What the Tories didn’t want you to see.

Emma Harrison of A4e

Having made so much of being a transparent government it should have been a surprise when the Tories on the Commons Public Accounts Committee decided that the three whistle-blower’s evidence against A4e and Working Links, private companies working for the Department of Work and Pensions, should be heard in private, not public. Then again Cameron’s relationship with Emma Harrison, owner of A4e, did seem rather close in the past. (Why Cameron seems to be attracted to spiv-like personalities I’m not sure. There does seem to be growing list of people he really should have steered clear of.)

Anyway thanks to the Daily Telegraph we can see at least part of the evidence they didn’t want us to. The Telegraph does seem rather good at these exposures. Read the written evidence from Eddie Hutchinson, a very senior auditor for both companies, here.

The difference a few years make

It wasn't me sir. He said it.

These last few years have changed us in so many ways. One that’s noticeable is that subjects which were once toxic to mention politically are now accepted by a larger section of the public. An example would be tax. Polls suggest that a majority of the public would like to see higher taxes on the wealthy to help balance the budget. But I’m not going to talk about a subject that now has majority support, instead I will tackle one that probably is still toxic.

A few years ago on this blog I bought up the subject of national service. it’s a difficult subject to discuss if one hasn’t had to endure it oneself. I was lucky and missed it as did Will Self, pictured above, who missed it by a lot more years than myself. Yet two days ago Will Self bought it up again on BBC Radio 4′s A Point of View. You can see the description by clicking here. Read more »

Education and Equality Part 2.

The Bullingdon Club

In Part 1 of this article my conclusion was that comprehensive schools had hurt social mobility because middle-class parents were deserting state education and sending their kids into some form of private education. I didn’t want to give the impression that’s all well in our comprehensive schools, it’s just that there may be reasons other than the schools themselves that act as break on working class and lower middle class kids reaching the top jobs. Read more »

Education and Equality Part 1.

Michael Gove, scholarship boy and Oxford.

There are problems in our education system. Social mobility has been hurt by the ending of grammar schools. More top jobs are filled by public school kids than ever before. Kids leave school without being able to read and write and having poor arithmetic skills. European immigrants are preferred by employers to British kids. Teachers with their gold-plated pensions and log summer holidays still can’t weed out the mediocre, the poor and the just plain bad from their profession.

You know I suspect there is just enough of a grain of truth in all those statements to disguise where the real problems lay. I’m sure I don’t have all the answers, but we have to hope that we can find an answer, because what Michael Gove brings to the table could damage generations to come. Read more »

Cheerio then…

This evening, Sunny Hundal, a staunch Labour supporter ever since he voted LibDem in 2010, tweeted a picture of me campaigning for London’s independent candidate Siobhan Benita. I can’t complain; it’s true. For the first time in my life – in 21 years of Labour membership –  I am campaigning for a candidate who isn’t Labour.

It makes it easier that I can still give Ken my second preference – but still, after setting up this website so long ago – I hope this explains my lack of enthusiasm in the last couple of years.

I have written a couple of things recently that might put this in perspective. This, on what will happen to the Labour Party if state funded and this piece on where the party – and Ed in particular – are going wrong.

Trying to put this a briefly as possible, I don’t subscribe to the idea that party politics is intrinsically flawed and direct democracy is the answer. quite the opposite, I think representative democracy is so important that it needs defending as a priority – but I am tired of the damage being done to the principle of representative democracy by political parties.

A Party is shorthand to a candidate’s values. People used to vote Labour knowing that, whatever the policies and whoever the candidate was, they represented a distinct set of values. These days it’s just a brand and the values have become vague and universal. Motherhood and apple pie values rather than something challenging.

I did want to change the party from within in the past but now – halfway through my likely lifespan – I figure that’s not going to happen. I haven’t had any impact in the last 21 years so there’s no reason to expect to have impact in the next. If anything, we’re in a worse state than when I joined. Put it this way, I’m all for egalitarianism but that doesn’t mean we should put the work experience kid in charge of the party – which is effectively what Labour has done.

And while I don’t believe even Ed knows what he stands for, I do respect Ken’s values. But the ego show between him and Boris just turns me off. They have both been Mayor and in neither case did the world end. The constant “Stop Ken” and “Sack Boris” rhetoric doesn’t speak to the difficulties faced by regular people, or indeed their aspirations and when Ken suggested the riots wouldn’t have happened under his watch, I just thought he was drunk or something..

I’m just a bit embarrassed that Boris and Ken are the best that representative democracy has to offer in this election.

So I have looked into the candidates and for the first time in my life, tried to figure out who would be best. And in this instance I found that Siobhan Benita’s significantly better than the rest.

I wish you could meet her. She’s charming, charismatic, intelligent and passionate and she clearly believes what she says. So I have decided to back her and have done some volunteering. And more so even than when I was a candidate, I feel like I’m campaigning for the best candidate by choice, rather than by luck.

The Empire Strikes Back

The Evil Emperor

What a strange couple of days. The Dirty Digger’s evil empire flexed its muscles on Sunday, but by Monday the Beeb had made some more, and by the looks of it, extremely serious problems for them.

There has always been a suspicion that News International (NI) holds back from exposing all the peccadilloes they discover of politicians in order to give them power over those individuals. Many feel this is why it took so long to start investigating the News of the World. Read more »

They still don’t get it.

He gets it!

“They still don’t get it.” I don’t even know who the phrase belongs to now. Cameron and Miliband throw it at each other in parliament, but if there is one group that still doesn’t get it, it has to be our political class. Let’s take two of today’s morning papers, the Telegraph and the Sun. In the first we have an interview with London actor Larry Lamb and in the second we have Yvette Cooper trying to outflank the Tories to the right on crime.

(I hate to talk about principles and the Labour leadership, but should Cooper really be supporting the Sun? I guess the argument is that if she didn’t then Labour misses out their readership, but I don’t really buy this. Maybe a very public stand against writing or being interviewed by a paper sinking in cesspool of corruption will make Sun readers think twice about their regular source of news.) Read more »