Tag Archives: Michael Gove

Gove Goes Forth

Michael GoveMichael Gove in the Daily Mail: “The First World War may have been a uniquely horrific war, but it was also plainly a just war.”

Michael Gove’s qualifications for being Secretary of State for Education consists of a 2:1 degree in English at Oxford, and once winning Top Club.

Michael Gove does not care for shows like Blackadder Goes Forth, which he feels depict World War One – or as it was called then “the Great War”, as “a misbegotten shambles – a series of catastrophic mistakes perpetrated by an out-of-touch elite”, whereas, Gove thinks, WWI was really about British opposition to:

“The ruthless social Darwinism of the German elites, the pitiless approach they took to occupation, their aggressively expansionist war aims and their scorn for the international order all made resistance more than justified.

“And the war was also seen by participants as a noble cause. Historians have skilfully demonstrated how those who fought were not dupes but conscious believers in king and country, committed to defending the western liberal order.”

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Filed under Education, TV reviews

Michael Gove: Flipper

Michael GoveMichael Gove talked about people living beyond their means, and Labour spending too much on welfare, and claimed this justified the Tory/LibDem cuts cuts cuts workfare cuts.

Michael Gove used to work for Rupert Murdoch as a journalist at The Times, until he was selected as the new Conservative candidate for the safe seat of Surrey Heath in the 2005 election.

Gove and his wife Sarah Vine, had bought a nice house in Kensington for £430,000 in 2002.

Between December 2005 and April 2006, Michael Gove used the Additional Costs Allowance (meant for an MP to claim for their second home) to claim more than £7000 for furnishing this house:

Around a third of the money was spent at Oka, an upmarket interior design company established by Lady Annabel Astor, Mr Cameron’s mother-in-law.

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Filed under Benefits, Corruption, Education

Maria Miller grinds slowly

Which member of the Privy Council is best qualified to be Chancellor of the Exchequer? It is not, obviously, George Osborne, who famously doesn’t even have O-grade maths and who is driving the UK into double-dip recession because he has no notion about economics beyond “tax cuts for the rich=GOOD”.

Oddly enough in a Tory Cabinet, it’s actually a comprehensive-school kid from Wales. Maria Miller, Minister for Women and Equalities

Maria Lewis went to Brynteg Comprehensive School/Ysgol Gyfun Brynteg in Bridgend and took a BSc in Economics at the LSE. (When she married Iain Miller in 1990 she took his surname and has stood for election as Maria Miller ever since.) She isn’t a crony of Cameron from the Bullingdon Club (they don’t let girls in), she didn’t go to Oxbridge, she wasn’t privately educated, and she didn’t marry into the web of privilege: she will never be one of the Secret Seven. I imagine as a member of the Conservative Party since she was 19 she’s got used to that kind of thing.

Maria Miller has been MP for Basingstoke since 2005. As she was born in 1964 she’ll be aware that to David Cameron (born 1966), she has a useful life only to 2018, even if the Tories scrape a win in 2015: Caroline Spelman was sacked in the reshuffle for being too old at 54.
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Filed under Elections, Equality, Politics, Women

The Secret Seven

Secret Seven! The name evokes disdain or contempt among many readers who are otherwise ardent fans of Enid Blyton … for most of us the Secret Seven happens to be the least revered series in Blyton’s canon. Is this because the books were written for a younger set of readers? Could it be the smaller format? The perpetual scowl on the face of their highhanded leader, perhaps? –In Defence of the Secret Seven

Now the reshuffle’s over, the full Cabinet is thirty-two – sixteen a side, an unprecedented length for a Cabinet meeting as you can see from the table they use (screengrab off the news by Gaz Weetman):

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Evolution of bullying

Michael Gove has approved three Creationist-run state-funded “free schools”: Exemplar-Newark Business academy, Grindon Hall, and Sevenoaks Christian school. All three schools promise unblushingly that they will teach Creationism / Intelligent Design in RE, and stick to the facts in science classes.

However, Grindon Hall has a policy document on its website that says just the opposite:

However, we vigorously challenge the unscientific certainty often claimed by scientists surrounding the so-called “Big Bang” and origins generally.

We believe that no scientific theory provides – or ever will provide – a satisfactory explanation of origins, i.e. why the world appeared, and how nothing became something in the first place.

We will teach evolution as an established scientific principle, as far as it goes.
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Filed under Education, LGBT Equality, Women

Special Needs?

She’s in her late 40s now: we first met when we were both teenagers. She was a trainee nurse, I was still at school – there was just over a year’s age difference between us. She had become a nurse, she told us cheerfully, because the careers adviser at her school knew three things to tell girls: be a secretary, be a nun, be a nurse. She couldn’t type and didn’t believe in God, so that left just one option.

We’d been friends for twenty years before she finally admitted that wasn’t exactly true.

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Filed under Education, Personal, Poverty

What did Rupert Murdoch know and when did he know it?

In conversation with American friends, they often identify a paper as “The Times of London” or even “the London Times” and sometimes I correct them – since its name actually is The Times and has been since 1st January 1788, and since officially it is a UK-wide paper, sold from Campbelltown to Norwich. And sometimes I don’t, because as a practical matter of fact all of the papers published from London are London papers – the rest of the country (let alone the rest of the UK) is not regarded as of particular interest – the same line of thinking that leads David Dimbleby, in Edinburgh, to squelch Nicola Sturgeon when she responds to a question that requires an explanation of Scottish election law, on the grounds that Scottish elections are of no interest to Question Time’s audience.

This attitude in the UK-national media that Scottish politics are not something they should have to care about has been to Alex Salmond’s benefit on a few occasions – most notably over his MP expenses. Or rather most non-notably. But Salmond’s courtship of Murdoch is an extraordinary piece of chutzpah – a certainty that while the Scottish papers may take note, this won’t turn into a thing in the UK-national ones – and it is the UK-national papers that are focussing their attention on the Leveson revelations about Rupert Murdoch and News International.

Alex Salmond & Rupert Murdoch on 29 Feb 2012
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Filed under Elections, In The Media, Scottish Politics

Gove okays teachings from Beasts of Gor

In 2010, the Diocese of Lancaster invited Jason and Crystalina Evert to speak to Year 10 & 11 pupils at every Catholic secondary school in Lancashire. This was part of the Sex and Relationships Education which is on the statutory curriculum for secondary aged pupils in England and Wales. As an example of the kind of thing Jason Evert tells kids:

The TUC is rightly concerned that a booklet Jason Evert wrote, Pure Manhood: How to become the man God wants you to be, teaches homophobia.
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Filed under Books, Education

Barbie and Elevator Guy: science and sexism

Many years ago I was struggling at Maths O-grade. My parents (bless them) paid a maths graduate from the university for a couple of hours tuition once a week, for two or three months before I took the exam, and his careful explanations helped a lot. I’d concluded I wasn’t good at maths. He asked me, towards the end of our last session, to add the numbers 1 to 100 together and give him the answer. “In my head?” I asked him. “Any way you like,” he told me. I had pen and paper and a calculator to hand. My first thought was to start adding 1+2+3+4… and then I thought, no, if I add 1+100 that’s 101, if I add 2+99 that’s 101, there will be 50 such additions, so the answer’s 5050. And I told him. It took me about a minute. He smiled, and he told me this story about Carl Friedrich Gauss.

A teacher had given the class some busywork to do – just that problem, add together the numbers one to a hundred. The teacher expected this to occupy the class for quite a while as they added 1+2+3+4+5… but the boy Gauss thought about the problem for a few minutes and got the answer. It is a well-known story among mathmos, but not one I’d ever heard, and I’d never been presented with that problem before.

In 1989 the Barbie Liberation Organization was formed. In 1992 they carried out the best customer action against sexist toys ever:

Taking advantage of similarities in the voice hardware of Teen Talk Barbie and the Talking Duke G.I. Joe doll, er, “action figure,” they [bought] several hundred of each and performed a stereotype-change operation on the lot.
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Filed under Education, Epetitions, Scottish Politics, Women

What should MPs get paid?

According to this very reliable poll at LBC 97.3FM, mostly people feel that MPs should be paid less than what they now get.

Contrast this to the question not asked, could you live on £67 a week? That’s what benefit claimants usually get. Considered simply on straight pound-for-pound dealing, an MP gets over 18 times what a benefit claimant gets. But of course even an honest MP who follows the rules and doesn’t try to jigger the system, can get far more than that – a taxpayer-funded flat in Westminister, handy for Parliament: £400 a month to pay for food, no questions asked: no question of having salary or benefits docked if caught cheating.

Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, spent thousands on furnishing his London home before “flipping” his Commons allowance to a new property in his Surrey constituency, and claiming £13,000 in moving costs.

Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office and Paymaster General, claimed almost £35,000 in two years for mortgage interest payments on a London flat when he owned a house just a few hundred yards away.

Oliver Letwin, Minister of State for Government Policy, claimed more than £2,000 for a leaking pipe to be replaced under his tennis court.

(The Rt Hon. Desmond Swayne, who was in the lowest 10 of MP expenses in 2009 (he said he routinely takes the train into London from his Hampshire constituency after 10am to get the cheapest fare) isn’t a minister – he’s Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Prime Minister, a role which gives him no Ministerial clout but ensures he will be required to vote with and not speak against the Government.)

When he was free to speak, he said: “The world is in a pretty bad state, people starving, homeless, jobless and we members of Parliament are put in a position of influence at this time, and what did we do? We enjoyed the full benefit of our allowances. I suspect that the most ghastly chamber in hell is being reserved for us.”

Aside from nonsense about unpaid MPs, Peter Oborne’s article in the Telegraph on expenses was great.

My response:

If MPs are unpaid, only the independently wealthy can afford to become MPs. Given how lucrative being an MP is if you want it to be, and given how greedy the top 1% are, making the job of representating ordinary people in Parliament one that only the very rich could aspire to would simply ensure that the very rich used it to become mega-rich.

MPs deserve to receive a reasonable salary and have reasonable expenses paid. The salary ought to correspond to what the average person gets paid – I think the median salary for the UK is of the order of £25K a year – and expenses should include two paid assistants, one for the Westminister office and one for the contituency. Good hiring practices for these posts should be followed – no just awarding the job to spouse or offspring. Ex-MPs ought to be banned for up to five years from sitting on the board of any commercial organisation, and for life if they held a Ministerial post.

And fairly obviously, of course expenses should be tracked and accountable in the ordinary way. No one should just get to demand cash without having to show what they spent it on.

It’s reasonable that an MP with a constituency in a distant part of the UK should have a place to stay in London near to Parliament, but the present “second home” system is an invitation to make money. When an MP loses their seat, they should be required to let their Westminster home go to public ownership, not get to keep it as a kind of golden parachute.

How can anyone who’s getting paid £65,000 a year and is so confident of their right to claim benefits on top of that, understand the desperation of someone struggling to survive?

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Filed under Benefits, Politics, Poverty