Tag Archives: #new politics

Gove forgets to mention the ‘c’ word

I’ve been a bit unkind to Michael Gove in a previous blog (or two), but he turned up a few surprises in his first major speech since becoming Education Secretary. Addressing the National College for Leadership of School, his message of greater school autonomy and more power for the top bods was well-designed to win over his audience (others were impressed too, such as Conor Ryan, former adviser to David Blunkett).

It was a substantial speech and there’s much to pick over (and – gulp – a fair bit to agree with). His words were well-crafted and pleasantly lacking in endless criticism of what went before (Gove seems to do ‘new politics’ much better than his Lib-Dem colleagues – he could teach Clegg and Alexander a thing or two).

No mention of ‘free schools’ (two reasons for this: one, he was keeping his powder dry for today’s announcements; and, two, businesses setting up schools is completely at odds with his message that ‘Headteachers know best’, so he must have wisely decided to keep schtum).

But the biggest surprise was the complete absence of the word ‘cut’ (or ‘deficit’) from his speech. It seems his reforms are taking place in a vacuum, shielded from the grim fiscal realities every other Con-Dem Minister is trotting out to justify wince-making cuts.

Refreshing stuff, in many ways. But odd.

This lack of economic context places Gove out of step with his Con-Dem colleagues. And David Willetts, in particular, who has earnestly begun his task of cost-cutting, with some painful cuts to higher education and talk not of the benefits but the ‘burden’ of providing university places.

So while Willetts is busily pruning expectations, Gove seems to be doing exactly the reverse.

He (Gove that is) says that difficult economic times are no reason to ‘scale down ambitions’; he draws attention to the ‘brain-boom’ emerging from Chinese and India universities, and suggests we need to match them; he waxes lyrical about US Charter schools where children from the ghetto are getting to elite universities; and he wants ‘more teachers’ to get masters and doctorates.

All this suggests more university places – and therefore (significantly) more investment, not less.

This is a bit of a mystery. If I was Danny Alexander I would be straight on the phone to ask Gove: what gives? And if he can’t get through, I expect it’ll be because David Willetts got there first.


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Filed under Funding, Michael Gove, Policy, Politics - general, Schools

Lib-Dems, damn Lib-Dems and statistics

Ok, they’ve gone and done it. The Lib-Dems have outdone Spinal Tap. If you haven’t seen the film, the guitarist has a special dial which ‘goes up to eleven’. On the newly configured scale of bare-faced political audacity, the Lib-Dems have hit eleven already. Now, though, they’ve gone beyond…

Take a look at Ed Davey’s blog. If you don’t know Ed’s political patch, he’s a Lib Dem in what twenty years ago was Tory-land. He’s carved out an empire for himself by presenting himself, over many years, as a palatable alternative to the boys (and girls) in blue.

Now, there have been all sorts of remarkable justifications from the Libs for jumping into bed with the Cons, but Ed Davey’s is the most audacious. In a truly remarkable piece of political number-shuffling he claims ‘87% of voters’ in his constituency ‘chose’ the coalition Government.

Wow, you might think, that’s virtually everyone. Hurray for the Lib-Cons!

Or you could think: how on earth did he get this figure?

It wasn’t by interviewing a random sample of constituents and asking them the question: did you, with your single vote, choose a coalition Government and, in particular, a Conservative-Liberal coalition with the Conservatives as the majority party?

Oh no, of course he didn’t. Davey went further.

He devised a whole new branch of mathematics: LibDemAddition.

This allows the total Conservative vote to be added to the total Liberal Democrat vote. The new total, according to LibDemAddition, is precisely equal to those in favour of the coalition. So even ‘votes against’ are now actually ‘votes for’

I know the election was a few weeks back, but where was the box marked ‘coalition’? Where, indeed, was the box marked ‘Lib-Con’ coalition? How can it be possible, in any kind of poll, to combine two separate responses and claim them as an endorsement for a third, previously unspecified, option? (And this remember is the party of ‘new politics’, who were supposed to be above this kind of thing).

It’s like a drinks company saying 50% of people like beer, 50% like lemonade…therefore everyone loves a shandy.

Although, come to think of it, shandy is pleasant enough; unlike the Liberal Democrats who are starting to leave a nasty taste in the mouth. A taste which resembles naked political opportunism.

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Filed under Lib Dems, Politics - general

Lib-Dems turn it up to eleven

The Liberal Democrats are the political equivalent of the guitarist in Spinal Tap who added an extra digit to his sound control, so he could ‘turn it up to eleven’. Rather than sound, their scale measures bare-faced political audacity and, this week, they cranked it up to new levels.

Remember this is the Party that claimed, with some force, that they were at the vanguard of a new politics. They gained the votes of many who were persuaded by the idea that they were different from ‘the reds’ and ‘the blues’. Political and electoral reform – bringing fairness to Westminster – was central to the pre-electoral pitch from ‘the yellows’.

Of course, much was jettisoned by the Lib-Dems in the name of coalition Government (there is a file gathering dust in Cowley Street, Lib-Dem HQ. It’s marked ‘proportional representation’).

Yet one thing the Lib-Dems doggedly clung on to – as they entered Government for the first time in donkeys years – was the idea that they were still in Opposition.

This takes some doing, but since forming a coalition, the Lib-Dems have also been trying to claim (unsuccessfully it turns out) £1.7 million in ‘Short money’ which is provided to Opposition parties (it helps them oppose Government, to carry out their own policy work and to question and challenge Government plans. Good, vital, democratic work).

The Lib-Dem claim to be both friend and foe is utterly nonsensical.

‘Short money’ simply does not go to the Government. For the simple reason that Government has the Civil Service – just shy of half a million of them – to do their policy development for them.

But in the land of ‘the yellows’, new politics means you can somehow be both Government and Opposition, simultaneously. Extraordinary. It marks a new summit on the ‘bare-faced political audacity’ scale.

At least we knew there wasn’t a dial marked ‘twelve’ on the Spinal Tap amp. I wonder just how high the Lib-Dems can go?

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Filed under Clegg, Lib Dems, Politics - general