The pursuit of happiness

The Spectator – Boris Johnson

You’ve got to realise they would have done it. They would have gone right ahead and swept another priceless heirloom from the mantelpiece of history. They were revving up their bulldozers, ready to roar into the ancient and irreplaceable ecosystem. Another great tree would have been felled in the forest of knowledge, and the owl of Minerva would have fled in terror from her roost. Had it not been for a few romantic reactionaries, then the technicians who run our reductionist system of education — with the complaisance of the Labour government — would by now be halfway to the demolition of the ancient history A-Level.

The children of tomorrow, children less fortunate than our own, would have been deprived forever of the chance to get to grips with the emergence of Athenian democracy, or the transition of Rome from republic to empire, and future generations of 18-year-olds would never again have spent any time in systematic study of the events and personalities that have been programmatic of our modern European politics and civilisation.

When a new Dark Age falls, it is not always to the sound of Viking battle-cries and the tinkling of church windows. Sometimes it is the very governments themselves that go mad, and start disembowelling their own culture. If you inquire whimperingly how they can do it, how the ‘department for education and science’ could have allowed this mutilation even to be proposed, the answer is not just that they are barbarians, though that is certainly part of the problem.

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Murder of Alexander Litvinenko

It was murder, but calling it such will change nothing

The tension mounts. The crisis deepens. The Russian ambassador has been summoned to the Foreign Office for the truly nail-biting experience of a dressing-down from Margaret Beckett. After four months of indolence, the moth-eaten British lion has finally woken up and emitted a roar in the direction of Moscow. Scotland Yard long ago decided that one man was responsible for the horrific murder of Alexander Litvinenko, a British citizen living in London. The Crown Prosecution Service has now agreed.

One name is in the frame, and across Middle England, the cry is the same. “Oi! Putin!” says the voice of Britain. “Give us Lugovoi!” And that, more or less, was the message conveyed to the Kremlin by the Foreign Office yesterday – and seldom can there have been a suspect more deserving of extradition.

Everything about the murder of Litvinenko seemed designed to stoke our indignation. It was all so callous, so blatant, so deliberately chilling.

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Exeter University

Press Release
Boris Johnson MP

Statement in response to the current press coverage on the code of conduct introduced by the Athletic Union at Exeter University –

‘Of course we have every sympathy with the victim and his family but if we endlessly respond to tragic events with panic measures we will end up becoming risk-averse and over-regulated’.

Freedom of Information Amendment Bill

PRESS RELEASE

BORIS JOHNSON MP

Freedom of Information Amendment Bill
Commons 3rd Reading Closure Motion – Ayes: 117 Noes: 22

The House of Commons has voted on the Closure Motion for the 3rd Reading of this controversial Private Member’s Bill, which seeks to de-list the House of Commons and the House of Lords from the Freedom of Information Act 2000, which currently applies to them. It now goes to the Lords.

The Bill frequently refers to the ‘complex’ relationship between the Freedom of Information Act, the Data Protection Act 1998, and Parliamentary privilege. But Boris finds, not for the first time, that existing laws are adequate. While there may be scope for fine-tuning, he believes they already offer a fair balance between the privacy of the individual and the public’s right to know about Parliamentary business.

‘We are continually shooting ourselves in the foot, and the public will look at this and think all we are trying to do is protect ourselves from rules that, after all, apply to everybody else. It is quite wrong. Of course constituents have a right to privacy, but that is in any case assured by data protection rules.’

Full text, Hansard and summary of the Bill.

Grammar Schools

Grammar schools are not a magic bullet

Let’s be clear: I am in favour of selection. And so are you. So is every member of the British ruling classes, and it is one of the great white lies of modern British educational politics that we have somehow outlawed selective admissions from our schools.

It is not just that we still have 164 grammar schools, achieving superb results with an intake they decide themselves. In those areas where academic selection is outlawed, the criteria for admission are increasingly financial.

Across the country, pupils are selected for good schools according to the ability of their parents to afford a house in the catchment area, and those who can’t afford the cost of housing are crowded out – no matter how clever their children are, no matter how well they would do in that school.

Some families have a sudden access of faith, and go to church often enough to persuade the clergy that their children deserve admission to a church school. Throughout our inner cities, there are bourgeois families who use their economic power to buy their children an edge over everyone else in the class.

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Why Blogging is Important: Comment from a Constituent

B L O G G I N G

Blogs for young and old

Oh, what a pity! Matthew Taylor, outgoing strategy adviser to Tony Blair, thinks blogs are undemocratic because they are “shrill”. Take a look at this link for the news item and here for one set of responses.

Blogs from MPs are great. No more trying to find stamps and borrow Mum’s best writing paper. No need to write pages of perfectly reasoned argument. No need to go along to an MP’s “surgery” (always sounds worrying, that!). With blogs you can make comments and answer as if you were down the pub or in the lunch queue. You can bring up new topics and try out ideas. Whether you are eight or 108, if you can type an idea, that idea will be read. Other people can add to your idea – see the Forum – and help it gain shape so that Boris, or any other MP, can work with it. Little ideas can become big ideas. That’s democracy, not shrillness.

You don’t need to have huge ideas. You don’t need to have lots of letters after your name – and I’ll stick my neck out here and say the best comments and ideas usually come from people who just sign themselves as simply as “Tom” or “Mary” or “Saima”. You don’t need to be ‘clever’ – just genuine and interested. If an idea is truly amazing, Boris or Melissa will be in touch – guaranteed! If an idea is interesting and gains energy through discussion, you will be able to see it.

What is an MP for?

I wonder, how many people will comment on this? How many people will try it for the first time and find out that blog sites really are a new way of talking to people we have elected to do a good job for us.

Gillian P
HENLEY CONSTITUENT

G-Wiz Electric Car

Banning the G-Wiz sums up Labour

I mean come off it. Are we men or mice in this country? I have just overtaken two girls in the cleanest, greenest, sweetest four-wheeled self-propelled invention to hit the London streets since the first horseless carriage arrived at the end of the 19th century.

This machine is so simple and yet so revolutionary that it restores one’s faith in scientific progress. Not since the windmills sprouted on the roofs of Notting Hill has there been a gizmo so deliriously trendy and yet so gentle to the upper air.

I am talking about the G-Wiz electric car. In case you have yet to spot one of these mobile rabbit hutches, they are manufactured in India out of plastic and rubber bands, and since they are powered by a battery they emit no more CO2 than a small dandelion. They are at once as green, and as hopeful for the future of capitalism, as a dollar bill.

You simply recharge them overnight like a mobile phone, and then you can pootle around town with the blissful satisfaction that you are not only saving money – at 1.3p per mile, the G-Wiz’s efficiency is only exceeded by the bicycle.

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Blair – Our Man in Baghdad?

Send Blair to be Our Man in Baghdad

I have to admit that the bicycle story put me off my stride. I was just settling down to pronounce on the tenth anniversary of Blair’s premiership, and I was preparing for a dithyramb of destruction. I wasn’t going to rain on Tony’s parade; I was going to be a one-man hurricane of hatred, pouring squalls of cold water on anyone so foolish as to claim that Britain had got better on his watch.

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