Thursday, March 31, 2011

Layer 456 . . . Demonstrating Against Cuts; A Better Politics; Do Nothing Day


I'd thought my demo days, like my festival-going days, were well and truly over. But by the time Brother J got in touch last week to ask whether I was planning to join in, I'd already made up my mind to go on Saturday's big demonstration against the coalition's cuts.

                                                     (c) Oxzen Pics

The day pretty much lived up to expectations. There was a good turnout, with people coming from an amazing variety of organisations, and from places far and wide. From what I could see the demo was a completely peaceful and yet powerful statement about the opposition to the cuts. There was a tremendous variety of banners and placards, both mass-produced and individually hand-crafted.

It was only afterwards that we discovered there had been a few incidents of so-called anarchists smashing windows and defacing property with spray paint. Also, UK-Uncut disrupted a few business premises with occupations and sit-ins.


So does anything now change? As ever, politics is about power and who has access to it. It's not about having a reasoned debate and arriving at "the truth", which must then be noted and acted upon. We all have our own versions of the truth. The coalition certainly has theirs, which they're able to broadcast incessantly through their easy access to the mass media. Working people can only shout loudly, or march on the streets.


As for the Labour Party's version of the truth about our economic and political situation - it hasn't shifted much from the New Labour orthodoxy. There's a sort-of acknowledgement that the financial meltdown happened on their watch, and that they were somehow complicit in the crash - owing to their continuation of broadly Thatcherite and Friedmanite economics, with light-touch (ie hardly any) regulation of the City and the banks, and hardly any radical attempt to deal with growing inequality and poverty.


As to what needs to happen now - what credibility do any of our current politicians really have? On the one hand we have the Bullingdon Club, the Etonites and the millionnaires, aided and abetted by Clegg & chums (who admit that there are no substantial political differences between them and the Tories). On the other hand we have the young, Oxbridge-educated, professional politicians who now run the Labour Party and were part of the New Labour gang, even if they don't call themselves that any more.


Ed Milibean - nice, clever, posh boy with zero charisma and zero leadership ability. Ed takes the rap for being so stupid as to appoint Alan Wotsit as Shadow Chancellor - a man with no grasp of economics whatsoever, and who thankfully did a bunk as soon as he could. So Ed then rightly replaces him with the appalling (but economically savvy) Ed Balls, but stupidly replaces Balls with the even more appalling Douglas Alexander - a tosspot of the very first order. Meanwhile we hear nothing whatsoever from Mrs Balls - I can't remember her real name (Yvonne something? Cooper?) - about the great world issues, including Libya and the rest of the Arab world.


These people are basically clever prats, who have failed to differentiate themselves sufficiently from the Tories and Libdems, and failed to associate themselves with the very people the Labour Party was created to support. Power-seeking missiles, born to manuever their way to positions of influence and power in the People's Party, but not to rock the boat, or to promote or create any radical change. They're not even proper social democrats, let alone socialists. They have neither the gifts nor the intention to change the terms of the political debate and cause people to think differently about politics, social justice and social policy. They're political pygmies, and are hard, if not impossible, to support and vote for, even if you're a lifelong Labour supporter.


So who should we vote for? Ideally a new political party, a new political movement, which comes into being as a true party of the Left in Britain. A party that is led by people of conviction who can make the case for social justice, greater equality and decent public services; a party that will argue for a fair tax system and the eradication of poverty; a party that will rebalance the economy and properly regulate the banks and the City; a party that will do all the things that the Labour party was initially set up to do, and can no longer claim with any credibility that it will do, if it ever returns to power.


I don't even care if that party turns out to be non-electable - it's the party I want to vote for. As things stand, the present Labour party is the lesser of the evils on offer, but it's not a party I want to vote for. It's time for politics in this country to move on, and we need a party that's led by people who are untainted by New Labour and is led by people with experience, maturity, gravitas, imagination, wisdom, idealism, conviction and credibility.


If UKIP can appear out of nowhere on the right of the political spectrum, then it must be possible for a new party to do so on the left - providing they have good leadership and a programme that matches reality and matches the expectations of large sections of the population who are sick of what the Labour Party continues to be and to do, or not do.


The only possible alternative (for we anti-Tories) is for masses of people to stop work and peacefully occupy public spaces, withdrawing our consent to be governed by people who have no legitimate mandate for what they're doing to the country - to follow the example of the courageous Egyptians and Tunisians.


We should be clear that there is absolutely no mandate for what this government is doing since Cameron, Clegg and co totally misled the country as to their intentions to introduce and support massive changes to public services that weren't even proposed at the time of the election. Who the hell agreed that the health service should be turned upside down and largely privatised or outsourced? Who agreed that "free schools" could be set up and run by oddballs like Toby Young with handouts of large wads of public money? Who agreed to the closure of libraries and children's centres? Who agreed that bankers could carry on paying themselves massive bonuses, and banks could remain unregulated?

Sadly there will be NO mass demonstrations, NO occupations, NO irresistable demands for fresh elections, NO new government with a real mandate, and almost certainly NO new political parties. This is the pathetic reality of Britain today, in spite of the dire state of the country and the massive political coup that has taken place. The shock doctrine lives on, and most people are too confused and scared, or too damn comfortable and complacent, or  too selfish and arrogant, to do anything about it.

Here's my solution for action to raise awareness.

It has to be action taken by "the people" and must not be led by the political parties or the unions. It has to be taken by people from across the awareness spectrum and the political spectrum.

We pick a Saturday in May - or possibly May Day - and call it DO NOTHING day. On that day as many people as possible should do nothing. No work. No rallies. No marches. Stay at home if you wish - but preferably gather in public spaces, hang about, chat to one another, read newspapers or books, and DO NOTHING. People who do nothing on this day will be deemed to be supporting the call for new elections on the grounds that this government has NO MANDATE for their spending cuts and changes to public services.

If the day is successful in getting people to stop work and do nothing, then the following weekend should be designated the DO NOTHING weekend. If it's successful in getting mass support then the following weekend should be designated the NO MANDATE weekend. From that weekend onward as many people as possible should continue to DO NOTHING (apart from hang around peacefully and have fun in public spaces) until the government agrees to call a new election.

The only people who should continue to DO SOMETHING should be people who work in schools, people who run hospitals and services for the elderly, etc. In other words, essential public services. Suitably qualified and experienced people who would otherwise join in with the call to DO NOTHING could volunteer to help those who are keeping the essential services going, thereby making those services even more effective. They could even volunteer to run creches and discussion groups at the DO NOTHING gatherings. Other sorts of creative and worthwhile activities could also be set up at the DO NOTHING gatherings.

It's worth a try.

All photos (c) Oxzen Pics


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Layer 455 . . . In Memorium


Ice Cream

The last words
I heard her speak:
Ice cream.
All she wanted now,
Ice cream
Ice cream
For this injustice
Ice scream
For her goodness
Ice cream
For her struggles
Ice scream
Her battles
Her troubles
Her asthma
Her allergies
Her stubbornness
Her dragonness
Her Yorkshireness
Ice cream
Ice cream
Her toughness
Her tenderness
Her laughter
Her passion
Her beauty
Her intelligence
Her kindness
Her pride
Her spirit
Her life well lived
Ice cream
Ice cream
Holding on . . .
Her blue eyes
I've seen
I scream
I dream
I mean . . .
I mean . . .
Sleep . . .
It wasn't long
It wasn't long
Not long at all
Too short
Too brief
To live
To breathe
To work
To teach
To feel
To slip away.


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Layer 453 . . . International Women's Day, Angry and Unafraid

It's International Women's Day, and the good old Guardian has made sure that all six of its opinion page articles today are written by women. Also, the whole of G2 is filled with pieces on the "100 Most Inspiring Women".

Fair enough. Except . . . the cover of G2 includes a photo of  . . . Margaret Thatcher.

And there's another, even bigger, photo on Page 5, along with a column of text that contains stupidities such as, "Like her or loathe her, Britain's first female prime minister made her way in a man's world and changed the way we think of women politicians."

Emine Saner (?) - what are you thinking of? "A man's world"? What ridiculous cliches.

So how did we used to think of women politicians before Thatcher? Personally I thought very positively about Barbara Castle, for example. She was a brilliant example of a thoughtful, decent, compassionate, well-balanced, sane, non-prejudiced politician. Did Thatch have any of those qualities?

Even Emine Saner has to admit that "Thatcher froze child benefit and refused to invest in affordable childcare . . . she promoted no women to her cabinet and no women above junior minister . . . " As if these are the worst of her crimes and misdemeanors!

So what positive things does Ms Saner have to say about Thatch?

"And yet she is an inspiration, partly for showing that the daughter of a greengrocer could progress through education, determination and hard work."

Really? What about if the daughter of a greengrocer didn't go to Cambridge and didn't marry a millionnaire? As for "progress" through education, determination and hard work - who'd have thought before Thatch came along that that such things could be helpful to an individual? Revelatory.

Mind you, I reckon I've also had a decent education, plus I've shown plenty of determination and I've worked hard. And so did our old mate David Miliband, for that matter - but I can't see either of us two making it to PM any time soon.

Anything else, Emine, luv?

"Having a woman in the most important job in the country for the first time changed the cultural idea of what was possible for women. Thatcher was ambitious, tough and uncompromising, qualities rarely associated with, or admired in, women before her. She may not have done much for the careers of individual women, but she changed the way female politicians were thought of – her decisions, such as waging war on the unions, or in the Falklands, may have been ruthless, but nobody now questions whether women politicians can be strong."

Strong? Ambitious? Tough? Uncompromising?

Ridiculous buzz-words, meaning absolutely nothing. As if "uncompromising" is a good quality in a politician. Hitler was uncompromising. As was Stalin.

As for "ruthless" - that word alone ought to have made Thatcher ineligible for inclusion in this supplement about "most inspiring women". Who needs to be inspired to be ruthless? Candidates/contestants to be The Apprentice?


This, on the other hand, is an excellent piece by Selma James, who has clearly been inspired by the events in Egypt -

International Women's Day: how rapidly things change

Women in Egypt have called for a million women to occupy Tahrir Square today. Who would have predicted that a month ago?

Feminism has tended to narrow its concerns to what is unquestionably about women: abortion, childcare, rape, prostitution, pay equity. But that can separate us from a wider and deeper women's movement. In Bahrain, for example, women lead the struggle for "jobs, housing, clean water, peace and justice" – as well as every demand we share.

The revolution is spreading.

New boldness allows us to face what Marx and Engels called "our real conditions of life and our relations with our kind". Women refusing to be trapped at home, and demanding that men not be trapped out of home, takes us immediately beyond the market, which only considers work that leads to profit for others, not to equity nor to happiness nor even to survival.

To undermine once and for all the sexual division of labour, we – women and men – must aim to work less. We can then begin where we all began, with children. What do they need? First of all, adults (not just parents) who love them and work to make a relationship with them. That is after all what caring is. We need time for this. Prime time.

We cannot be punished for our involvement in this civilising life process. Nor can we allow men to be excluded from it. So this International Women's Day, we must at least consider claiming the money from banks and wars to pay for the society of carers that only we together can devise. Taking the lead of the women in Tahrir Square, we can change the world.

• Selma James is organiser of the Global Women's Strike Mothers March


I've blogged about previous Nina Power columns in the Guardian. This one is also excellent -

They're angry and unafraid – and terrify middle England

When young women feel they are no longer held back by their gender, one outcome is an increase in political confidence

In the buildup to what looks likely to be the biggest trade union demonstration in recent history, on 26 March, the role of women in organising and participating in protest will continue to be central. Nevertheless, for the usual suspects the participation of so many young women – in the education protests in particular – has given rise to a certain moral panic. See, for example, the hilarious Daily Mail cover: "Rage of the Girl Rioters".

The attempted pillorying of these young women – accused of "lacking respect" – by the Mail is the latest in a long line of attacks on women who campaign directly against the state: the suffragettes; women involved in the 1926 general strike; the miners' protests in the mid-80s; those who fought for reproductive rights and against domestic violence. Just as with the attack on "ladettes" in the 1990s, what looks to be a moral criticism frequently masks a deeper political and economic fear – what shall we do when young women are academically successful, economically independent, socially confident and not afraid to enjoy themselves? Could there be anything more terrifying?

Whatever the 1990s tried to tell us was over – from inequality to political commitment – has most definitely not gone away; and the idea that one would simply have a passive, ironic or otherwise disinterested stance towards the brutal and brutalising policies of a government hell-bent on removing any vestige of a social bond now looks historically outmoded.

Many of the schoolkids who played truant to attend anti-war protests have grown into articulate and politically passionate adults, rightly incensed that education is being transformed into something insanely expensive, increasingly exclusive and socially divisive.

The explosive mix of single-issue campaigns (such as UK Uncut), broader anti-cuts struggles and a growing worldwide recognition that the corruption and complicity of governments are no longer tolerable means that everywhere men and women are realising that what unites them is far greater than what divides them.

When young women feel they are no longer held back by their gender, that they can take on any job, that they are more likely to do well in education than their male peers, that they don't have to think of themselves as wives and mothers first, one outcome is an increase in political confidence. If you tell women they can be and can do anything they want, and then let them down – by taking away their education maintenance allowance, by making university prohibitively expensive, by forcing them to stay in poverty – they, along with their male peers, will make you pay for your lies and hypocrisies.

While the Mail presumably thought that "girl rioters" would terrify its middle England readership, this should only serve to encourage us to recognise that female emancipation – and political emancipation more generally – will start with those most angry about its incompletion.


Jayati Ghosh is a professor of economics -

Big Oil wins in the latest price spurt. So why don't we take our share in tax?

War in Libya and protests across the Middle East are exploited by companies too quick to pass costs to vulnerable consumers


A Guardian editorial today takes up the issues I wrote about a couple of blogs ago - whether the LibDems rank and file will finally take a stand against the appalling policies of their leaders and their Tory coalition partners:

Liberal Democrats: Call for a lost voice

If the Lib Dems, of all parties, will not fight back and make the case for rights, who can?

The Lib Dems are not making their voice heard on issues where their voice ought to be. If the party is true to its liberal roots, as well as alive to its own self-interest, it must be willing to stand up for the values that helped raise the party to a position of power in the first place. If not now, when?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Layer 452 . . . World Book Week, Starkers, Soaking The Poor, Uniting Britain and Deficit Deniers

This week has been World Book Week.


"In the world of Agatha Christie everybody in vain, bitter, jealous and potentially murderous."

- Sue Perkins, 2011

Sounds about right. Sue Perkins, for those who don't know her, is brilliant.


Talking of vain, bitter and potentially murderous - David Starkey (CBE) is a media whore. Most people have never heard of him, but all of a sudden he's all over the media like a rash. Following his catastrophic appearance in Jamie Oliver's new series - Dream School - Starkers has suddenly popped up on Question Time (BBC1) and Loose Ends (BBC Radio 4). Probably several other programmes as well, for all I know. Does the Beeb just love the man, or does it have an obligation to 'balance' its programmes with a token raving right-winger?

He's "an English constitutional historian, a radio and television presenter, and a specialist in the Tudor dynasty and Tudor period." Borrring! He's a posturing, prattish, over-opinionated, snobbish, twat - and desperate for recognition and acclaim.

 A lifelong Capricorn, Starkey was "educated at Kendal Grammar School . . .  despite suffering from two club feet, Starkey . . .  won a scholarship to Fitzwilliam College at the University of Cambridge, of which he is an Honorary Fellow. As a student at Cambridge, he came under the influence of Professor G.R. Elton." - Wikipedia

Geoffrey Elton was a staunch admirer of Thatcher and Churchill. He was also a fierce critic of Marxist historians . . .

Oh dear, David . . .


How the rich soaked the rest of us

The astonishing story of the last few decades is a massive redistribution of wealth, as the rich have shifted the tax burden


David Cameron is uniting Britain. Against him
As the coalition's scatter-gun assault on the commonweal continues, so too does the broadening of the protest movement

Despite failing to win a majority when up against a desperately unpopular prime minister, in only 10 months, the coalition government has achieved what seemed impossible, amid the isolated melancholia of a late capitalist downturn, and brought Britain close to a point of genuine national unity. Against them.
As their arbitrary, scatter-gun assault on the commonweal continues, they will push more and more groups into solidarity against them – for it is the transgressive word "solidarity" that has been 2011's rallying cry, from Wisconsin to Tahrir Square to Westminster Bridge. Already, David Cameron's government has managed to make us believe that it hates trees, children playing, children reading, poor children, vulnerable children, poor students, the poor in general, women, higher education, culture, young people, old people, poor people having somewhere to live, rich people having to pay fair taxes, the free assembly of peaceful protesters, the north, the environment, charities, disabled people, people having jobs, civic engagement, public safety, libraries, the National Health Service, public transport and all public services.


"Who are you calling a deficit denier?"

Posted by Mehdi Hasan - 23 February 2011 12:21

Layer 451 . . . Creativity, Education, Protests, Democracy, Mervyn King, Bankers, Economic Literacy, Bill Nighy, the NHS and Jamie's School

"To be human is to create."

Try telling that to our schools. Creativity? What's that? May as well talk about enlightenment.

Also heard on the radio this week - Michael Gove is apparently one of those who believe that this country should continue to carry out aggressive military interventions in other countries. Quelle surprise.

To think that this jumped-up little twat, who clearly has no experience, no knowledge and no wisdom of any sort, is a senior member of our government . . . How can someone like Gove have any credibility - let alone be the minister responsible for children and for education throughout this country?


Positive news this week - the latest (Barnsley) by-election results. Massive split in the Tory vote. UKIP second to a resurgent Labour. (Very good news for Brother Ed.) Conservatives nowhere. LibDems wiped out. How can the moderate leftists in the LibDem camp continue to put up with what the coalition is doing and where they're taking the country? How can they just ignore what their leadership is doing to whatever credibility they may have had as a party of sound government and social justice?

Ballot box backlash: Byelection and referendum

Dan Jarvis (Lab) 14,724
Jane Collins (UKIP) 2,953
James Hockney (C) 1,999
Enis Dalton (BNP) 1,463
Tony Devoy (Ind) 1,266
Dominic Carman (LD) 1,012
Kevin Riddiough (Eng Dem) 544
Howling Laud Hope (Loony) 198
Michael Val Davies (Ind) 60

So here we have it - the LibDems are less popular than (and the Tories are only slightly more popular than) the BNP - the nearest we have to a fascist party.

There was an interesting letter in the Guardian this week regarding the split in the Labour party that cost them the 1983 election. This has real implications for what UKIP might do to the Tories in the future.

Why the Labour party lost in 1983
Polly Toynbee refers to the splitting of the anti-Tory vote by the SDP but her conclusion seems to be that "Thatcher's Falklands victory made her triumphant". Can we knock this on the head? In 1979 the Tories got 13,697,923 votes (43.9% of the total). In 1983 they got 13,012,316 (42.4%). Not much of a drop but a drop nonetheless. There was no swing of support to Thatcher because of the Falklands. Thatcher won in 1983 precisely because the 16,237,883 votes which would have defeated her were split between Labour and the SDP.
Alan Gray

Also -

Polly Toynbee (Some SDP thinking might strengthen Labour's nerve, 1 March) peddles the usual myths about the SDP's split from Labour. Chief among these myths is the evils of the 1983 manifesto. In fact this was timid compared with the 1974 manifesto, which put Labour in government and pledged to nationalise shipbuilding, ports, aircraft manufacture, and sections of pharmaceuticals, road haulage, construction and machine tool manufacture, as well as North Sea oil and gas. Tony Benn, a stalwart defender of the gains of the working class, is described as a "ruthless destroyer", while Margaret Thatcher is "positively pragmatic" compared with the current government. Unfortunately the liberal commentariat continues to fear the democratic will of the working classes being given a political voice. The Labour party should fight for the class it was founded to represent. The evidence from the 1980s and today is that the Tories have no shame in fighting for their class of fellow millionaires.
Andrew Fisher
Joint secretary, Labour Representation Committee

Can anyone seriously argue that back in the 1980s a national effort to support our key industries and to channel our oil wealth into the public purse wouldn't have been better for the country than allowing our industries to be sold off and asset-stripped, and our national  oil wealth to be siphoned off into private wealth?

Since Germany has managed to strengthen its manufacturing sector decade upon decade, why couldn't Britain have done so? Was it really inevitable that our major industries - shipbuilding, aircraft manufacture, motor vehicles, pharmaceuticals, construction, machine tool manufacture, etc - should decline or disappear? Or was it just the case that the City and other wealth-holders got rich out of selling off our industries, converting their land assets to property development and speculation, etc? Did it also suit the suits that a by-product of decimating our industries was a decline in the power of the unions and the working classes?


Mervyn King slams banks for putting profits before people and preying on the vulnerable
Read more:
The Governor of the Bank of England has slammed high-street banks for preying on the 'gullible or unsuspecting' and urged them to take a longer-term approach to their business and not simply try to 'maximise profits next week'.
Mervyn King also warned Britain risks suffering another financial crisis unless fundamental reforms of the profit-obsessed banking sector are pushed through.
He said problems still remained and 'imbalances' in the system were 'beginning to grow again'.
The intervention, in an interview with the Daily Telegraph, comes as a Government commission is considering whether financial institutions should be forced to separate retail and investment banking arms.
'We allowed a (banking) system to build up which contained the seeds of its own destruction,' Mr King said.
'We've not yet solved the 'too big to fail' or, as I prefer to call it, the 'too important to fail' problem. The concept of being too important to fail should have no place in a market economy.'
Asked if there could be a repeat of the financial crisis, Mr King said: 'Yes. The problem is still there. The search for yield goes on. Imbalances are beginning to grow again.'
Mr King suggested that the culture of short-term profits and bonuses could be to blame for the issues. Traditional manufacturing industries had a more 'moral' way of operating.

Do banks prey on the 'gullible or unsuspecting'? Are banks completely amoral and immoral? Do bears shit in the woods? Is the Pope a Catholic?

There's NO WAY that a regular person can be anything other than gullible and unsuspecting in its dealings with the banks. A bank will contact a 'customer' to tell them about its latest 'financial product' that offers a return of, say, 4%. Do they tell you that they will then take your money and make 20% and sometimes 50% interest from it? Er . . . no.

Our entire financial and economic system is now geared towards making outrageous profits from their dealings with the 'gullible or unsuspecting'. This is not my opinion - it's a fact. When someone like the governor of the Bank of Bloody England says it's so - then it's so. The only surprise is that Mr King takes it upon himself to speak truth like this. Maybe he's just afraid that if he doesn't 'out' himself and proclaim his views publicly then Wikileaks or some other whistleblower will eventually do it anyway.

Clearly Mr King is surprised that people haven't yet taken to the streets to demand social and economic justice. In Egypt, Tunisia and Libya the people have not only woken up to the fact that the kleptocrats have stolen all their national wealth - they're trying to do something about it. Here in trickle-down Britain most people have a roof over their heads, a TV, a sofa, enough money for food and fags - so why rock the boat? "What good would it do anyway?"

Here in Britain there's no sense of class or social solidarity, no belief, no hope, no optimism, no ideallism. At least we have democracy, eh?

Indeed we do. The kind of 'democracy' that gives us the kind of government that nobody voted for, nobody wanted, nobody needed. A government that's using the neo-conservative Shock Doctrine ("We have to do these things! The country's in a mess!!) and neo-liberal economic theory to asset-strip the remains of the national wealth, to marketise health and education, to turn our entire country into a privatised, profits-driven entity where all power and wealth is concentrated in the fewest possible hands, with most bonuses and profits safely deposited in overseas accounts and tax havens - way beyond the reach of those who would see justice in taxing them and allowing them to be used for the good of the nation as a whole.

An interesting idea that's come from the North African revolutions and revolts is that you don't need to be a Marxist or a communist or even a trade unionist in order to see through the existing social injustice and demand proper democracy and a decent life for everyone. It's not clear as yet whether the people of North Africa will realise their ambitions, but common sense (aka spiritual intelligence), and not political theory, unites them and makes them willing to become activists who put their personal wellbeing on the line in a struggle for power, self-government and justice for all.

We'll just have to wait and see how many will turn out to support the TUC-organised demonstrations on Saturday March 26th. It could be the beginning of something significant. I reckon Mervyn King would like it to be so. Maybe he'll be out with a placard himself.


Angry at the banks? Of course we are!

Mervyn King misreads the public mood on the bankers. He should look at our Robin Hood campaign

by Bill Nighy

When you've been going on about something for a while, it is always satisfying to discover that other people agree with you. I have been arguing for the last year that the banks, hedge funds and other titans of the City of London whose gambling got us into this trouble should pay to clean up the mess they caused.

Now, no less a figure than Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, has laid the blame for cuts in public services and welfare squarely at the door of the City. "The price of the financial crisis is being borne by people who did absolutely nothing to cause it."

But King's subsequent comment that he was "surprised that the degree of public anger has not been greater than it has" suggests that either he had a very high expectation, or that he has misread the public mood.

I'm an ambassador for the Robin Hood Tax campaign, which calls for a tiny tax of just 0.05% on every casino-style financial transaction in order to help poor people, reverse public service cuts at home and abroad, and tackle climate change. In this role I've seen how people's sense of fairness has been stretched to the limits by the continued spectacle of huge pay increases and bonuses in big companies while ordinary people suffer. Every time people turn on the television news they are bombarded with stories of job losses, disabled children forced into care, public sector cuts or young people left without a future. Meanwhile one of the country's leading bankers claims "the time for remorse and apologies needs to be over". If there has been any remorse it has escaped my notice. Of course people are angry!


Continuing with Oxzen's campaign for economic literacy -

The business press must prove its economic literacy

The media reported the financial crisis and stimulus poorly. Now the story is deficit and cuts, is it equal to the task?

Press reports about business and economics are often not much help to the ordinary reader trying to understand these subjects.

In recent weeks, there have been a lot of stories about how normal people would be affected by the budget cuts, and the media have certainly voiced the argument that reducing government spending is a bad idea while unemployment is [high]. But there is room for more reporting about the larger macroeconomic picture . . .

The concept of a Keynesian stimulus is not immediately intuitive. It would have been nice if there had been more in-depth explanations . . . 


The dying light of NHS care

My wife received near miraculous care in her final days – until private enterprise intervened

The NHS had, I later gathered, been obliged to take the second-class service offered by a disorganised offshoot of some US corporation: unsurprisingly its low standards allowed it to undercut Marie Curie's bid for the work. It seemed bizarre that the NHS was manoeuvred by an aggressive privatisation lobby into accepting a clearly inferior service from a company run from a country incapable of organising a health service for its own citizens.


How often do you see your parents?

With more and more adults finding they're too busy to see their elderly parents, we ask you to share your experiences

According to the research, more than 10% of 55- to 60-year-olds with parents still living haven't seen their mother or father in the past year, with many of those questioned saying they were simply too busy to stay in touch with ageing relatives.

A third of the baby boomers polled said they felt guilty for not seeing their parents enough and four out of 10 felt that their own children didn't get in touch with them enough either.


According to Jamie Oliver (and other enlightened souls), “We’re not doing enough for those who fail; they need a more physical, tactile approach, involving people skills, team building, problem-solving, building things. These skills need to be taken as seriously as the sciences.”

TV review: Jamie's Dream School

Forget the pupils, the real problem at Jamie's Dream School is the history teacher, David Starkey

by Sam Wollaston

There's some very bad behaviour in the history class at Jamie's Dream School (Channel 4). Not from the teens who have dropped out of conventional education with very little in the way of GCSEs, though, but from the teacher, the historian David Starkey.

Poor Jamie, he does his best to pretend this isn't happening. The idea was to get amazing people in to inspire these kids to learn. And what he's got with Starkey is a bigot and a bully, a horrid man who may know about the Anglo-Saxons, but who knows very little about the modern world or about humanity. And a crap teacher, too.

Jamie is really the only one who makes any connection with the kids, respects them and earns their respect back. And also the only one who shows any kind of self-awareness. "We're so used to people being interested in what we talk about," he says. There's plenty to be learned at his Dream School – by the students but equally by the teachers. Like maybe they're not quite as interesting as they thought they were, and that just because you know about something doesn't mean you know how to teach it. 

There's always a hard part at the beginning of Jamie's shows, when he's up against it and against the world. There are tears then and there will be here, too. He always turns it around; I'm sure he will do again. But he needs to sort out his staffroom first. And begin by firing David Starkey.

There are some good comments on CiF, including


They should have got Melanie Phillips to teach condescension too.

Why would anybody expect Starkey or Callow to be able to teach? They're not teachers, are they? I'm sure that [Jamie's] pedagogy will work out fine in the end and he'll sell loads of books explaining how he rescued the nation's education system with a few celebrities and his unique brand of Artful Dodger 'charm'.

Failing that Alistair Campbell will be able to teach them how to knock up a dossier that'll allow them to beat up somebody and take their lunch money in just half-an-hour.