led government.

She said: “With the economy growing, unemployment falling and record numbers of people in work, now is the time to start expecting more of shirkers if they want to claim benefits. It’s only right that we should push people who are unemployed into such a depth of poverty that even ‘in-work’ poverty is a step-up.

“This is about taking support away from people and undermining the range of support available to them so they can hit rock bottom faster. In return, we will give people as much harassment as possible, to make them stop scrounging or face sanctions, because we know from employers that we have to break people’s spirit before they’ll work for a really low wage.”

To prepare for their first interview with a Jobcentre Plus adviser, people looking for work will be told they will not even be able to sign as unemployed until they have prepared a CV, set up an email address – even though they might not have a computer on which to use it – and registering with the government’s discredited jobs website Universal Jobmatch, which will expose them to identity thieves and exploiters looking for sex workers. This change will make it possible to exploit people as soon as they start their JSA claim.

People who don’t tow the line will receive more harassment from their Jobcentre Plus adviser – weekly rather than fortnightly – to ensure they can be cleared off the books via sanctions if it proves impossible to push them into poverty work.

All new JSA claimants will also now have a quarterly review with their adviser, who will try to find a reason to impose sanctions and get them off the books.

These new measures are being introduced as figures show the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance fell by over 363,000 on the year, the largest annual fall since 1998. This shows that the system of sanctions, putting people on Workfare to hide the fact that they are unemployed, and asking them to pretend that they are self-employed in order to fraudulently claim tax credits instead, is working.

The government is committed to sanctions and the vast majority of people are bullied off JSA quickly – more than 75 per cent of people end their claim within six months. Every working day Jobcentre Plus advisers shout at 98,000 interviews jobseekers and there are a range of ploys available to push them off the system. These include:

• Hiding them on the Work Programme
• Referring them for ‘training’ by companies that provide the minimum help available, take the money and run
• Putting people on pointless ‘work experience’ that won’t lead to a job but will clear them off the claimant count
• Fooling people with ‘incentives’ that mean nothing
• Getting people to pretend they are self-employed.

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Never mind literacy and numeracy, Mr Gove – let’s have a bit less duplicity

Speaking with a forked tongue: The Education Secretary appears to have been exposed pushing double-standards into the school system. [Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire]

Speaking with a forked tongue: The Education Secretary appears to have been exposed pushing double-standards into the school system. [Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire]

The Department for Education has been parading the success of “more demanding” rules for teacher trainees – less than 10 days after swearing blind that people did not need to have any qualifications at all.

According to Michael Gove’s Department for Education, “new figures show that changes to toughen up the skills tests taken by prospective teachers have raised the quality of those entering the teaching profession”.

The rules, introduced in September 2012, mean “only high-quality candidates with good levels of literacy and numeracy go on to train to be teachers. This will raise standards in schools,” a DfE spokesperson said.

The press release states that 98 per cent of candidates in the 2011-12 academic year passed skills tests in both literacy and numeracy, meaning they could progress to qualified teacher status – but after the new rules came in, the proportion of passes dropped to 88 per cent – and this after three attempts.

The remaining 12 per cent did not pass both skills tests, including almost three per cent who failed three times and may not progress to teacher training for at least two years.

This is, in fact very good news for school pupils. Yr Obdt Srvt is the son of a teacher and has been well aware of a drop in standards over the last 20 or 30 years – probably since Kenneth Baker was Education Secretary.

There was a big effort to get unemployed people to train as teachers and it was around that time that literacy went out the classroom window, with teachers being permitted to ignore spelling mistakes in pupils’ work (or at least, that’s how it seemed). Numeracy nosedived with an over-reliance on pocket calculators or other such mechanical devices, rather than exercising youngsters’ brains.

That’s not to say that all teachers gave up on their subjects, of course. Teaching is not just a job; for most of the profession it is a vocation – what they were born to do – and many of them carry out their duties with exceptional ability, passion and, let’s not beat around the bush, flair.

But we have also seen the results of lacklustre teaching. Running a blog, one tends to read an appalling amount of bad English in the comments that are submitted. They can’t all be ascribed to difficulties that are particular to the person writing the comment – some are certainly the result of indifferent schooling.

And we see it in the real world as well. People who are perfectly capable of expressing themselves verbally in clear, cogent ways collapse completely when asked to put it in writing.

So the announcement is to be welcomed.

The problem is that it comes hot on the heels of a huge controversy over the quality of teaching in Michael Gove’s pet project, the ‘Free Schools’ system.

Vox Political reported on October 20 that the Al-Madinah Free School, serving 400 Muslim pupils in Derby, received the lowest marks possible from inspectors – in every category. Inspectors railed against the fact that teachers were not trained. Two unqualified head teachers also quit jobs at other free schools after criticism.

Nick Clegg, climbing on the bandwagon as is his way, made a speech in which he said unqualified people should not be allowed to teach in state-funded schools: “Frankly it makes no sense to me to have qualified teacher status if only a few schools have to employ qualified teachers…  I believe that we should have qualified teachers in all our schools.”

But the Department for Education hit back by claiming that head teachers of academies or Free Schools should have the freedom to employ untrained teachers, in the same way that private schools hire “the great linguists, scientists, engineers and other specialists they know can best teach and inspire their pupils”.

In the light of this statement, what are we to make of the latest announcement?

It seems that Mr Gove is trying to face in two directions at the same time. Doesn’t this make him two-faced? With Free Schools he seems determined to defend the employment of unqualified teachers, no matter how badly they wreck pupils’ education and future chances in life, but with the remaining state schools he seems equally determined to ensure that pupils have a higher standard of teacher, who has the qualification to prove it.

Or is it just that he wants to ensure that fewer people qualify to be teachers, leading to a shortage that would logically culminate in the employment of more unqualified people in the state sector?

Duplicity: The quality or state of being twofold or double.

Not a good standard for our education system.