In today’s Telegraph, the Hon Tobes produces a wonderful piece of sensationalist drivel. In a piece of blatant trolling, he titles his blog “Left wing nutters go bonkers over West London Free School”. The subject of his spittle-laced outrage is the Local Schools Network, whom he decides to smear and not engage in a serious discussion. Tobes says,
Meanwhile, someone called Ken Muller has circulated a letter this afternoon to various national newspapers in which he falsely accuses me of being a homophobe. His “evidence” for this is a piece I wrote for the Spectator the week before last – odd that he didn’t notice it until now – in which I teased the Chair of Governors at Stoke Newington School, one Henry Stewart, for writing a lachrymose piece on the Local Schools Network about how touching it was to see the school’s 12-13-year-olds celebrating Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Week. It was so over-the-top – such a classic example of political correctness – I thought it read like a parody written by a brilliant Right-wing satirist. The gag in my Spectator piece is that I pretended it had been written by the Education Secretary himself.
Let’s have a look at that Spectator piece. Here’s the opening paragraph,
You have to take your hat off to Michael Gove. In spite of the Herculean task he has saddled himself with — saving the state education system of this country — he has managed to find time to produce a brilliant piece of satire. I’m referring to a blog on the Local Schools Network entitled ‘Celebrating diversity at Stoke Newington School’.
“Saving the state education system”? How is he doing that, Tobes? By creating more class divisions within the education system? Someone’s logic is flawed. Let’s read on,
The Local Schools Network is a website that exists primarily to disseminate smears and lies about free schools. It boasts the patronage of Fiona Millar and Melissa Benn, but by far its most energetic contributor is Francis Gilbert, a media studies teacher in Bethnal Green. Gilbert has devoted himself, body and soul, to frustrating the efforts of parents and teachers to set up schools.
Ah, so the Local Schools Network exists solely to give you and Gove a hard time? It is interesting how Hon Tobes doesn’t tell us exactly what he means by “smears and lies”. Presumably criticisms of Gove’s education policy and Tobes’s frothing-at-the-mouth zealotry is “smears and lies”? Someone is being paranoid.
Last week, a post appeared on the site that purported to be by someone called ‘Henry Stewart’, but I’m almost certain this is a pseudonym. The real author, I’m convinced, is none other than the Secretary of State for Education. His aim, clearly, is to point up the extent to which state education has been hijacked by the loony left.
What’s he saying here? That Gove is sockpuppeting? It’s entirely possible but unlikely. Tobes falls back on his beloved 80’s phrase “loony left”. Remember, this is a man who lives in the past. His aim is to create a school that offers a “classical liberal” education.
After a little trolling on the Local Schools Network site, he tells us that,
Satire is supposed to cut like a scalpel, not a butcher’s knife. This is too over the top to be effective. All I can say, dear reader, is that you are clearly unfamiliar with the crazy excesses of contemporary state education. Believe me, it is all too plausible.
This is the classic defence of one who uses ‘humour’ as a fig-leaf to cover his inherent prejudices and class disgust. It’s a little like the old defence offered by the tellers of racist jokes in the 1960s and 1970s “It’s a joke. What’s the matter? Can’t you take a joke”? It’s the Jim Davidson defence. In other words, it isn’t much of a defence.
Anyway, back to the Tobes’s blog,
It really is quite extraordinary that anyone who questions the wisdom of asking young children to spend their time in school celebrating “LGBT Week” should immediately be branded “evil”. I yield to no one in my support for minority rights – and have written several articles on this site attacking various Islamic countries for failing to uphold them. As a classical liberal who regards J.S. Mill’s On Liberty as something close to a sacred text, I would defend everyone’s right to pursue their own happiness in their own way provided it doesn’t impinge on the rights of others to pursue theirs.
There are a couple of things here. First, we see that Young only regards minority rights as viewed through the prism of a hated Other. The Other, in this case, being so-called “Islamic” countries (that, in itself is revealing). Second, he offers J S Mill’s On Liberty as a “sacred text”. While there is much to applaud Mill for, it is likely that there is a degree of selectivity involved. We see here someone who is a tireless defender of rights but only insofar as those folk who share his ideas on Enlightenment-inspired wisdom.
Here’s the rest of the paragraph,
Indeed, it’s because I believe that the state’s role in people’s lives should be kept to an absolute minimum that I support free schools – and, indeed, greater freedom for all schools.
Minarchist drivel; this is merely a justification for furthering and deepening class divisions. The “the state should stay out of people’s lives” has been used by the ruling class to support their narrative of liberty. What they refuse to tell us, is how this liberty is likely enslave those who are not members of the same class. Was the 19th century factory or mill worker free? No. And those who were forced to go to the workhouses? No. Someone hasn’t read and understood their history.
The Victorian era is viewed with nostalgia by many Tories. For them, it was a golden age when people knew their place and the rich could get on with the business of exploiting the poor. On his website in 2007, Gove said,
For some of us Victorian costume dramas are not merely agreeable ways to while away Sunday evening but enactments of our inner fantasies.
The title to his blog is most revealing and offers an insight into the workings of the Tory mind. But there is a problematic in this romanticized view of the past: it ignores historical materialism for the sake of ideology. Nostalgia, as I have always said, is history with all the bad bits removed. The grinding poverty, high rates of infant mortality, high rates of maternal deaths resulting from childbirth, rampant disease, superstition, Social Darwinism and ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ poor are all conveniently forgotten aspects of the Victorian era.
In their rose-tinted yearning for the past, the Tories have failed to grasp one salient fact: they did poorly at the ballot box for much of the 19th century. The party that dominated most the of the late Victorian era was Gladstone’s Liberals. It was only when Disraeli embraced social reforms did the party’s fortunes change. Young and Gove would do well to remember that.
This Guardian article by Timothy Stanley sums it up. He says,
And this is a subtle point that government Victoriaphiles miss about our public services: the welfare state was the 20th century’s answer to the social problems created in the 19th. Owen and Rowntree started out as private philanthropists, but they dreamed that one day free schools and hospitals funded by taxation would become national policy. The 19th century closed with the birth of the Labour party – the political summation of the era’s reforming spirit. The Victorian revolution enriched and enfranchised the people and what did they do with their newfound money and power? They built the very welfare state the government is now intent on dismantling.
I’ve actually read Francis Gilbert’s blog on the LSN site and I have to say that Tobes has bitten off more than he can chew – which is why he wrote a load of drivel in response. Therefore, I would like to offer Hon Tobes a piece of advice. If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen – as the hoary auld cliché goes.