Tag Archives: inspire

Our entertainers give us facts while our politicians have nothing to say

Speaking their mind: Rufus Hound and Kate Nash had the courage to speak their mind about the NHS and education - but they don't have enough influence to change government policy. What will it take?

Speaking their mind: Rufus Hound and Kate Nash had the courage to voice their opinions about the NHS and education – but they don’t have enough influence to change government policy. What will it take to make that happen?

This could have been designed to follow my rant about politics being about perception: In response to a news report that NHS doctors’ surgeries have been found to be filthy, radio listeners were treated to a lengthy monologue on why the media are running down the health service to make it easier for the government to sell it out from under us.

This lesson was delivered, not by an eminent politician, but by the comedian Rufus Hound. He was speaking on Radio 4’s The News Quiz.

And he said: “Does this not scare anyone, though?

“There are a lot of stories coming out at the moment about all the ways that the NHS is failing. At the same time there is privatisation by stealth. Now, if you’re a conspiracy theorist, maybe those two things just resolve themselves. If you’re a normal person, you’ve got to become a conspiracy theorist, haven’t you?

“The number of contracts being put out to private companies has gone up through the roof. All of the pre-election promises of no privatisation of the NHS, and that the budget would be ring-fenced – it was ring-fenced but not in real terms, so it is a cut in the truest sense…

“The NHS is being sold out from under us, and yet all the stories that come out from the powerful oligarchs who run the media are either about how it’s failing and how much better off we’d be if it was privatised, or why privatisation can’t happen quickly enough for any one of a number of other reasons.

“The reason those surgeries are filthy is, there’s not enough investment to keep them clean and tidy. The argument isn’t ‘privatise’; the argument is ‘invest more’.

“In the Olympics, there was that big moment where they had ‘NHS’ and everybody stood up and applauded, and I think it was Norman Lamont who said, ‘The nearest thing the British people have to a religion is the NHS’ – and we’re just letting it go.

People should be on the streets.

“And I realise that, for this to make the edit, it should have a punchline.”

He knew, you see. He knew that this great speech was in danger of being lost if it wasn’t sufficiently entertaining.

Thank goodness producer Sam Michell kept it in, but it should not be up to an entertainer like Rufus to tell us these things. Such matters are the province of politicians. The simple fact that our representatives aren’t “on the streets” with us about this says everything we need to know about them.

Here’s another example: Education. I was in the unfortunate position of having to sit through Andrew Neil’s This Week on Thursday evening. I’m not a fan of that show, but it meant I was lucky enough to see former pop starlet Kate Nash, there to talk about her film (The Powder Room) and modern manners, slip in a quick observation about education that undermines everything ever said by Michael ‘rote-learning-is-the-only-way’ Gove.

She said, “There are certain things we need to be addressing, that are being completely missed – and that’s to do with education being inspiring and interesting for young people, rather than just about purely passing tests and pressure.”

She hit the nail on the head without even looking; Gove couldn’t find it with a map and a guide.

Again, she is an entertainer; she should not be having to say these things, but we should be glad that she did. The moment was glossed over entirely in the BBC News website report of the debate. Perhaps we should be happy that they didn’t edit the comment out altogether (it starts around two minutes, 15 seconds into the video clip).

We are left with politicians who refuse to do their duty and defend our services from those who would destroy them, and celebrities who are left to pick up the slack – if, with a biased media, they can find a way to keep their words from ending up on the cutting-room floor.

What hope can we possibly have that anyone with any clout will defend our beloved, but beleaguered, taxpayer-funded services?

Worst of all is the fact that it falls to people like myself to even write about these matters, and we all have lives of our own. Rufus and Kate made their speeches on Thursday; it is now Sunday, and I could not have written this article any sooner.

We’ve all heard that a lie can travel around the world several times before the truth has got its boots on. This is because the liars own the media, and those of us who are interested in the truth have small voices, are easily ignored, or can be dismissed because “it’s only entertainment”.

At least high-profile figures have a better chance of being heard. There will be those telling Rufus and Kate and who knows who else to get back in their box and shut up, but I won’t be one of them. I think we should be “on the streets” with them.

I’m wondering if any more members of ‘The Great And The Good’ will have the bottle to speak their mind.

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Free schools: More Lib Dem sound and fury with no significance?

Bottom of the class: Conservative dunce Michael Gove simply won't learn the less of the Free Schools disaster. Nick Clegg has - but too late to avoid accusations of political opportunism.

Bottom of the class: Conservative dunce Michael Gove simply won’t learn the less of the Free Schools disaster. Nick Clegg has – but too late to avoid accusations of political opportunism.

It seems hard to believe that the Coalition between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats has suddenly descended into “open warfare” (as the Observer describes it) over Michael Gove’s ‘Free Schools’ programme.

This is a shame, because the idea is fatally flawed – as we have seen over the last week. Would a Free School pupil even be able to discern the origin of the quotation that has been butchered to create today’s headline?

If any parent in the country does not know by now that the Al-Madinah Free School, serving 400 Muslim pupils in Derby, received the lowest marks possible from inspectors – in every category – last week, then they need to be told. Inspectors railed against the fact that teachers were not trained and condemned the school as “dysfunctional”. Which, of course, it was. It was a place run by amateurs according to their ideology, rather than a professional organisation set up to get the best from its pupils.

The trouble is, Michael Gove’s Education Department is run along similar lines.

We now know that two unqualified head teachers have quit after criticism – Annaliese Briggs, 27, who was appointed head teacher of Pimlico Free School in London despite having no qualifications, resigned after only three weeks. And Lindsey Snowdon quit the 60-pupil Discovery school in Crawley after Ofsted said she “lacks the skills and knowledge to improve teaching”.

Nick Clegg is expected to turn against the Free Schools policy in a speech this week, saying unqualified people should not be allowed to teach in state-funded schools and that parents need more reassurance about standards and the curriculum. He will say there must be national standards and controls on which parents can rely.

The Observer expects Clegg to say: “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.”

He will also ask: “What is the point of having a national curriculum if only a few schools have to teach it? Let’s teach it in all our schools.”

The BBC expects him to say: “Parents don’t want ideology to get in the way of their children’s education.”

Michael Gove’s idea is 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”.

Can anyone else see the flaw here? If these great linguists, scientists etc are already teaching in private schools, they won’t be going to the Free Schools as well. There simply aren’t enough “great” professionals to go around, and those who really are great will be working, not teaching. Otherwise the plan will harm the economy, won’t it?

Needless to say, Labour is enjoying the split immensely. This morning the party’s whips tweeted: “FACT CHECK: Nick Clegg’s Lib Dems have supported Free Schools at every stage, first voting through [the] enabling leg. In Academies Act 2010 and in Education Act 2011, where [the local authority] thinks there is a need for new school in [its] area it must seek proposals to open Free School/academy. #twofacedclegg”

Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt, who put his own foot in his mouth over this subject when he said he supported Free Schools last weekend, showed how he has modified his views to bring them into line with the public by saying:  “I’m delighted Nick Clegg has realised the dangers of an ideologically-driven schools policy. We would be happy to work with him to reintroduce accountability, proper standards and qualified teachers in all our schools across the country.”

Bravo. Better late than never.

But his intervention – and the negative response of the Conservatives, who say Clegg is “fundamentally misunderstanding” the Free Schools concept, who blocked his attempts to change the system before it was enshrined in law, and who will continue to block any such plans for the 18 months of Coalition government that remain, may change the Lib Dem leader’s mind.

He can only promise to put his suggested changes into the next Liberal Democrat manifesto, and will face accusations that he is imitating Labour and trying to distance his party from the bad publicity generated by a policy he previously supported.

And let’s all remember that this speech will not be made until Thursday, giving Clegg plenty of time to consider the impact of the parts he has released, and maybe withdraw or alter them. It won’t be the first time a Liberal Democrat has said one thing and then done another!

Whatever happens, it seems clear that the concept of Free Schools is now not so much a political ‘lame duck’ as an albatross. The public will not forget the disasters of the last week, and they will lay the blame firmly on Michael Gove and the Tories – who are sticking to their plans.

Some people never learn.