The Chancellor and the Class Divide

The poor are being robbed in Labour’s class war

I suppose as a politician you must get used to humbug, hypocrisy and sickening opportunism, but when Gordon Brown stood up and announced to the Labour Party conference that the chief defect of David Cameron, as Tory leader, was that he was “an old Etonian”, I am afraid I almost blew a gasket.

It’s not just that I, too, had the joy of attending the Fettes of England. It is not the sheer chippiness I resent. It is not his pathetic attempt to curry favour with his rank-and-file followers by making snide remarks about an opponent’s background, when he is himself the son of the manse and the beneficiary of one of the finest educations this country can provide, at one of its very poshest universities.


It is the rank dishonesty of the Chancellor I dislike. He is attempting to re-open a class divide that long ago disappeared, and he and his party are refusing to admit the existence of the real divide in our society.

That divide is not between the two front benches – both now bristling with Oxbridge degrees and public school educations. The real divide is between the entire class of people now reposing their fat behinds on the green and red benches in the Palace of Westminster, and the bottom 20 per cent of society – the group that supplies us with the chavs, the losers, the burglars, the drug addicts and the 70,000 people who are lost in our prisons and learning nothing except how to become more effective criminals.

Look at those Labour benches these days. Once they were full of swarf-scarred shop stewards, miners, dockers, people with a real claim to represent the old working class. Now they have hardly anyone left except John Prescott, who was, as he never tires of telling us, a waiter with Cunard. They are university lecturers, and lobbyists, former heads of the Child Poverty Action Group, and ex-Guardian hacks, and think-tank wallahs, and lawyers, lawyers, lawyers.

In other words they are almost all of them, Gordon included, as much members of the smug middle classes as the people on the Tory benches opposite. Which is not demographically surprising, when you consider what has happened to the old working class, and how it has shrunk in the past 30 years.

If you took the socio-economic profile of Britain and plotted it on a graph, it would look like a bowler hat, or a python that has swallowed an elephant. The right-hand brim would represent the super-rich. The super-rich will always be with us. They are mainly harmless. They may very occasionally raid the pension funds of companies they own, but they share that nasty habit with the Chancellor, and unlike the Chancellor they normally end up in jail for their misdemeanours.

In the middle we have the huge mass of the middle classes, in which category we find about 80 per cent of society, including, for what it is worth, large numbers of former aristocrats who must work like crazy to keep the punters coming to see their mazes and dungeons. Of course it is tough being middle class, and we all have to struggle against the depredations of the Chancellor.

But it is the left-hand brim that should concern us most, and that should worry the Chancellor most. What is Labour doing for these people? Very little, except to keep them exactly where they are, on their run-down estates, voting Labour in the deluded hope of bigger hand-outs.

It is one of the most depressing statistical features of modern Britain that social mobility has declined in the past 10 years, and is getting worse. Most social and economic historians would agree that the Thatcherian revolution of the 1980s was a liberating event for millions of people in the old working classes, who not only bought their own houses but also shares, and a stake in Britain’s economic growth. They moved on up. Now the canals of opportunity are freezing up again; the ladders are being kicked away.

A recent LSE study found that Britain was the most socially immobile of eight similar advanced western countries, the others being Canada, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and the US. The overwhelming explanation cited was disparity in educational opportunity, and the increasing link between family income and educational achievement. As we all know, there has been a huge expansion in higher education in this country, and Gordon and Tony will not rest until 50 per cent of the population receive it. But this expansion has overwhelmingly benefited the middle classes, and especially the rich.

Graduation rates for the richest fifth of society have risen from 20 per cent to 47 per cent. Among the poorest fifth of society, the number of university graduates has barely moved, from six per cent to nine per cent. In fact, the sheer profusion of degrees of one kind or another is now acting as a new barrier to those who don’t have one.

You used to be able to work your way up from the post-room to the boardroom. But we no longer have a culture of in-work training. We no longer have apprenticeships. We have a myriad of degrees in every subject from media studies to windsurfing, and for those who do not have them that can now be a disadvantage.

Then there is Labour’s continuing ideological hatred of grammar schools, and selection, and the opportunities these provided for brilliant children from the very poorest backgrounds. I find it physically sick-making that Labour members and supporters, such as Polly Toynbee, can campaign stridently against selection in the maintained sector, yet send their children to fee-paying schools.

More and more of these middle-class Labour Left-wing bossyboots send their children to the most privileged and expensive schools in the country. If you doubt my testimony, read Andy McSmith’s article in this week’s superselling Spectator. What else are the Labour lot doing for the bottom 20 per cent, apart from hauling up the ladders of opportunity?

They are using every opportunity to boss them and make them conform to their middle-class mores. They tell them not to smoke. They tell them not to be so fat. They tell them not to drink so much. They tell them they may no longer go out with the hunt. They are so full of revulsion when they see a chav belting her kids in the supermarket that they seriously contemplate banning smacking.

They keep them snared in a super-complicated system of means-tested benefits, with its infinite disincentives to saving or work. Above all, they tax them an exorbitant proportion of their incomes. It is there that a reforming and compassionate Conservative government should begin. The real class war is not between Labour and Tory; it is in the treatment by the middle classes of the bottom 20 per cent, and it is a war being waged by Labour.

*To follow – Boris’s participation in a debate yesterday evening on the motion “Apart from Chavs – the British Have no Class”. Boris was For the argument*

139 thoughts on “The Chancellor and the Class Divide”

  1. “Gordon Brown is a long streak of Scotish tapioca”
    Your words Boris, And you have the nerve to attack Skidmark for calling Michael Goves’ finger puppet an Old Etonian, I’ll just wait for the next election.

  2. “Then there is Labour’s continuing ideological hatred of grammar schools… yet [they] send their children to fee-paying schools.”

    While I completely disagree with any form of admissions selection, I too agree with your complete abhorrence of this hypocrisy. People who claim to have principles should stick to them.

  3. “In other words [Labour] are almost all of them, Gordon [Brown] included, as much members of the smug middle classes as the people on the Tory benches opposite.”

    What’s the problem with that? Social class doesn’t always dictate your political leanings – there are a notable few Old Etonians, for example Huxley, who went on to become Leftist thinkers, writers and politicians. I don’t see why someone from the middle classes shouldn’t be allowed to be a part of the Labour Party, any more than someone from the working classes should be barred from being a Tory. I mean, look at David Davis – he was “brought up by a single mother on a council estate”, in his own words.

  4. Boris, Boris, Boris, oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.
    (First of all thanks for the christmas card – the first I have received this year. The book was also gratefully received, the second signed copy of a bestseller I have received in 24 hours. May I commend the other – Mr Widdicombe’s excellent tome about horses? He delivered it in person, although that should not be any undue indication of the quality of the material).
    Of course New Labour is the oppressor of the working classes. It achieved this by adopting a Tory political stance, but do you really think that the Conservative party is really the pal of the man on the Clapham omnibus? I am a long way from being convinced.
    I will leave this argument to Mr Gamon, the honourable member for Hertfordshire, to expand upon, and return to my usual off-topic drivel.

  5. Boris for Europe Minister, under Hague.
    Years in Brussels, insider knowledge, clear thinking…
    I am tempted to say it’s a no-brainer but that would come out all wrong.

  6. I read the McGill artical.
    However, I don’t see that there is such a huge level of hypocracy in left wing parents choosing to segregate their children.
    School is about more than getting an education for a start. It also about developing a peer group. Parents know that for their children to ‘fit in’ best they need to be with ‘people like them’. Human beings operate in groups. To have friends you have to select and exclude some people. Instinctively parents want their children to be in the ‘right group’. They are aware that to find the best fit for their child they need to select.
    By and large most private schools do have an element of diversity anyway and children get to mix with different people. But by and large they are among equals.
    Rich people find it difficult to mix with poor. Poor people typically don’t like the rich and by and large people from different ethnic groups also often like to stick together.

    Leaving aside groups.

    Although there probably are lots of good comprehensives, without selection you are more likely to have kids being taught together who have highly variable levels of ability.

    This means its more difficult for a teacher to get through things. Discipline is another issue. Kids who have limited ability or behavioural issues cut down teaching time massively. Teachers in comprehensive schools really don’t have many tools to discipline kids who don’t want to be there. It means everyone else in the class has to suffer and time is wasted. In a fee-paying school problem children are asked to leave.

    Parents pay for a social group and they pay to select out the kids who wreck things for everyone else. That’s about it.

    Every single person is selective with social networks. Its not that surprising that parents are with schools and although left wing parents hold certain views, they are essentually views that make them feel good about themselves. They don’t actually live by their values. It wouldn’t be human.

  7. I agree completely.

    Those who argue that the reason for problems is that Labour have taken on Tory thinking are missing the mark.
    The problem lies in the leftist thinking which still infects the Labour Party. This leads to attempts at large scale planning which lead to a Kafkaesque labarynth of regulation thus stifling people and reducing opportunity. Ultimately this for of thinking leads to totalitarianism, we can see the beginnings already with the state seeking to control more and more aspects of our lives.

    I do not understand the left’s problem with selection and competition. The comprehensive system fails all children as it tries to treat them as the same instead of focussing on individual children’s needs. Selection means that a school can concentrate on a narrower range of abilities. Grammar schools for the academically inclined, technical colleges for those who’s abilities lie in a more vocational direction. Other types for other children.
    Encourage mixing in the larger community (thereby strengthening that)

    Again the point on university education is spot on.
    If someone is good enough to go to university then they should be able to go because they are good enough, not because they fill a quota.
    Likewise, if academia is not right for them then they should get more suitable training elsewhere.

    The fundamental failing of Labour is its insistance that all are the same. This is not true. All people are of equal worth and should have equal rights and the best opportunity to fulfill their potential no matter what background.

    It seem the Tories have realised this Liberal tenet (and Thatcher was a key to this it seems, even if she didn’t get everything right) whereas Labour is still stuck with the leftist thinking which dominated the post war period and proved so disastrous to this country.

    (I heard some of David Cameron’s victory speech and was gratified with the statement ‘society does exist, but it is not the state’, spot on there. I do however often wake up in the morning, turn on the Today program and wish that the state was smaller, but I suspect I am in the minority)

  8. I’m not an unqualified fan of Comrade Johnson but this article hits the right spot. Middle class social engineers are very keen to boss people around, telling them what they can and can’t do. I noted one or two comments above about being opposed to selection with no reason given. The ghastly utopia envisaged here is one where all state schools provide the same lacklustre education for everyone and the working class don’t get the second chances the middles do. I’ve said it before here but the attitude of ‘closing every f****** grammar school in the country’ rather than addressing the problems of education provides the horrible crowd mentality attitude to education found amongst Grauniad readers. Working class children no longer get that chance to get a good education, non-academic children are denied the chance of an apprenticeship but given the (expensive) chance to do a Media Studies degree and all in the name of a soft Stalinist form of socialism that wants us all to be equal! I notice we don’t have any of this egalitarian rubbish when it comes to sport. If I suggested I should be in the same class as Wimbledon hopefuls because it’s my right to play tennis then what do you think the repsonse will be?

    Everyone knows how many middle class parents don’t even have the courage to send their offspring to private school but rather buy in hordes of private tutors, educational trips and so on. Quite frankly I admired Diane Abbott for her courage!

    In some areas there’s an outfit called the Independent Working Class Association which seems to have thrown over a lot of the silly stuff. I think they should invite Boris to give a talk at their next conference.

  9. I think you have this bang on Borris. As a child who came from the wrong end of the grammar school / secondary modern system, I have absolutey no problems with how it worked, either for me, or my ex grammar school friends.
    The system, although far from perfect – I would like to see any attempt to fully reintroduce it being performed with a deal of care for those children who for one reason or another fail an 11 plus but soon after transform into an academic wunderkind – is genuinely meritocratic and, forsaking the middle class snob value that our current government is placing on a university education provides a greater deiversity of education designed to fit the needs of pupils.
    There was nothing wrong with a secondary modern education, albeit I never got the chance to learn latin something to this day I lament (and intend to remedy), likewise following onto a polytechnic or apprenticship was no sin. Indeed it is precisely these skills that our country is lacking, while the universities pump out an army of media studies clones ill fit for any real workplace at vast expense to the taxpayer and the well-being of both the country’s and their future.
    Instead of applying such snob rule to education, instead we should embrace the difference, accept that not being academically gifted does not make you less of a person, and frankly having seen how much plumbers and removal men earn doesn’t hurt your monetary future necessarily either, and allow those pupils who seek a solid vacational education to receive the very best, while allowing those who seek to delve into academia to have their best possible chance of both succeeding and of having the whole experience being worthwhile.

  10. So Boris, among other good features, is a fan of “Le Petit Prince”? I can’t say that I’m surprised, he has good taste.
    Oh, and he’s right about neocon-Labour. Although I am a (reasonably successful) product of the comprehensive school system, that is largely because within that school we were streamed and I was in the ‘grammar’ stream (it was early days for the comprehensive system).
    And I got to go to university, in spite of being from the ‘poor’ end of the spectrum, because of grants — if I’d had to get in debt by thousands of pounds I’d never have gone at all.
    But “t mills” also has a good point that it’s NL’s insistance on strict equality (except in sport!) which is a large part of the problem — not equality of opportunity, but mashing everyone down to the lowest possible level…

  11. Just to prove that us wooly headed liberals do have reasons for supporting comprehensive education, I had made a swift post in my blog (link above) outlining a couple of ideas for you.

    I suppose my main thrust is to point out the great misconception of comprehensive education. It does not in any way advocate the enforcing of the lowest common denominator on everybody.

    In all honest, I suspect that I am in favour of a sort of combination of the two ideals, namely in fully comprehensive admissions but selection of a sort within a school, the almost-best of both worlds.

    Having reread Boris’s article, I shall further comment that I do agree with what I see to be the main thrust of it, that the New Labour drive to force everybody to their prescriptive middle-class ideals is misplaced and wrong.

  12. Russell, to say about the comprehensive system,

    “It does not in any way advocate the enforcing of the lowest common denominator on everybody.”

    is simplistic, of course failure isn’t going to be a stated aim. However, we judge the system by results not Nulab targets and fiddled statistics.

    I wonder if you saw this in the Guardian (of all places!) 25th April 2005,

    “Researchers at the London School of Economics found that Britain appeared to have one of the worst records for social mobility in the developed world.

    They also concluded that Britons were less likely to break free of their backgrounds than in the past.”

    Grammar schools used to promote social mobility. Now the socialist mantra is, if all can’t benefit, then none shall benefit.

  13. “In all honest, I suspect that I am in favour of a sort of combination of the two ideals, namely in fully comprehensive admissions but selection of a sort within a school, the almost-best of both worlds.”

    Do you mean non-selective schools where students are setted for subjects according to ability? Because that’s the policy a great majority of comprehensives operate.

  14. “In all honest, I suspect that I am in favour of a sort of combination of the two ideals, namely in fully comprehensive admissions but selection of a sort within a school, the almost-best of both worlds.”

    Do you mean non-selective schools where students are setted for subjects according to ability? Because that’s the policy a great majority of comprehensives operate.

  15. I of course accept that statement as being simplistic (I was quoting it from the comment above though, but never mind that).

    I think I read that very article that you refer to and I completely agree that the current state of education and social mobility is dire. What I would also say is that we in no way have a comprehensive educion system at the moment. What we have is a hideous mess of idea upon contradictory idea that gets nobody nowhere.

    I would rather see a return to a full grammar school system compared to what we have now, but I would much rather see a proper comprehensive system than either of those possibilities.

    Finally, I would also add that I tend to think (sometimes against all available evidence) that everyone has the best of intentions, be that red, blue, yellow or a sludgy brown, but that a sometimes they just get it wrong. Call me an eternal optimist if you like, although fool may be better.

  16. Russell,
    I’ll settle for calling you an eternal optimist. You can call me a recent pessimist if you like.

    I remember the heady days when the comprehensives came in. Don’t tell anyone, I supported them, but my excuse is that I was young, naive, and not an educationalist, and as such I had an excuse for being stupid.

    With hindsight, isn’t it obvious that all we had to do was leave the bits that worked alone (grammar schools), and improve the bits that didn’t work (secondary moderns).

    The over simplicity in my argument is of course that it ignores the real reason that the old system was torn apart, class envy and egalitarianism.

  17. On the questions of Comprehensive schools and declining social mobilty:

    Of course Grammar Schools will do better in terms of academic results than Comprehensives, but Secondary Moderns will do worse, so studies tend to show that OVERALL academic results in areas with selective and comprehensive schools are actually about the same.

    However, I still believe that the introduction of Comprehensives has reduced social mobility, for another reason.

    Inthe office where I work, we quite often have secondary school pupils on work experience, or sometimes university students on temporary placements.

    The difference that I notice according to the type of school they went to is not that those who went to Comprehensive State Schools are necessarily less intelligent than those from, say, private schools.

    However, they are markedly less self-confident, and inevitably that will tend to make them less successful in their careers. The impression is that abler pupils do exist at comprehensives, and may even leave with good exam results, but somehow go against the grain of the institution in a way that makes them nervous rather proud.

    I went to a Comprehensive myself, and experienced some of this. It was not all bad by any means, but it lacked a clear ethos or sense of what it was trying to achieve, and therefore did not encourage either self-confidence or ambition to the extent that it should have done. Whatever anyone says in theory, my experience in pratice is that that is the natural institutional tendency of the comprehensive system, unlikely to be remedied under that system.

  18. I was fortunate to go to a selective school. What I find difficult to understand is why we should be encouraging selective schools in areas like music or sport, yet somehow being exceptionally gifted in academic subjects is not sufficient for selection, in a time when our country is short of talented engineers and scientists.

  19. The reverse snobbery in this country makes me angry. People who cannot accept those who are a little better off than them. That’s why so many Labour supporters are republicans. We have to learn to live and let live. People will always be at different levels. I can’t agree with comments about university, though. I didn’t go to university, through personal choice, because I wouldn’t have been motivated enough to make it worthwhile and because I don’t really believe in university for the masses. A successful education system is one that can cater for the education and teaching of skills for persons at a range of ages and abilities, not one that forces people to go to university to stand any chance of decent employment. The idea that a graduate can earn more than someone who worked those three years and has gained equal skills, just for the reason that the graduate holds a degree, makes me angry. They’re being payed more by snobs. Those who look down with distain, and those who look up with envy. Just learn to live and let live.

  20. How my heart leapt this morning when I read that Mr Cameron (any relation to Dr Finlay’s old mate?) had put the environment at the top of his agenda.
    How my heart sank when I read that he had put John Rhyming Slang in charge of formulating that policy.
    Have you read the list of shadow cabinet members?
    It could be called “people to avoid at parties”, “people who you don’t want to sit next to on a plane” or “the usual bunch of no hope losers who will sink the conservative party no matter how hirsute or pretty the new leader is”.

  21. Writing as Disgusted of Weymouth, I wish to voice my displeasure at Mr Cameron overlooking Boris for a front bench job, condemning his leadership of the party to doom and failure. Surely this must rank as the shortest honeymoon period in the history of politics.

    The Shadow Cabinet’s loss is The Spectator’s gain, and we must see some consolation in that.

    I am not mad.

  22. Psimon, if you are implying that I have a special relationship with Mr Cameron, then I must allow discretion to prevent my elaborating.
    What do I know that (we) don’t know? I know enough never to vote Conservative.

  23. Vicus
    I beg to differ with you over your disappointment concerning Mr Cameron’s environmental spokesman. I don’t think it matters who takes the job.

    The environment issue belongs to liberal airheads, who generally want to make everybody happy and the world a better place, and to Nulab who use it as an excuse to boss us all around.

    The environmental future of our planet is influenced perhaps 2 or 3% by the UK.

    China, USA, and India are by far the biggest players, and they couldn

  24. I too am disappointed that Boris has been overlooked. I read somewhere that this is because he has a ‘posh’ image. What tosh: why then is Boris so popular?
    Instead Cameron gives us the same old eggheads: Hague, Letwin, Fox, …

  25. John East,
    As a treehugging organic muesli knitting airhead, I am pleased to see you return to traditional tory values here. Bugger the world and the coming generations, let’s all get rich. Not my problem, mate, blame the Chinese.

  26. “We no longer have apprenticeships.”

    Yes we do! There are schemes all over the country promoting vocational courses and apprenticeships, due to a lack of skilled labour – because of the number of people entering both Further and Higher Education. I agree with you that there is very much a focus on everything academic in the UK as it is, but peopleare starting to realise that core subjects do not suit everyone,and alternative schemes are being put in place.

    “I find it physically sick-making that Labour members and supporters, such as Polly Toynbee, can campaign stridently against selection in the maintained sector, yet send their children to fee-paying schools.”

    Perhaps they are not happy with the way that the education system is at the moment, but feel that selection in State education will further the social divides that you focus on so greatly. The children from rich backgrounds will go to the selective schools, and those impoverished 20% will remain in the underfunded schools resting under the control of the Local Education Authorities.

    “They tell them not to smoke. They tell them not to be so fat. They tell them not to drink so much. They tell them they may no longer go out with the hunt. They are so full of revulsion when they see a chav belting her kids in the supermarket that they seriously contemplate banning smacking.”

    These aren’t just problems within the working or lower class – these are problems throughout society. The government are not just telling poor people not to do these things – they’re telling everyone! The warnings about cancer on cigarette packets don’t just apply to the bottom 20%, the effects of alcohol do not just apply to the botton 20%, obesity is not just unhealthy if you don’t have a high income, and smacking is wrong whoever does it.

    “Above all, they tax them an exorbitant proportion of their incomes. It is there that a reforming and compassionate Conservative government should begin.”

    Lowering tax does not positively effect the working class, though. It provides services that they would not otherwise be able to afford. Not all families can afford to send their children to private schools or pay for private health care. These were the reasons the State system began to be implemented over 100 years ago – because the rich could afford an education and a doctor, and the poor couldn’t. This would, again, increase the class divides that you talk so passionately about.

  27. Vicus, you profess to be a treehugging organic muesli knitting airhead, and as such it is not surprising that you subscribe to the fantasy that Tory traditional values are, “Bugger the world and the coming generations, let’s all get rich. Not my problem, mate, blame the Chinese.”

    However, I cannot see anything in my post which supports your accusations. Perhaps you would care reconsider what I actually said, rather than comment on what you would like me to have said.

  28. Vicus, please don’t waste your time hugging trees, there is a whole world out there waiting to be saved.

  29. One aspect of the problem in education is the effect of **seriously** disruptive pupils. I was discussing this with a friend and opined that if they continued to disrupt then they should be booted out of school. She said “But what happens to them?”. I fear I lost interest in the discussion at that point. However this is indicative of how many people see education. It’s got to be a melting pot, not just of different classes and races which I suggest can be done alongside education, but of different types of behaviour which really can’t be done alongside education. Unfortunately this is an ideological point – “society is to blame”.

    The children of lower paid parents are just as much affected by this as those of higher paid parents. (And kids from well off homes can be disruptive). The divide comes when the better off can buy in tutors, provide a good environment for work at home and so on. I really do not believe that many of these Toynbeeish people are that concerned about people, whatever station in life, but more about ideology and political correctness (and funding of course! See Tuesdat Grauniad)

    If a punter not only does not wish to learn but wants to stop others learning then an education system must exclude them from the part where the majority of pupils are trying, with varying degrees of success, to learn. I can’t remember whether it was Field or Macarnie came up with the idea of long sea cruises with a staff of suitable instructors for people who don’t want just to drop out but create mayhem for everyone else. As a first approximation the idea has much to commend it. Anyone got any better ones? (Send Polly Toynbee with them! On second thoughts no. Not even a classroom disruptor deserves that).

    Anyway Mr. C looks as if he is prepared to support Mr. B on some of the new educational policies, for which I applaud him. This could be a golden opportunity to break the hold of soft Stalinism on our educational system.

    I must start practising putting crosses in boxes next to the words “The Conservative Candidate”. I feel ever so naughty. Perhaps I will stop wearing ties.

  30. “Perhaps they are not happy with the way that the education system is at the moment, but feel that selection in State education will further the social divides that you focus on so greatly. The children from rich backgrounds will go to the selective schools, and those impoverished 20% will remain in the underfunded schools resting under the control of the Local Education Authorities.”

    Erm, so by sending their kids to private schools, aren’t they just helping to keep the divide between social groups wide open? Divides in state education are one thing, but at least that way poor children have some semblance of a chance of getting a decent education… a private/state divide, though, is only ever going to favour the rich. At present fewer than one in ten UK children attend a private school – why should the privileged minority receive a better service than the trampled majority, who have (generally speaking) to take what’s offered to them?

    “The government are not just telling poor people not to do these things – they’re telling everyone! The warnings about cancer on cigarette packets don’t just apply to the bottom 20%, the effects of alcohol do not just apply to the botton 20%”

    Yes, but it’s the bottom 20% of society that’s affected the most by these matters. The majority of non-food serving pubs (66% I think) are in working-class areas.

    “Not all families can afford to send their children to private schools or pay for private health care. These were the reasons the State system began to be implemented over 100 years ago – because the rich could afford an education and a doctor, and the poor couldn’t. This would, again, increase the class divides that you talk so passionately about.”

    So as long as the rich can buy their way out of what the majority have to put up with, class divides will remain as strong as ever. The rich still get better education and better healthcare than the poor, thanks to Labour’s uncharacteristic refusal to remove the charitable status of private schools and the abundance of health insurance companies that, while seeming to be reasonably priced, still manage to price those who perhaps need their services the most – the lower classes – out.

  31. “The majority of non-food serving pubs (66% I think) are in working-class areas.”

    I forgot to mention, of course, that as many as 75% of food-serving pubs in working-class areas will stop serving food when the ban comes into force, because alcohol sales are much more profitable and because, with more people in these areas smoking than average, it’d be catastrophic financially for them not to.

  32. My daughter went to the local state primary school, where she consistently came second in class to another girl. I was able to send her to a selective, fee paying school (thanks to a grammar school education myself), while the other girl

  33. “One girl was betrayed by the state system, which would not allow her to be educated with her equals, and wouldn

  34. Stephen Howse

    I’m not sure what you’re saying here. I am emphatically NOT saying the hell with everyone else. Had the other child not been a victim of political ideology she would have been at a school where, instead of being a “boff” and therefore bullied, she would have been “normal”. She would probably then have fitted in, and enjoyed the same advantages as my daughter.

    I still compare the exam performance of my old home town with that of my current home; the grammar schools match the selective private schools but are open to all, and the secondary moderns match the local comprehensive. It is possible that I have moved to an area where average intelligence is lower, but I doubt it. There fore I will continue to believe that children do better when taught in groups of roughly equal ability (this is supported by some research I saw a while ago, but I can’t find it to quote chapter & verse)

  35. Interesting, well-written article by Boris but surely the debate about education belongs in the early 1990s?

    The whole UK education system – the rote learning, the handwriting, the awful exams, the traditional subjects, the religious stuff, the teacher training, the structuring of schools etc. – has so far lost contact with the global economic realities that we need a completely new approach.

    If I had children I wouldn’t want them to be educated under the present British system. They would be disadvantaged – even if they went to Eton!

    Of course, few people in Gutenberg’s day understood that the world had changed with the introduction of movable type, but the world was smaller then and there were fewer competitors.

  36. MarkE,
    A very sad tale, but in my experience repeated over and over again. You sound confused by the socialist arguments that if all can’t benefit, then none shall benefit, and if socialism isn’t working then more socialism is the answer. You will just have to accept that’s the way they are.

  37. John East: “The environmental future of our planet is influenced perhaps 2 or 3% by the UK.”

    Right! I’ve just seen your take on global warming.

    I live in Europe which has a significant share of CO2 emissions, but leaving that to one side . . . the British government’s policy (vapid exhortations to the G8 etc. while simultaneously encouraging power generating companies to burn more coal) undermine progress towards international agreements, i.e. are setting a bad example.

    As with so many other issues, New Labour get away with it because of lack of effective opposition.

    Do David Cameron and Co understand the science of global warming? Probably not? Do they even understand the political advantages of taking a stronger line on this issue? I doubt it. Cameron is the classic insider. What matters to him is the business of the Westminster village. For him and his kind the outside world is only an abstraction.

  38. MarkE, you say “I will continue to believe that children do better when taught in groups of roughly equal ability” – but at the comprehensive I attended, we were setted for core subjects according to ability, while still attending the same school as our friends of different abilities. Surely this is a decent compromise; you mix with people of other social strata while being educated in an atmosphere that suits your needs.

  39. Why is Stephen Howse so angry with MarkE? Should MarkE have forced his daughter to stay on in the state system even though he could afford better? The fault is not with all those parents who pay for education (twice over of course). I know a number of such people on modest incomes who drive around in clapped out old cars etc.. The fault is with the ideologues who continue to perpetrate this gross idiocy.

    I was at what passes for a party round here and three of the local payroll vote were discussing education. One said that the government should take away charitable status from private schools. Why for God’s sake? They provide education and are increasingly relieving the load on the state system. Another said they should close them altogether. Lord preserve us! The third was drunk but made the most sense.

    When you start going for egality by bringing people down where do you stop? (I think Kurt Vonnegut wrote a story about this once). Dawn raids to make sure that houses don’t contain too many books – could be done when they come around to photograph our bedrooms for council tax? Giving healthy people malaria to even things up? Ration fresh veg, not so much to share it out as to stop people having too much?

    Many private schools do not charge a lot more than the cost of a state school place. Why not raise the standards in state schools so that people don’t want to pay a second time for a private school? Mr. C. are you listening?

    My children go to a state school but I reserve the right to flog the mansion and move to a prefab it it were necessary to purchase private education.

  40. “One said that the government should take away charitable status from private schools. Why for God’s sake?”

    Because they’re not charities, they’re businesses, and ought to be taxed accordingly. If you’re going to sell education as a commodity on the market, then the state should take a cut of the income from it, just as it would were you selling tins of beans.

  41. As far as I can see all well known charities run as businesses. Oxfam sells commodoties. They don’t have shareholders or dividends or any of those things. Private schools exist to provide education. Surplus is invested in the school or retained for the future.

    People whose children go to private schools have already paid their whack for state education. The existence of these schools relieves pressure on state schools.

    If, as the second person at the party said, they closed down all the private schools there would be a substantial increase in numbers at state schools. I suppose they could nationalise them. That would really screw them. But if they are looking for businesses to bankrupt perhaps they could start with crime.

  42. Vicus, No offence meant, please call him off. Still it could be worse, you might have set Steve Howse on me.

  43. I come to this a bit late, having been away. Sorry, but I’ve going to add my two penny worth.

    John East – sorry mate, you’re a plonker. It wouldn’t make the slightest difference if the UK’s contribution was a mere 0.0000000001% recurring. This is a GLOBAL problem, and we’re all in it together. Get with the programme, or go live in a cave and pretend your grandchildren will be happy no matter what you do.

    As for Boris – great post really. Apart from the one teensy-weensy just an iddybiddy tiny wee thing: like all born Tories, you seem to be wearing blinkers when it comes to the super-rich. I agree there aren’t many of them, and quite a lot no doubt salve their consciences by making vague and secret donations to the charity of their choice, but most of them got there by being utterly selfish and morally irresponsible, most do everything they can to avoid paying the taxes they should, and most got wealthy by flogging us all products and services nobody really needs and none of us can really afford. Who really gives a damn if someone re-invents the vacuum cleaner yet again? Or finds yet another way to catalogue stuff on the web? Or – God forbid – works out a new way to repackage money-lending as a ‘financial service’?

    I’ll put this another way. When it comes to being super-rich, exactly how many houses and/or cars and/or private yachts does one person need?

    Opportunity is great, if it gets someone a roof over their head and a fulfilling life. Conspicuous opportunity, of the kind practiced by the super-rich, is nothing but plain old-fashioned uncapped greed. And any political party that really cares about how the human race is going to live in the future will have to get their heads round that problem.

    Our resources are finite. And I’m not just talking about heating bills.

  44. “If, as the second person at the party said, they closed down all the private schools there would be a substantial increase in numbers at state schools. I suppose they could nationalise them.”

    They’d have to be nationalised, because I don’t really see how the hundreds of thousands of children currently attending private schools would receive the education they’re entitled to otherwise. But then, though that would be my ideal situation, I don’t see it ever actually happening. There’d be riots, I imagine.

    “People whose children go to private schools have already paid their whack for state education.”

    Indeed, but I don’t see why their children should receive a better education just because they’re more willing to acquire it for them, or more financially able. All children in a meritocratic society such as the one we (supposedly) live in should surely be given a fair and equal chance to succeed – and that means equal schooling, surely? After all, it’s not the fault of a gifted child if s/he has parents with low expectations and live in a deprived area, so why should they be penalised?

  45. OK so you then have standard schools. The child from the family with low expectations still has a ‘handicap’, in the form of their family. (This is not to imply that the familiy care any less for her than one with higher expectations). Do we replace the family? Of that child? Or the one whose current family has higher expectations?

    It’s part of the human condition that you don’t get to pick your family. My daughter realises the full horror of this every time I venture out in my tartan padded shirt. By all means let us do what we can to help raise children’s expectations to match their abilities. Over the past few years I have been involved, in an unpaid capacity, in schemes to help children raise their horizons with respect to further education. There is a lot of talent wasted. But education is not a zero sum game. Just because Boris and DC went to Eton and probably got a very good education in literature and classics or whatever, this didn’t diminish other peoples’ more modest education. Modern socialism seems to have turned into a form of chippiness for ever sneering and wanting to do the other fellow down. Very often the ‘other fellow’ is less well off than the ‘socialist’ who is ‘doing down’ on behalf of ‘the workers’. This isn’t what non-Marxian socialism was about.

  46. “OK so you then have standard schools. The child from the family with low expectations still has a ‘handicap’, in the form of their family. (This is not to imply that the familiy care any less for her than one with higher expectations). Do we replace the family? Of that child? Or the one whose current family has higher expectations?”

    No, of course you don’t. What you can do is offer the child as much help as possible with realising their potential, in the form of extra-curricular activities such as homework clubs, school trips, mentoring schemes, etc. etc.

    “Modern socialism seems to have turned into a form of chippiness for ever sneering and wanting to do the other fellow down.”

    I totally agree with you on that. The have-nots are forever lambasting the haves because of their financial, material or intellectual superiority – as we saw earlier with MarkE’s daughter.

  47. Markgamon, Your statement,

    “sorry mate, you’re a plonker. It wouldn’t make the slightest difference if the UK’s contribution was a mere 0.0000000001% recurring….we’re all in it together.”

    You don

  48. Stephen Howse

    Looks like we have reached a point of some agreement. I have no problem with taxes going to support such a program. The level of taxation is still to be fixed but this must be a pragmatic decision. If it’s supporting the development of individuals, whatever their talents and background, rather than social engineering to bring about equality, then I’m all for it.

  49. “If it’s supporting the development of individuals, whatever their talents and background, rather than social engineering to bring about equality, then I’m all for it.”

    Definitely. We have to work harder to ensure that the very best is gotten out of everybody at a younger age, not just the academically-inclined, so that the many can go on to develop the skills they’ll need when they enter the job market, whichever job it is that they want to do.

    Social mobility needs to be easier, though, and this works both ways – if a working-class boy wants to be a lawyer and has the ability to do it, his background must not be a barrier; and if a middle-class girl wants to be a mechanic, the same should apply. All jobs should be open to all people with the ability to do them.

  50. This thread seems like endless raking over long dead coals, searching for a spark of sense , with which to rekindle the, (for too long),neglected education system of which the UK used once to be rightly proud. Too much political tampering has gone on, with too much reliance on school grades, inflated by course work, which is apperently , in the main , accepted “as is”.

    If the School system is so superb, as we are often reminded,why do our elected MPs,amongst many others, trumpet how wonderful our State Schools are, then send their offspring to fee-paying schools?

    It is the height of hypocrisy, in particular of the left wing gurus, who whilst shouting, “Schools may not practice selectivity”, simultaneously and without caring a fig how it looks;practice another type of selectivity, even more divisive: the selectivity of the purse.

    Initially, the idea of Comprehensive education, similar to the American High School system, had its merits , alas in theory only. In practice it soon went down the road of ” Everyone must be seen to be treated equally”. Since when , on this Earth have children been of absolute parity, in any of the disciplines?

    Those whose natural bent is towards manual dexterity are as different from those with a mental dexterity more suited to academic subjects, as those who excel at sport are different from those not gifted in that field.

    If streaming were undertaken after all children had reached an acceptable standard in literacy,( whenever that might be), further useful steps could be taken to teach each stream those things most suited to the individual allotted to that stream. If a latent ability in either stream were to manifest itself , a change of horse , as it were ,in midstream, could be arranged.

    No amount of political spin can make the human inividual fit into one impossible ideological mould. And thank goodness for the differences.

  51. “No amount of political spin can make the human inividual fit into one impossible ideological mould. And thank goodness for the differences” so agree, and MarkE, what a sad story for your daughters friend. Can nothing be done? Even advice?

    Streaming in comprehensives is all very well but your are forgetting the social aspect. We moved when I was very young, I was pretty bright in junior school and won competitions and was always a bit bookish – I even have Hermione Graingers hair! I wanted to go to private school but no, I had to go to the local comp – it was huge, class sizes of AROUND 42. I was bullied more by the teachers than the students and I had my nose broken twice! Basically I was hated for being intelligent and ‘posh’. The language I used (normal polite english to me, as I would speak to my parents) was deemed insolent so believe me I quickly developed hatred, sarcasm and an accent I have to this day. Hermione Grainger had an easy ride with Snape compared to what I was put through. I hated school with a vengance.

    If places in private schools were available with little or no extra cost to the parents it has to be advertised somewhere the CHILDREN can see. Some parents don’t think it worthwhile, especially for girls! I went to university despite my parents not because of them. If I hadn’t had a grant and it was down to them paying I would never have got throught the door.

    I went to school in the 70’s – the type of government didn’t make much difference. Let’s hope it will.

  52. Mac

    I too have the feeling that I have said much the same many times over on this blog. But every now and then, especially when looking at others comtributions, I feel I’ve learnt a little more about the problem.

    The ideologues have got the party line about this – po faces when ‘selection’ is mentioned, gushing praise for more passes in even more dumbed down courses, a harsh look for those who don’t ‘celebrate the achievements of teachers and pupils’ etc. etc.. (If I am ordered to ‘celebrate’ anything else I shall not be responsible for my actions..).

    This blog has no party line but there is real discussion, showing a number of different angles. If the Conservatives want to win the next election they must overcome the trendy received wisdom of the ideologues. Real people having real imperfect discussions, warts and all, can only aid that.

    (I am working on the assumption that I am not the star in the Ramsey Show and that you e-folk are manifestations of a greater reality)

  53. I apologise for posting almost identical things , but I found a screwed up piece of paper as I was tidying through a drawer today,( so I’m not quite such an untidy person as some think) and there, on the said scrap of paper, some considerable time ago, I had jotted the following down:I found it cogent to this thread.

    If one were to examine the statistics school leaver

  54. A few thoughts, especially from Jaq, to pick up on after a weekend away from screens. The parents of the girl I referred to are trying to persuade their daughter that a sixth form college is not school and she will be allowed to get on with the work she wants to do. Although she missed her opportunity this year by not aapplying, there is hope that she will go back in September, so she’ll only have lost one year.

    I don’t think streaming by subject would have helped here because she would still have marked out as a boff. Therefore most children will prosper in an environment where they fit in with other children of similar ability and are not marked out. One problem with selection was the snobbish view of non academic subjects; a good plumber is worth more to society (and is less danger) than a bad doctor.

    One of the biggest problems problems I see lies with certain parents; while most want the best for their chidren there is a substantial minority who simply don’t believe in education. My own father took some flack at work for letting his “working class” son go to grammar school, and I have both admiration and gratitude for the way he stood up to it when some others didn’t (would that I were as big a man as he). There are people who believe education is wasted on girls, and not only in immigrant communities. I don’t think children of 11 are ready to make such important decisions for themselves, I don’t trust “the government”, or rather a civil servant (people make decisions, not organisations) and I’ve just said that not all parents would necessarily act in the best interests of their children. despite this, I think parents are the least unlikely to get it wrong, so I’d favour getting the decision as close to them as possible. Most private schools cost little more than state schools, so perhaps a voucher scheme giving all parents a free choice, preferably allied with schools setting their own entrannce criteria. This will never happen because it would be seen as subsidising “rich bastards” like me (eight year, 110k mile car, no holiday for three years and not nearly enough in my pension – no complaint because doing the right thing usually has a cost).

    I want equality of opportunity, that does not mean equality of outcome because not everyone wants the same things, nor are all capable of achieving the same.

  55. John East – the debate will have probably moved on by the time you read this, but I’ll try anyway.

    First, I did read what you said. What I find facile about your argument is the suggestion that ‘environmentalists’ are all advocating a return to the standard of living of the Middle Ages. They’re not.

    Second, what I find downwright infuriating about your argument are the cheap potshots at ‘naive tree-huggers’, ‘liberal airheads’, or ‘organic muesli knitting’. Those are ancient gags that were only funny the first time they were used. They do nothing to inform an adult debate about the most important issue of our time. And they’re as meaningless as me defining all conservatives as ‘green-welly wearing hoorays’. Please cut it out.

    Third, what I find downright depressing about your argument is that you ‘see no chance of reversing the trend’ – so, apart from a vague notion of ‘continuing to try to get multilateral agreements’, you appear to have resigned yourself to treating symptoms and not causes.

    I couldn’t agree more about the multilateral agreements. Hooray, we seem to have actually agreed one since this string was started. But meanwhile it behoves every one of us with a modicum of common sense to take unilateral action as well. This doesn’t mean marching in the street: it means nagging the car manufacturers to get a move on with their alternative fuel programmes; it means making a conscious effort to buy our food from local sources even if it is so much more convenient to drive to the local Tesco; it means recycling everything we can recycle; it means muttering in saloon bars until the government (left or right) finally gets the message that the correct place to apply taxation in the 21st century will be on polluters rather than homeowners or consumers; it means taking a long hard look at every aspect of our lifestyle and throwing out those aspects which are wasteful and destructive.

    None of this, of course, will stop India or China attempting to emulate our lifestyle. But this issue is not simply a matter of science, or pragmatism: it’s about morality as well – and morality is always unilateral. Just because the guy down the road tips engine oil into the street doesn’t mean I have to as well.

    I don’t give a damn what China or India do next. We in the UK know that the world faces massive environmental issues. We know we’re part of the problem (please let’s not bicker about percentages). And we know in our heart of hearts that we should try and become part of the solution. Now.

    John Logie Baird didn’t invent the television by waiting for the rest of the world to reach unilateral agreement. He sat in his flat and got on with it.

  56. I guess the other reason why you need to provide a good state education is that private schools impact on family planning.

    Middle class people who pay for private school education by and large really struggle to do so. They realise that they won’t be able to pay for more than one or two sets of fees and typically have only a couple of children because the costs of raising them are so high. This is replicated generation after generation with a gradual diminution of this group.

    If you want these people to have more children you need to provide not only selective education based on intellectual merit but also just very good schools with other people ‘like them’.

    I think you need selective schools for bright people but I also think there should be schools that are private/public where governments contribute the lions share but parents also make a contribution to pay for things like maths and science teachers or improved facilities.

    In the end teachers and pupils are what make the school. I think there should be a way for communities to pay for the teachers they need. There must be a market system where you can pay more for better and specialist teachers and the teachers can be rewarded for exceptional work.

    Governments can’t afford to pay more for teachers but parents can afford to do so if they feel they had ownership over their school.

    What does ownership entail? A sense that the school is attended by parents and children ‘like them’.

    Meaning that there is a certain amount of consensus about how you are educated, why you are educated and what you are educated for.

    Highly culturally, financially, socially diverse schools won’t work.
    Nor will schools where the outlooks of parents and children are highly varied.
    Locality based schools are a fairly good idea but schools should always have the capacity to let in other pupils on interview.
    Children who are very bright should be able to opt out and go to selective schools.
    Children who are better suited to trades should be able to get early training in their field of choice and the very rich should be able to obtain the private education they always have done.

    Governments should top up the funds of schools in the very poorest areas select out the bright and those that will be able to have lucrative careers in trades and I do also think there should be a (limited) use of corporal punishment as teachers currently have no effective methods of disciplining a class at all and hence in a school with lots of rowdy kids parents now have only the option of taking their kids out and putting them into a private school if they want them to succeed.

  57. “If you want these people to have more children you need to provide not only selective education based on intellectual merit but also just very good schools with other people ‘like them’.”

    But you need different types of people to mix if our society as a whole is going to function to its full potential.

    “I think you need selective schools for bright people but I also think there should be schools that are private/public where governments contribute the lions share but parents also make a contribution to pay for things like maths and science teachers or improved facilities.”

    Or you could just do it entirely through tax, meaning that poor children are able to go to these better schools too!

    “the very rich should be able to obtain the private education they always have done.”

    I’ve already said plenty about this, I think, but I’ll repeat: Why should money determine the chances of a child doing well in life? Fee-paying schools strengthen class boundaries and decrease social mobility, which has to be seen, in a meritocratic society, as a negative. Unless, of course, you actively want to keep classes of people separate.

    “Highly culturally, financially, socially diverse schools won’t work.”

    Why shouldn’t they? Keeping different cultures and classes of people together can surely only heighten the tensions between different groups of people, anyway.

    “Children who are very bright should be able to opt out and go to selective schools.”

    Nope, don’t agree with that at all. I can’t be bothered to recount all of the arguments put forward in this thread, but they’re all there somewhere.

    “Children who are better suited to trades should be able to get early training in their field of choice and the very rich should be able to obtain the private education they always have done.”

    The inference here is that poor children will only ever be ‘suited’ to trades, at least that’s how I read it. I fully agree that those children who want to go into a trade should be given every opportunity to do so, but to divide up which children can do what by class is, in my opinion, morally reprehensible.

  58. Mark,
    I accept that you are passionate in your desire to make futile gestures, but I recommend you take a look at Nulabour. Much as it goes against my usual extreme antipathy towards Nulabour, the brief exchange in prime ministers questions last week between Blair and Cameron on the environment was a clear victory for Blair. Cameron came across as an unsure, unilateralist who has obviously still to be told what to do in this area.

    In the short term, I’d settle for what I suspect is the Blair approach, although his inability to follow up his words with effective policies suggests that a future government will have to follow his lead if anything is to happen.

    Blair stated that a multilateral approach is the way forward, and quite rightly. Any country unilaterally sacrificing economic growth and saddling its population with high energy costs and low pollution policies will simply be committing economic suicide.

    Blair has also made it clear lately that nuclear power will form a cornerstone of our reduced CO2 emissions policy in the future. This is something that we can and will do unilaterally.

    I would also increase R&D on alternative energy sources, ways to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and climate modelling/prediction.

    And having done all of this I would make it clear to the tree huggers and muesli knitters (Mark, I’ll debate the way I chose) that they should shut up because there is no way that we are going to return to the stone age just to assuage their white middle class guilt.

    In the short term, this is all we can and should do, although I repeat what I said before, these measures will bring about negligible improvement world wide, but they are still worth doing anyway as they are either low cost or of benefit to us in other ways.

    It should be obvious that much more drastic measures will be necessary to have any meaningful global impact. This is the area that will need close multilateral co-operation, which I believe will not be secured. So, whilst pressing for this on the one hand, on the other hand I would take what measures were possible to manage environmental change.

    And just because you find this scenario so distateful, doesn’t mean that it is not the most likely outcome.

  59. It was not my intention to imply that class has any intrinsic link to different skill sets. I don’t believe it to be predictive.

  60. MarkE – cheering news about the girl, I do hope she accepts a place. Unfortunately one’s trust is not always secure in the officials, you are so right when you say people, not institutions make decisions. After A levels I wanted to write, that was my life’s heartfelt ambition. I secured a place at a good uni to read English and Art history. When I saw the careers advisor he told me it would equip me to be an english teacher and nothing more. I asked him about journalism and he said I could get a job on a local paper. Even the official guy told me there was no point in going. I didn’t go. Young people are so impressionable and if you’re brought up to be a good girl and do as your told, you tend to.

    The voucher scheme seems such a good idea. Then CHILDREN may be able to benefit. Trouble is the options need to be explained to them with no side. I agree that parents are the best to do that and decisions should be kept as close to them as possible. The Tories mooted this voucher idea – why won’t it take off then?

    Mark Gammon – you said “‘environmentalists’ are all advocating a return to the standard of living of the Middle Ages. They’re not” At the risk of sounding flippant, I would say that conditions in the middle ages, contrary to popular belif, were often a lot better than the poorest today. If you offered me a well constructed wattle and daub in a forest compared to a damp, high-rise council flat, I know which one I’d choose!

    And when you say: “it means nagging the car manufacturers to get a move on with their alternative fuel programmes” – yes. They’re a business out to make money not a social charity. When a business has an impact on society I agree it should contribute and be regulated but that’s outside their control. I’m uncomfortable MAKING them research so nagging is better. I think it comes naturally with regulation, discussion and marketing trends. Taxation can also be a factor but I wouldn’t legislate to apply force. The companies already have one helluva game trying to comply to the often ridiculous targets some know-nothing dickhead sets in a conference room somewhere, usually Brussells.

    When you say: “it means making a conscious effort to buy our food from local sources even if it is so much more convenient to drive to the local Tesco” I so agree. I much prefer it but getting it is another matter. Often it’s not a case of simple indolence but the fact one can’t find the stuff, or get to it. For example, I joined a (very expensive) box scheme then stopped it when I discovered they just got the goods from a warehouse which took deliveries from all over the planet. I thought I was buying local! I think it would help if the Farmers assoc (or whatever – DEFRA? Farmers union?) had a website that farmers could advertise on and you could type in your postcode and bingo! Pop along the farm. I found one where they not only sell their produce but have PYO and a happy summer was had by all the berry stained children in our social group. You can get so much more by not going to the supermarket. The butchers don’t flirt with me any more though. (And is that rhumatism I feel comming on?)

    I find that Asian business people tend to be so much better at clubbing together for the benefit of all. Perhaps Farmers clubs could encourage this idea. It’s getting to know people that matters.

  61. Private schools are not better schools primarily because they are richer.

    They are often (but not always) better because of the kinds of children they attract and the kids who are selected out.

    Basically with a private school kids are able to get on with their education rather than being hampered by constant disciplinary problems.

    You might get a slightly better standard of teacher as well but not always. Teachers at private schools don’t get paid much more than in the state system and often they will be paid less but they would prefer to work in an environment where there is a culture of learning and fewer problems with discipline.

    Not surprisingly that is what parents want for their children too.

    I think the private school system should be applied to the public sector basically.

    I don’t believe diverse groups of people work together. In an ideal world they would work together. I just know from my observation of people and how they operate in groups that people want to be with others ‘like them’. Small amounts of diversity can be wonderful but by and large even if people have the best intentions intellectually when it comes to how they act they try to be with others like themselves.

    Why base an education system around an unreal sense of the way people operate?

    It simply won’t work as it doesn’t now.

  62. Vicus,
    In the light of your self proclaimed victory I’m forced to concede that the unilateral argument has triumphed. Please feel free to unilaterally adopt pedal power, to turn off your central heating, and get closer to nature. In like spirit, I’ll unilaterally do what I chose.

  63. John East

    You know what’s bizarre here? I suspect we agree on most of this. Yes, we should pursue a multilateral approach – and it’s already paid some small dividend this week. Yes, we should consider the nuclear option (but VERY VERY rigorously). Yes, we should increase R and D on renewable sources – though we may end up arguing about how much of an increase).

    So where do we differ? You seem happy to leave it there. It’s up to the government, guv – there’s nothing we can do as private individuals.

    Sorry, but there is. I’m not even talking about recycling plastic bags or turning off lights, important as that stuff is: I’m talking about changing our attitudes. Around here virtually every second car is a gas-hungry 4×4. Now I’m not stupid: I know that farmers sometimes have to drive over ploughed fields and a Land-Rover is a very useful vehicle. But the rest of us can get by perfectly happily with something that uses a lot less fuel, and stay at home on the one day a year when it actually snows.

    So why do so many of us drive round in these things? Because we’re greedy. Because it makes us feel big. Because we’re slaves to fashion and marketing. Because we can’t tell the difference between brand loyalty and self-respect.

    You may be right. The answer may lie in ‘managing environmental change’ rather than heading it off at the pass. Some of the management solutions lie in the things we agree on. What I find terrifying and saddening is the implication that we don’t have to do anything ourselves until the Chinese fall in line. Because (as I’m sure you’ll agree) they won’t. Not unless someone shows them a better way.

    We should figure out what that way is. If that means doing the thing off our own bat, let’s have the courage to do it.

    And meanwhile, debate any way you like. But be aware that cheap jaded potshots at ‘tree-huggers’ are absolutely no way to draw people into your argument. It might be what you like, but it works against you.

  64. Jaq – sorry, you misunderstood. I wasn’t saying that environmentalists were advocating a return to the Middle Ages. I was suggesting that was what John East appeared to think.

    Genuine environmentalists look forward.

  65. Jaq (again) – I agree that nagging businesses is much much better than legislation. Businesses wil lalways go where the market is – and if the market says it’s hacked off with petrol-fuelled cars, then the car manufacturers will deump petrol toot sweet you see if they don’t.

    My one exception to that is the question of taxation. It seems to me that at the start of this new century the one change that any government could usefully make is to rethink the moral framework of public funding. It’s simple economics: if you want the planet cleaned up, hit the people responsible for the dirt where they’ll feel it – in the pocket.

  66. “They are often (but not always) better because of the kinds of children they attract and the kids who are selected out.”

    Yes, primarily children with money. How can that ever be right?

  67. Mark Gammon – “we should consider the nuclear option” ? No we bloody well shouldn’t! (short answer, I can smell dinner done, sorry)

    and a 4×4? What joy! Ihad a series Landrover called Horace and I loved him so much. Have you ever driven a top of the range Rangerover? F***ing fantastic!!!! Oops sorry, my petrolhead’s showing.

    Charlotte – “I just know from my observation of people and how they operate in groups that people want to be with others ‘like them'” – thank God someone’s actually noticed how people are – you should be in the cabinet.

  68. Mark Gamon,
    At last, a poster on the site of a Tory politician who has a clue about traditional liberal principles:

    “…if the market says it’s hacked off with petrol-fuelled cars, then the car manufacturers will dump petrol toot sweet you see if they don’t.”

    (Did anyone notice that when oil went up to $70/barrel the sales of 4×4’s in the States fell off a cliff?), but then you blotted your copy book with:

    “It seems to me that at the start of this new century the one change that any government could usefully make is to..hit the people responsible..in the pocket.”

    Uh, Oh, another tax and spend control freak. Ah well, the evidence on this thread suggests that there is no shortage of socialists in the Tory party.

  69. Jaq – I once did a photoshoot in the wilds of Scotland with the Army. We turned up in somebody’s Range Rover, pleased as punch with ourselves. The Colonel of the Regiment invited us to follow his boys (who were driving Land Rovers) up a particularly steep hill. His exact words were ‘If you can keep up in the that Gucci LandRover of yours’.

    Four-Wheel Drive is a fashion accessory. So are big engines. I’m all for people having them, if they want. But the polluter has to pay. This is a new century, and our attitudes have to change.

    John East – see above. I understand exactly how markets work. But government has a role to play here. If you leave everything to the markets, you end up with the kind of economic crap that Reagan and Thatcher bequeathed us. If you take away government altogether, you arrive at the Feudal System.

    What I’m looking for here is a way to go FORWARD. And I’d love to see tax reductions as part of that – or rather, a re-application of taxes. I have no idea at all why VAT exists – or even what it means. Do you? I do think consumption should be taxed, to some degree at least. But I see no rational reason whatsoever why we shouldn’t tax pollution. You want to drive a Ferrari? Fine. But be prepared to pay for the emissions as well as the car. You want to be lazy about recycling your newspapers? Fine. We’ll reflect your attitude in local taxes.

    Before you ask, I’ve no idea EXACTLY how this principle should be applied. All I’m saying is let’s look forward, and stop kowtowing to principles that have proved themselves time and time again to be flawed.

    Let’s figure out something BETTER than market economics. Or socialism. Or whatever we’ve used in the past to keep ourselves from killing each other. Because this time we really CAN kill each other, just by sitting on our backsides and doing nothing.

  70. Mark G. You made remarks about the manufacturer taking responsibility for his actions in producing a pollution machine:- He is not alone in his culpability, since he produces only those products demanded by the consumer. The amount in punitive tax he might have to pay would inevitably be passed on to the consumer, and the spiral would grow.A Socialists answer.

    Unnecessary gas guzzling 4x4s: a different kettle of chav fish!:

    These ought to be taxed to extinction, unless there were a really valid requirement for an owner to use one in pursuit of a productive use, e.g. farming in heavy terrain. However, it should be said that it behoves us not to advise Prudence where he might glean extra taxes: he already has a superfluity of overpriced private advisers, plus an army of Civil Servants, to point him in the right direction there.

    Nowadays, the,

  71. “If what is available from the State is not good enough, the parents must have the right to provide alternative schooling: I find thet it should not be necessary :unfortunately it too often is.”

    Yeah, which is why the Education White Paper outlines proposals to give parents the powers to set up their own schools. Of course, it’s just gonna be middle-class parents by and large that go for this, but it’s still preferable to independent schools.

    Of course it shouldn’t be necessary for parents to have to go outside of the state system, but surely the remedy to that is to ensure that the state system is improved so that all children may benefit, instead of going to private schools that can only ever serve the privileged few?

    “If State Schools were considered equal to the private sector, at least in educational terms, , the need for such choices would not present itself. ”

    There are lots of excellent state schools that’re equal to the best private schools in terms of facilities and teaching… trouble is, these schools are proving more and more difficult for poor children to get into, as middle-class parents hog all the places by buying all the houses in the catchment areas – thus pushing prices up and making it even harder for poor kids to get in.

  72. I am assuming that most of you are Tory supporters. If this is not the case please ignore what I say below. Anyone left professing conservative values please read on. Many of you appear clueless concerning Tory principles.
    Labour love taxing and spending to fund all of their social engineering and managerial incompetence. The Tories stand for lower taxes and smaller government. Agreed?

    Not only have I seen calls on this thread for state interference and control of our legal choices, but I

  73. Mark Gamon – “I once did a photoshoot in the wilds of Scotland with the Army” – I’m tempted to say ‘WOW, that sounds great’ as I am interested in photography and confess that watching fit blokes dressed in very little from a gucci landrover does not strike me as unpleasant (better than eating stale xmas cake at an aunts you’ve never liked) but no doubt you’ll have a poor view of that opinion (hey I’m decent, not dead!)

    I have to say that Horace was not a fashion accesory, he was a lifestyle choice. All the people I know with series landrovers have other cars. We would take them out on weekends and race off road or take the caravan out on a weekend (a series II landrover pulling an ancient caravan – nightmare to follow, I felt like popping out every few miles to apologise) Most of the time I’d be covered in oil fiddling with something. We’d congregate at Landrover spares shops in the country and at landrover fairs (which you needed the van for). I loved Horace so much. He’s gone now…sniff. 🙁

  74. John E:” If it walks;talks Etc. then it is a Socialist”If I might quote G. K. Chesterton:
    “All Conservatism is based upon the idea that if you leave things alone you leave them as they are. But you do not. If you leave a thing alone you leave it to a torrent of change.”
    ——-
    That was Chesterton

  75. You see? You’re all banging on about cars, and what they say about you. Precisely my point. Fashion accessories.

    Jaq – errr. The fit blokes were wearing about forty layers including long johns, and the temperature was several degrees below zero. Does it still sound an attractive prospect?

  76. The principle difference between a private and a state education appears, to me, to be simply this: State educators teach how to regurgitate “knowledge”, private educators teach how to learn. Naturally, this tends to give those with a private education an advantage in life. This is a generalisation, of course…but it’s true on the whole.

    It’s to any governments advantage to keep a large section of the potential workforce “ignorant” – Otherwise they (the people) may start to realise what a con capitalism is! Unfortunately, the side effect of this is that people are now too stupid (ill-educated is probably a better term) to realise that their pursuit of wealth and status is destroying our once beautiful planet, and will soon lead to the virtual (possibly total) extinction of our species. Hey Ho, I suppose that’s the way the cookie gets stomped on and totally annihilated!

    As nice as the thought IS that all people are equal in ability, the reality is that we are all individuals. And it is patently WRONG that the acheivers are dumbed down to form a more “equal” society. A better solution would be to educate everyone to respect others talents, not to resent them, and to cease this pursuit of personal gain: We are all humans, and we all share this planet, and our actions affect everyone else. Responsibility is the watchword!

    Whilst i’m here, a quick rant about “key workers” too! It’s all very well the Government deciding that teachers, nurses, doctors, etc., are key workers and should get preferential treatment…but can a school or hospital remain open without the cleaners, administrators, caretakers, electricians, plumbers, maintenance bods, etc? Surely all these people must be “key workers” too?

    As to the class divide: I know several clearly middle-class people who swear they are working class (even insisting on wearing hob-nailed boots and flatcaps!). I’m told (by them) i’m middle-class, but i work as a gasman…which would make me working class. The conclusion that i must reach, therefore, is that any form of class divide is merely self-indulgent snobbishness – and doesn’t actually exist, anymore, in any real sense. But, then, if you don’t teach people how to learn…

  77. Right on Psimon!

    Although I would suggest that the capitalist con is more honest than the socialist con. Capitalism provides a motor that means we could all have decent lives – it’s up to us to moderate our desire for personal gain. The capitalists don’t rush around in their top hats preventing us from giving to charity. Socialism seems only able to do this by regimenting or in extremis, killing millions of people. Strangely enough I seem to know a lot of socialists who are not averse to a good deal of personal gain themselves.

    I’m middle class myself. I’m quite good at it. I recall a Hancock’s Half Hour where Sid James set up a Gents School. Maybe I could got into private education and set up a school for those who wish to be middle class. What should be on the syllabus?

  78. “State educators teach how to regurgitate “knowledge”, private educators teach how to learn.”

    I don’t see why that’d be the case, as they get pretty much the same training. Maybe state teachers (generally) merely regurgitate because of the children they’re dealing with?

  79. Discipline is higher in private schools, certainly, and the philosophy behind the education process tends to be different as well.

    My old school’s motto is: ‘Persto et praesto’ – I persist and excel. I was taught to accept nothing, and to challenge everything. I have worked in a state school. They are taught to challenge nothing (except, maybe, themselves). Drones for the hive, i suppose. You are quite correct…there SHOULDN’T be a difference, but there clearly is.

  80. Jack:

    I agree that the capitalist con is more honest than the socialist con. I merely ask that people think about possible repercussions from their actions, and act responsibly. Treat others as we wish to be treated. Peace, man! (It’s the hippy in me)

    As to Hancock’s Half Hour…every Tuesday on BBC7, listen again feature from the website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/bbc7/index.shtml?logo

    …well, it keeps me off the streets!

    :o)

  81. “You are quite correct…there SHOULDN’T be a difference, but there clearly is.”

    The only way I see to eradicate inequalities between the two systems is to eradicate either one or the other, to be honest. (I.e. private education, for all the obvious reasons.) I would actually rather see the return of grammar schools and abolish private schools than have the system as it is at the moment, where to get a decent education you have to pay – at least with grammar schools, poorer kids have SOME chance.

  82. Psimon

    HHH on Radio 7 and Bleak House, now sadly finished, are about the only reasons for keeping the BBC, now the Simpsons have moved to Channel 4.

    Stephen

    If a genuine improvement were made, not necessarily grammar schools a la 11+ etc., but something that took account of differences for the benefit of all, then many private schools would be out of business. I’m not saying that private schools out of business is a good thing per se but if the state could provide a better service economically then let it.

    Although Mark Gammon was very grumpy in another thread about my views on this topic he had a point. Some (sensible) imaginative thinking is required freed from chains of ideology whether that be Marxian statism or capitalist anarchy. I think the Conservative Party now has an opportunity to do that. They mustn’t let themslves be wrong footed by the likes of Two Jags using words like ‘selection’ as some sort of bogey to make the more sensitive members of the middle classes jump into (the party) line.

  83. There is, even today, a measure of pupil selection practiced, albeit by other means , if a report on Radio 4 this AM were to be believed.

    Although supposedly forbidden by governmental edict , schools have the right to interview parents.( the right to this practice was upheld by a court earlier this year). If this is not a kind of selection process , I do not know what is.

    In my area there are a number of good comprehensive schools, and a couple which are less so. The competition to gain entry to the good ones is fierce , and increasingly people outside the catchment area are demanding entry for their children to the good ones , using the so called freedom of parental choice,thereby leaving a proportionate number of local children bereft of places of their choice.

    If the defunct Grammar Schools were still in business , the pressure on the remaining schools would be eased, and everyone could be acconmmodated.

    Finally , one great problem with the less able schools , seems to be their inability tio impose discipline . It is of course not necessarily the fault of the school, but restrictions on the application of diciplinary measures , coupled with the culture of ” Rights ,& bugger the responsibilities” of some parents , can only exacerbate the teachers’ problems. Discipline is paramount in the successful, stressfree managemant of any any section of society, and it is even more of a necessity in schools.

  84. I’ve got to say I’m completely with Psimon on this one. And whilst I agree with discipline in schools, my personal experience, recently, has been that pursuit of discipline was completely overboard and to the detriment of the child (my child as it happens). I’m uncomfortable championing one behaviour or another ie: kids can do anything vs kids can do nothing – I know that’s not what you mean Mac but not everyone would exercise your good judgment. Often, I think, people use fashionable ideologies to excuse their own extreem behaviour so putting the emphasis on learning to the best of their ability and not punishing the pursuit of personal excellence (Jack, was that your point?) surely places the focus elsewhere and hopefully encourages common sense with regard to discipline. In the current climate you’re going to say ‘no’ I can feel it!

  85. “Mr Howse:
    You ARE John Prescott, and i claim my five pounds!”

    I’m going to take that as a very big compliment. =)

  86. It’s probably for the best that you take that as a compliment.

    Of course, only one other person would probably actually agree with you…maybe he’ll lend you one of his jags!

    ;o)

    Naturally, as people won’t be able to spend money how they wish under your plan, no one will be allowed to earn more than the minimum wage too? After all, we don’t want the poor fryers at McWimpy King getting jealous of the wages earned by plumbers or stockbrokers, eh?!

  87. Jaq

    I think that was along the lines I meant so I’m not saying ‘no’. Although I don’t believe in magical solutions I can’t help thinking that if education is pursued for what it should be – providing useful knowledge and skills for the good of individuals and society, enhancing people as cultural beings and providing them with a constructively critical faculty – rather than egalitarian social engineering then perhaps many of the tensions that exarcebate discipline problems at present might be eased.

    Stephen and Psimon

    When a;;’s said and done I quite like Prezza. Some snooty types mock him for his dodgey syntax but, as one who in speech often find myself stranded in the middle of a sentence without a verb in sight, I not only sympathise but applaud the game way he biffs on. Better him than that po faced old fraud Anthony Wedgewood Benn say I!

  88. Jaq: Pull out of Europe? Surely a better idea would be to invade them and seize their assets!

    Joking, of course…but i should point out that we have maintained the balance of power in Europe for quite a few centuries now. It would be a shame to let them all go poof after all this time….

    ;o)

  89. “Naturally, as people won’t be able to spend money how they wish under your plan…”

    They won’t need to, more like. Surely nationalising private schools is just as advantageous to the middle classes as the working classes, as it means their kids get the education they want them to without having to shell out thousands and thousands of pounds a year more?

    “When a;;’s said and done I quite like Prezza… Better him than that po faced old fraud Anthony Wedgewood Benn say I!”

    Hear, hear! I really love, and identify with, the man’s bluntness and outspokenness on issues that the more timid in the party refuse point-blank to speak out on. We need more like him if we’re to retain any semblance of being a leftist party, I think.

    “no one will be allowed to earn more than the minimum wage too?”

    I have no problem with wage inequalities between different jobs whatsoever; I actually believe in money (and the material possessions it brings) as an incentive to do well and to work hard.

  90. “(I should point out that I am pro the common market idea, but somewhat anti the United States of Europe bit)”

    Seconded.

  91. Somewhat Psi? somewhat?? Actually I like your first idea it would kill two birds with one stone and get the troops out of iraq. But hang on a minute….hasn’t someone tried to do that before? Invade Europe? And Britain tends to force roads and railway infrastructures and investment on the countries we invade. I’m not sure we could actually afford the pillaging Psi. Best just all come home for xmas then.

  92. Whoa! I’m number 100!

    Can I claim my prize Melissa? I’d like the xmas eve winning lottery ticket and Tony Bliar out of Downing Street – don’t tell me, you’re working on it!

  93. Psi: A propos the conundrum of remaining / exiting Europe: you said: ‘It would be a shame to let them all go poof after all this time….

    That is , if I might just say, very Politically IN-correct considering who is the European Commissioner for Trade. Joking aside, this thread is basically about the class divide, and here we have a real illustration of that phenomenon :two ends of one strand – Peter Mandelson in the Blue corner , and John Prescott in the Infra Red.

    If I might paraphrase a leader writer’s comments from a today’s issue of a national daily newspaper:
    Is it not amazing that Prescott,is allowed, in essence,to say, ‘We are at our best when fighting the nobs’: the Tory party is ‘The Eton Mafia’?

    It would surely be equally repugnant if Cameron were to say ‘We are at our best when we’re fighting the oiks’ ; coupled with, ‘The sink estate Comprehensive terrorists’.

    Neither of the two personifications is true, so why is it necessary for the first one to have been uttered?

    Why has no one castigated Prescott? Labour would surely ,and quite rightly, scream blue murder if the second were to be said, even in jest.

  94. “The sink estate Comprehensive terrorists”

    Tenner says that come the next election, that’s the Party’s official name.

  95. Help! I seem to be the only one not using pointy brackets! If anyone wants to get started with them then, along with all the excellent advice given already, you might like to use View/Source to see how people have used it (HTML I mean). Regrettably as a noveau Conservative, I am completely against change, as Vicus notes, and so will plod along with ungarnished text. But well done everyone else!

  96. Stephen: Is it not more than probable that the reason private schools give a better education (on average) is BECAUSE they aren’t run by the government? And you want to nationalise them? Don’t worry, the hospital for people who think like that is very soft and warm, and the pyjamas have very long sleeves! Just steer clear of the Indian bloke…he tends to throw drinking fountains through windows!

    :o)

  97. Jack – I didn’t know I was a conservative till Mac told me so. Read Polly today (on schools and education as it happens). I wondered why Hitch urged me to read her stuff and I admit I did worry that it was an attempt to divert me as I seem to argue with him or that perhaps he thought I might find a home for my opinions as I seem to argue with him, but no. The most that a journalist can hope for is that they promote consideration and discussion of something, which here we see Boris doing with success and style. Just listening to people as I go through life tells me that Hitch is successful. So what of Polly? Now I understand – even the most ardent supporter of Blair ‘smells a rat’. Reading her column was so reassuring.

  98. I AM IN LURVE!!

    With a Bugatti Baydon(?) as it happens. Did you see it on Top Gear? Ohhhhh Maaayn! 1000BHP, 0-60 in 2.5seconds, 100 litre tank that at top speed is gone in 12 mins! Mark Gamon cast the petrolhead demon from my body because I LOVE THIS CAR! It cost 5M to make so I’d have to win the xmas eve lottery to get it and then no-one would insure me. If I was happily married to Hitch I would insist he ditch the Volvo and drive this car till he giggled (whoohoo) and if I gave it to Boris he’d never give it back! Sex on wheels from this distance Mark!

    AND the star in the reasonably priced car was the fabulous Nigel Mansell (we are not worthy). But sadly I missed the performance of our glorious leader in said car and would love to know details of same. They’re doing re-runs on Sky so there’s hope yet if anyone knows and would tell me??

    and it’s back to the studio for more education education education…

  99. “Stephen: Is it not more than probable that the reason private schools give a better education (on average) is BECAUSE they aren’t run by the government? And you want to nationalise them?”

    I don’t necessarily see why that should be so, to be honest. Bloody Conservatives, always underestimating the ability of the State to provide for its people!

  100. I just laughed so much i piddled myself.

    Underestimating the ability of the state to provide for its people!!

    Nope, just piddled myself again!

    :oD

  101. “I just laughed so much i piddled myself.

    Underestimating the ability of the state to provide for its people!!

    Nope, just piddled myself again!

    :oD”

    How exactly is such pessimism and negativity going to result in any improvement in public services…? Unless, of course, you actually want public services to go down the drain. Which, being a Tory, I’m guessing you might – then people’ll have no choice to look to charity for handouts. It’ll be just like the ‘modern Britain’ ‘Dave’ Cameron’s dreaming of. If a pre-1900 system of welfare and services can be called modern, that is!

  102. Pessimism and negativity, eh? Well, let’s see. You have already admitted that private education is better than the standard state education (on average). You see this as elitism, so you want to see private schools brought under the state system. A system you have already admitted has failings.

    How does this support your argument that the state knows best? (Or, at least, knows what it is doing!)

    If private schools ensure a better standard of education (and there are exceptions on both sides for this), surely bringing state schools UP to the standard is a better idea than reducing private schools to a lower level?

    With the previous few years being full of illegal wars, reductions in our freedoms, and a clear move towards a police state, do you really still trust the state to get things right?

    Remember, too, that those who are prepared to pay EXTRA for a private education (they still pay for a state education for their offspring too) are not necessarily rich. Maybe they drive second hand cars, eat supermarket brand beans, never go out to pubs or restaurants, and don’t holiday in order to give the kids a better chance. How dare you poop on their sacrifice!

    Many things in life are “one size fits all”. Education ISN’T one of them!

  103. “Remember, too, that those who are prepared to pay EXTRA for a private education (they still pay for a state education for their offspring too) are not necessarily rich. Maybe they drive second hand cars, eat supermarket brand beans, never go out to pubs or restaurants, and don’t holiday in order to give the kids a better chance.”

    I don’t believe that they should have to, though. A good education should be a birth right, not a privilege. I don’t see why it has to be one or the other, really – that a family has to make sacrifices so the children can get a head start over their peers. The way I see it is, if you’ve paid for your kids to be educated by the state, then the state should be doing its utmost to provide the education you want them to have – and I fail to see how this can happen when the best schools are all privately run.

    Nationalising private schools would mean that the pupils burden would be shared much more fairly between schools, and average state sector class sizes would fall as a result, thus meaning a better standard of teaching, more attention/support from teachers, and a better education.

    The needs of the many, I feel, must take preference over the privileges of the few – especially where something as important and determining as education is concerned.

    “A system you have already admitted has failings.”

    I’m not denying that the state system has failings – and nor is the government, which is why there will be an Education Bill in the new year. I’m going to wait and see what the proposals of the bill are exactly before passing further comment on it. I *will* say that I disagree with large parts of the White Paper, but the AWP does address some of these problems while keeping the sp

    “If private schools ensure a better standard of education (and there are exceptions on both sides for this), surely bringing state schools UP to the standard is a better idea than reducing private schools to a lower level?”

    That would be the ideal situation, yes.

    “You have already admitted that private education is better than the standard state education (on average).”

    Considering that the top public schools charge £23k a year in fees, you would hope so!

  104. Stephen Howse:
    Pessimism is the natural response to having had many promises , which, apparently inevitably, end in bitter disappointment.

    It is easier to see a glass as half empty, when you see the amount ebbing away by the second, than to see it as half full when it would take a miracle to reverse the ebbing tide.

    It is the antithesis of the King Knut syndrome, Blair and his band cannot stem the ebb.

  105. I prefer to see the glass as neither half-full nor half-empty…but as being the wrong size!

    If a decent education cost £23,000 a year, then surely we should all just pay more taxes to fund a similar state system? Personally, i think that is a poor idea. But, if that’s what it costs, the choices are more taxes or allowing those that want to pay more voluntarily to pay voluntarily. Nationalising private schools is NOT the right-sized glass!

    We’d all like to have beluga caviar, but most of us have to be stuck with lumpfish. Metaphorically speaking. (Fish eggs are ok, but a little overated. Fois Gras, on the other hand, fully justifies cruelty to geese!)

    Besides, as i said previously, what do you think gives you the right to tell people how and where they can spend their hard-earned spondulix? Authoritarians are not my cup of tea. Liberty is the way forward…it’s time to start taking personal responsibility, for, with that, comes freedom. And, as the Human Rights Act states “all people are born free and equal, and should treat each other in a spirit of brotherhood”. A fine sentiment. Less rules, more respect for our individualities. Free the hippy within!!

    ;o)

  106. Top private schools do not actually charge £23k for tuition; that is their boarding rate, so accomodation is in there as well. The cost for a day pupil is little more than the average cost of a state pupil. More can then be spent on education because there is no LEA infrastructure to syphon off funds.

    I resent the money I have to pay for my children’s education over the taxes I’m already paying, but the alternative (abandon them to the local school, with well known problems denied by the school staff) is unacceptable.

    I would love to every pupil in a private school, with NO government involvement, let parents decide what they want for their children. This could be achieved with a voucher that followed each child, and parents completely free to apply to any school. Each school should also be free to impose whatever selection criteria it wanted (Academic, sporting, musical, religeous or even appeareance – we only take blonds). It will not happen because (as I said a long way above) it will be seen as subsidising “rich” people like me, and selection works, so it can’t be allowed.

  107. All hail Psi! Well said that man.

    With the previous few years being full of illegal wars, reductions in our freedoms, and a clear move towards a police state, do you really still trust the state to get things right?

    No I don’t

    Nationalising private schools would mean that the pupils burden would be shared much more fairly between schools, and average state sector class sizes would fall as a result, thus meaning a better standard of teaching, more attention/support from teachers, and a better education

    No that’s too simplistic you are ignoring reality – the reality is that an entirely different culture of learning exists in private schools and just reducing class sizes in state schools will not automatically morph them into good schools. It will do good but won’t magically solve all the problems.

    Let’s look at some of the problems of society and see the solutions introduced into schools to combat them:

    * teenage pregnancy – sex education introduced, NOT just in a factual way as would be consistent with marriage and the established morality of this country but encompassing all perversions. Has this solved the problem? It has not. Education education education did not work.

    * Bullying and racism – has ANYTHING the government imposed on education done anything to reduce this dreadful behaviour? No, it is still rife in schools (AND in the workplace)

    * Acheivement – what a cock-up! National controversy over wrongly marked papers, adjusted results and the move toward coursework throught education; secondary through tertiary, has devalued ALL achievement for hardworking students that do not deserve this.

    Education education education has been a disaster for this goverment. What little success they have had has been far outweighed by the politically correct stupidity they have imposed. Why are teachers being prosecuted for defending a student being attacked? Why are 5 year olds being taught about sex? Sometimes adopting a practice that WORKED should be applauded not critisised, however oldfashioned that practice may be considered. After all, breathing has been around for centuries but it’s good for me. Change for the sake of change isn’t always the best policy and we’ve had too many quick fixes from this government. Mac was right when he said “Blair and his band” cannot fix this.

  108. Stephen H:
    You claim the Conservatives are always underestimating the ability of the State Etc.

    That statement is hardly apposite , when anyone who will, can see that the state does NOT provide ,nor does it appear CAPABLE of providing, of equal quality or even quantity , the same level of education for approximately 15% of its people, if I quote several reports of illiteracy in school leavers’ over rhe last year or so, not least one by an eminent industrial employers body.

    An estimate is only necessary when an exact value of the subject involved is unknown. We were promised,’Education, Education’, but we received , at least for a significant minority, ‘Illiteracy Innumeracy’. Fine words , not backed up by deeds. And more of the same to come, by the sound of it.

    .

  109. I think MarkE’s position is good. I don’t think you should abandon private schools, most do a terrific job. Where as state schools don’t. A voucher system would be terrific.

  110. Jaq: Thank you for your kind words of support!

    On the subject of racism; What chance does ANY government have curbing this vile reaction when certain tabloid newspapers (mainly 1. Across: “Everyday Post? (3,5,4)”) constantly make out that all immigrants are violent criminals intent on scalping our social security system?

    This country has been taking immigrants for at least 2000 years. We are ALL immigrant stock…be it Roman, Viking, Angle, Saxon, Norman, Carribean, African, Indian, or whatever. We are a mongrel nation, and that is our strength. It’s what makes Britain Great! It’s time we all woke up to this (more recent immigrants included!).

    (No prizes for solving the crossword clue, by the way – Just trying not to get myself sued!)

  111. I’m with Charlotte on the voucher system – excellent idea!

    Can’t say I’m with you on immigration though Psi – I’m all for clamping right down on border control – think it’s a sham at the moment and hope Mac will agree with me. However long ago this Isle has been invaded is no excuse for half the world to cross a continent and come here when the NHS and housing availability cannot support the current population let alone any more. It’s not fair on anyone – them or us!

  112. Psi: Gradual immigration, as in the past was the case, was possibly the best thing which could have happened to this land of ours ; when one thinks of the various groups of immigrants over the years, amongst whom , Huguenots,Russian and German Jews, West Indians, Indians and Pakistanis, to name but a few, it is clear that our Country is richer for their being here.

    Uncontrolled immigration however , as is presently the case , is not only not desirable , it may be harmful, because the very volume is no longer sustainable.

    The mass movement of populations from the newer member States to the UK was engendered by the glowing media reports about the UK in the said States , promising, what for some is a veritable Nirvana of free housing, free medical attention, free monetary benefits,strict anti-racial laws, and a freedom of self expression seldom achieved in the old eastern European countries.

    Some of our own residents are not , in some cases, receiving their due benefits , due to the weight of PC consideration of the immigrants, both legal and illegal, with the resulting overloading of medical and social services.

    I have said before , and I say again , that if the immigrants have something to offer in return for the benefits available , WELCOME.

    By the same rule , if they are merely here to leech off the State, send them back home , if home is considered safe.

    Too often< ( and again today), we hear of criminal gangs operating under the cloak of ' Asylum Seeker ' status, making false and multi-identity claims for benefits to which they are not entitled. If the UK is to retrieve the international respect which it should be afforded in order to function as a sovereign State; the present state of affairs, a propos illegal immigration,and the frequent fraudulent exploitation of our benefits system must be radically addressed.

  113. That’s a shame, Jaq…as they are the ones doing the shabby jobs we don’t want to do, and the majority pay the taxes that keep those very services running.

    They even poured you drinks and fed you in that fine dining room in Westminster.

    They help fill the gap in our declining birthrate.

    And may I also remind you of Mr Johnson’s OWN fine lineage!

    And as to any strain on the NHS; as we no longer produce enough doctors, nurses, dentists, etc. (in no particular order), who do you think makes up the numbers – in massive proportions!

    Yes, housing is an issue. But there are plenty of brown field sites to be developed (providing all that employment!)…and i am amazed by the number of empty properties that abound (I come across them often, being a gasman and all!). The problem is affordability more than scarcity.

    It’s easy to find people to blame, but beware of the ridiculous propaganda perpetuated by fascist rags masquerading as serious newspapers! (no offence!)

  114. Mac:

    Adding to what i said previously, and taking into account your post (I was typing mine when it arrived!)…I fully agree that, should any immigrant to this country NOT be prepared to join in our (generally) hardworking society, and add to our marvellous nation (rather than just try and take from it), then YES! Give them their marching orders (within reason, there are plenty of very deserving political exiles here – many of who really do face terrible abuses if they return to where they really want to be).

  115. You misunderstand me Psi – when you say they fill “a gap” as doctors and nurses that is not so. Many British cannot secure either university places, funding or jobs thereafter because of the current situation (already ‘qualified’ immigrants) and ‘we’ are leeching these people from their homelands where there is now a derth of qualified staff because they believe life will be better here and it is. We should have responsible controlled immigration not just a free for all.

    You say they do the shabby jobs ‘we’ don’t want to do. There may be a case for pusuading me that jobs that are now synonymous with immigrants are seen as beneath the British. Then STOP immigration and encourage the British to buckle down. Sliding towards a situation where immigrants taxes support an indolent elite is not sustainable – not the situation described is true but in the context of your argument…

    As for Boris’s lineage his ancestor was an ambassador not a one-legged waiter with AIDS (remember health migrants!) so it is up to you which you think the most useful. However, may I direct you to Macs point – gradual immigration is one thing and has never been a problem but the scale of the immigration we see now along with the NHS and housing crisis, and they are real, is another thing entirely.

    May I also mention this supposed war against terror – without control of our own borders, and with immigration out of control, how are we ever to make this country secure? We haven’t got a cat in hell’s chance. But even so, controlled immigration is just common sense.

    Tightening immigration would give realistic expectations on both sides and I would add that I would STOP enforced prostitution by legalising brothels. There now, I’ve said it and I know it’ll be unpopular but forced prostitution for migrants is repellent to me. Something should be done to protect these immigrants sold a shallow empty dream.

    BTW: you say “They even poured you drinks and fed you in that fine dining room in Westminster” – how would you know?

  116. BTW: with regard to Mac’s excellent point – I saw today that around 2 thirds of skilled migrants go to the States and 85% of unskilled workers migrate to Europe.

    ‘nough said!

  117. Every politician is pro immigration. They have to be due to economic reasons and because of the political imperative to appeal to immigrant voters.
    There is a dirty reality to immigration though that no-one is happy to discuss because it connects with all sorts of current day taboos in relation to race, class, nature vs. nurture and how people operate in groups. It’s a bit facile in a way to plump for the ‘immigration makes us richer or more diverse’ line I think. Does it? How do we know it does?
    If I am only dealing with people who are ‘not like me’ in the service system how do I feel about that? How do they feel about me?
    Immigrants don’t remain forever in the coat room handing you your bags. They work really hard at school or within their communities to make money and develop power. How do I feel about people who see me as ‘not like them’ in power? How do I feel about people with different views to me in power? If people tend to feel most comfortable with others who look similar (faces we know how to read) and opinions and beliefs that share some commonly held tenets of belief even if they are oppositional how do I feel living in a community of people who don’t share these characteristics?
    Do people learn to read different faces and come to understand others? Do people decide to move to be with others they feel more comfortable with developing ghettos? How do we manage a community full of ghettos? Is a divided society one that will withstand the test of time/ war etc?
    Are some immigrant groups better suited to living in the UK than others? Do some people historically blend into the community very easily while others take generations to assimilate if they ever do? Should immigration policy reflect an historical understanding of the way different groups operate in western societies or should this knowledge (if it exists) be ignored? There are lots of different questions to consider. Multiculturalism and living in multiracial societies is experimental. It’s normal to us now, but historically I think it’s an anomaly. I don’t think people should be hard on others who struggle coming to terms with it sometimes. It’s a really big deal.

  118. I think that perhaps Psimon is indulging in what I know as modus mistakens. This involves the mistaken move from “If A then B” and B to A.

    Hurrying to the example here. If Dogsbody is against all immigration then he is against uncontrolled immigration AND Dogsbody is against uncontrolled immigration THEREFORE he is against all immigration. (This is MM in action).

    Jaq and Macarnie have both expressed concern about the level of immigration and its nature at the present time. But you cannot deduce from this that they are against all immigration, now or in the past.

    I have no reason to suppose that you are anything but sincere in this Psimon old chap, but your argument is at best bad logic and at worst rhetoric!

  119. Psi:
    I do not understand your implication that the UK produces too few doctors of medicine. ( For example)

    There is a small army, consisting of that very category of graduates of our fine medical schools, at present wondering why they are forced to apply for unemployment benefit , due to the dearth of suitable places ( or ideed ANY places)in our hospitals.

  120. Less a dearth of places, more a dearth of doctors prepared to work for the paltry wages dished out by the NHS, methinks! But, as no one (myself included!)
    is keen on paying more taxes…

    On the other hand, it could be because they keep closing all the hospitals!!! (Just give me 5 minutes alone in a room with the ****s that make those decisions!)

    I have yet to meet any of this supposed army of mass disease-carrying rapist immigrants. All the ones I have met (and there are, admittedly, lots!) have been polite and hardworking – and look a damn sight healthier than most Brits! Of course, I just go out and talk to people, rather than getting my facts from a newspaper that supported the german Nazi party – so i’m far more likely to be wrong!

    And Jaq…I talked to the staff at Westminster, rather than just ignoring them and letting them get on with it (as i was probably supposed to do!). THAT’s how I know! (Or, maybe, I have a trained surveillence newt positioned on the river terrace…)

    :o)

  121. Interesting article on emigration/immigration here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3982217.stm

    I hope the 100s of 1000s of Brits who leave the UK are made more welcome than we make many of our new arrivals.

    Interesting that the largest immigrant population in England was the Irish. Are these the fellows you want thrown out?

    Just asking!

    ;o)

    Psi

  122. “And Jaq…I talked to the staff at Westminster, rather than just ignoring them”

    Psi – why do you assume I ignored them? Were you there watching me? Taking pictures perhaps? Making notes? Producing T shirts? Banners? Slogans? ‘Down with Jaq the minx’? Actually I spent quite a lot of time talking to the staff of Westminster as I was stuck for 20 minutes with a gun in my face with nothing to do BUT talk to them.

    And I don’t get my information from The Daily Rag – I do live in the world you know.

    And a merry Christmas to you too.

  123. I know I don’t get out as much as I should but what’s all this stuff about Westminster and staff and guns? Has the Hitch been up to his tricks agains? Is there something that Boris hasn’t told us? I’ll horsewhip the bounders!

    Happy Christmas! I’m off to buy the ingredients for the gruel on the big day and the cheapest tangerine I can get for the childrens’ present.

  124. Jack Ramsey you Scrooge you! Hitch has indeed been up to his tricks where I’m concerned and you are SO right in your assesment of him – he’s highlighted my Scrooge tendancies too and as a result we had two days of joyous card making. We had gallons of glitter glue on the furniture, carpet, clothes and very nearly the cat as she alerted me to the fact that the offspring started without me. With order restored (almost) we managed to make something almost legible to send to folks and Hitch is now assured of my mediocrity in the world of arts and crafts. So if you see him Jack I would say give him a big wet xmas kiss from me (remember those?) but I’d rather Boris did that – it would be so refreshing to see a journalist run from an MP for a change! The thought of Boris with arms wide shouting ‘Hitch, Baby!!’ and a look of complete panic on Hitch’s face will keep me smiling throughout the festivities. (I’m very sad, I know)

    I do hope Boris will find time to be with his friends and sing at least one chorus of ‘Delilah’ and also that the Johnsons get to have at least ONE meal at Rachels that includes passing the gravy boat. Stanley Johnson is, of course, perfect, so what more could he be given than the love of a happy family which I sincerely hope the Johnsons find they are this xmas and throughout the new year.

    As for the man with the big gun Jack, and my his equipment was scary, I didn’t realise my every move was being logged to beat me with later. That was one of my perfect happy days. Here I sit in my ivory tower remembering perfect days such as those (sigh) and I see no reason for any detractors to diminish the happy memory of such a perfect day. There’s always one isn’t there?! Well bah humbug Psi – I had a lovely day and will always remember it as such: good company, good food and the majesty of history.

    I wish you joy with your family and your tangerine Jack. I’m sure whatever you have will be warmly shared. Have a good one!

  125. Since Jaq mentioned Scrooge and ,”Bah! Humbug!”

    Once again it’s bally Christmas; I suppose I should be glad,
    That I’ve lived to see another; despite the year I’ve had.
    I never understood it when some people cried,” Enough”.
    I’m near to understanding now: the going’s getting tough.
    Those petty little niggles, which add up to quite a lot,
    Enough to make one moan and say,” The World has gone to pot”.
    So take your little tangerine, and stuff it full of truffles;
    The World is pretty tasteless now: I’ve gone down with the snuffles.

    Gesundheit and God bless us ! Everyone.
    From Tiny Tim.

  126. Mac, sorry to hear you have the snuffles – isn’t that Andrew Marr’s hamster? Well what you do in your own home is entirely up to you but I recommend my mums cold remedy: one mug half full of milk, half brandy and sweetened with either sugar or honey. Warm in the microwave to taste. It doesn’t cure your cold but you really don’t care! Bless you Mac, have a good Christmas if you can. Gesundheit

  127. Jaq: I fear you are misunderstanding what i did and didn’t say…

    1. I NEVER said you ignored anyone at Westminster. I doubt very much that the staff that I met were very different from the staff that YOU met, and my comment was based on MY encounters.

    2. I never said you read the daily nazi…although i admit i likened some of what you said to the propoganda spouted by this rag. I was just adding some thinking points to your comments.

    3. I had hoped that the inclusion of some “smilies” might have indicated my light heartedness. I’m ever so sorry you seem have taken offense!

    4. I hope you (and all the contributers to this site) have a VERY happy midwinter festival!

    5. And a happy new year.

    6. :o) <--(a smiley face) 7. ;o) <--(a friendly wink) 8. ??? <--(couldn't think how to indicate a big hug!) May you all prosper in health, wealth, and happiness!! Psi

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