Category Archives: Education

Doing a PhD without the benefit of daddy’s trust fund

I don’t come from a rich family. My roots are working class. I am the first in my family to go to university.  I was expected to follow in my father’s footsteps and enlist in the military. So after leaving school I performed a series of really crap jobs like working in a factory that made plastic bags and polyethylene film. But I always knew that I was never cut out for factory work or military service.  I was an artist…or an academic.

I never really intended to become a postgraduate student but once I’d finished my BA, I found myself craving study and writing. I self-funded my Masters with some money that I’d inherited. After my Masters, I decided that I wanted to do a PhD but didn’t have the funds to afford the fees. I was offered a bursary for fees by the University of East London but doing a doctorate without funding and without the benefit of daddy’s trust fund makes the task extremely difficult.  You can’t do a lot of the field work that you want to do and if you’ve been made redundant from a full-time job – as I have – you have no safety net.  So acquiring funding in order to complete my project is crucial.  The research bodies responsible for distributing funds to students like myself have been forced by this government to be even tighter with their funds thanks to the cuts in higher education funding. This has been compounded by the Tory-led government’s insistence that humanities and social science postgraduate students produce their knowledge within the narrow parameters of the ‘Big Society’. In other words, knowledge is now forced to genuflect before an ideological master.

Last month I was invited to attend an interview for Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funding. Before 2011, one had to apply directly to the AHRC for funding and applications were considered by the council.  I’d have stood a better chance under the former system. Now, the money is given to a consortium of universities, who then decide who deserves the money. It’s the educational version of deserving and undeserving poor. So the constituent institutions that form the New London Graduate School get their Graduate School directors to form a panel who then question applicants about their proposals.

But it wasn’t an interview at all. It was more of a mugging; an intellectual kicking by a gang of academic thugs. The panel was a cheerless bunch, po-faced and unfriendly, they didn’t even offer me a drink of water (in spite of the fact that I appeared to be desperately thirsty).  I found myself in the strange situation where I was suppose to pretend that I hadn’t started my PhD. I was also told that the interview would take 30 minutes and that 10 minutes would be dedicated to Q&A. That never happened. Instead, I was hauled over the coals relentlessly and my mind was “put to the question”. Confess! Confess! . One member of the panel, a rather large man from Middlesex University was the first to question me. His style was intimidating and abrasive; the academic version of Torquemada. He sat behind his tiny netbook and punched in data as I spluttered and stumbled. He set the tone for the rest of the ‘interview’.

So I wasn’t surprised when I received my rejection letter. I didn’t even read it in full. I merely scanned the letter for the all-too-familiar phrase “We are sorry but…”. They finished with the perfunctory “We wish you all the best with your project”. They needn’t have bothered. They should have adopted the attitude  of a casting company and dispensed with the letter. At least in showbusiness, you know where you stand; they smile to your face and then ignore you. In academia, they repeatedly stab you in the heart and kick your head in at the same time, while rubbing salt into any open wounds.

The Tories will tell you that any study that isn’t within the narrow field of STEM subjects is frivolous.  They scoff at subjects like Cultural Studies and Media Studies. They will also tell you that those who can’t afford postgraduate study should set their sights lower and forget their dreams, desires and ambitions. The universities, particularly the new universities, are now playing handmaid to David ‘Two Brains’ Willetts’s dream of a MacDonaldized vision of cheap, uniform, higher education institutions for the less well-off. The hidden discourse of Willetts’s grand vision is “Know your place”.

It is in the interests of my university to their utmost to retain me. Yet, I feel that they’re not really bothered if I withdraw or not. The university receives funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for each PhD student it enrols. It loses money when they withdraw. Can UEL afford to alienate its PhD students? Well, it appears that they can because I hear that hardship bursaries and outstanding student awards are to be discontinued.

Other countries look after PhD students, why not Britain? The answer? Because it is Britain.

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Filed under Adventures in doctoral research, Big Society, Cuts, Education, Government & politics

Gove: “Won’t someone think of the children”?

The  government approach to the public sector strikes – particularly the teacher’s strike tomorrow – is quite simply, appalling. In response to the teacher’s strike, the government has resorted to the classic tactic of using emotional  blackmail and blatant misrepresentations to try and sway public opinion in their favour. All of a sudden, single parents matter when they never mattered to them before. The children – the pupils – are also being dragged into this. “Won’t someone think of them”? But these words are hollow and insincere and amount to little more than public relations gimmicks. That shouldn’t surprise us: since they came to power, the Tories have relied rather heavily on PR. I thought Blair was pretty bad for his addiction to PR but Cameron is a former PR man; he lives and breathes it.  Never before has a someone with a background in PR occupied the highest office in the land. It is a first. But his efforts to make use of PR looks a little tired and clichéd.

Teachers have gone on strike before, yet given the rhetoric coming from the mouths of the Tories, it would seem that this was the very first time that teachers have voted for industrial action. Teachers are now painted variously as “irresponsible” and “selfish” people who are more concerned with their unions than with teaching. Predictably,  right wing commentators like  the Daily Telegraph’s Hon Tobes and Katharine Burbalsingh have chimed in with their smears and dark mutterings of “leftist conspiracies”. I won’t bother to quote or link to their blogs but needless to say the blogs all attract the usual rubbish from their braindead readership about banning trade unions and how the ‘left’ is ‘destroying education’. 

Burbalsingh’s blog draws on this Torygraph article by Graham Paton et al. In it, he accuses the National Union of Teachers (NUT) of “bullying” headteachers into going on strike. The opening paragraph reads,

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) has written to schools throughout England and Wales telling them they could be in breach of employment law and health and safety regulations if they keep schools open during the pensions-related dispute.

What this paragraph doesn’t tell you is that Gove, resembling a weak-kneed version of Kitchener, has suggested that parents could volunteer to keep schools open. What Gove overlooked was the fact that anyone who works in a school needs to have a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check. Any headteacher who allows parents to act as ersatz teachers would be breaking the law. This is not about the omnipresent ‘red tape’. This is a matter of child protection. The NUT was right to warn headteachers of such issues. Indeed, just because someone is a parent, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they cannot be child-abusers as well.

Further down the article,

As tensions between ministers and union activists escalated, schools were warned against bringing in supply teachers to cover for striking teachers and told any moves to plug gaps in the timetable with permanent staff would be “very damaging” to morale.

But then who says that supply teachers aren’t and cannot be members of trade unions? It’s a terrible presumption.

The strike is only for one day but to hear Tory commentators talk, you’d think it was for a month. As someone pointed out to me the other day, no Tory had a problem with the days lost for the Royal Wedding. Indeed the Tory press has depicted the teacher’s strike as a regular occurrence. The last such strike was in 2008. This is what the Guardian said in 2010 when the NASUWT threatened to strike,

The last teachers’ strike was in April 2008, when at least 1 million children in 8,000 schools went without lessons after the NUT, which represents more than half of the profession, clashed with the government over a pay deal that it said would leave its members worse off. It was the first national teachers’ strike for 21 years.

That’s right, before 2008, teachers hadn’t voted for a national strike for 21 years!

The Sun’s tone is as you’d expect,

IT is time to make a stand.

 On Thursday, a hardcore of militant teachers will try to shut all Britain’s 23,000 state schools by striking over pensions.

 It would harm pupils and cause family childcare chaos.

The Sun says this cynical strike must not succeed.

Today we call on parents and the majority of moderate teachers to keep schools open.

 For decades, education has been in the grip of hardline teaching unions.

There’s one thing missing from this leader: an image of Winston Churchill giving the ‘V’ Sign. In typically hysterical fashion, the Scum have dubbed the strike “The Summer of Hate”. You will recall from this blog, that the word “hate” has now been conscripted to serve ideological masters. For years the US right in have used the word in the same way to claim the moral high ground. Is it childish? You bet it is.

Even Ed Miliband has said the strike is wrong. Are we still in the 1980’s? Milly Band says,

You do not win public backing for an argument about pensions by inconveniencing the public – especially not while negotiations are ongoing.

 A point has been missed by a country mile here. The government told the public sector workers what it intended to do (while labelling them parasites) and it had no time for negotiation. Only as the strike day approached did the government consider negotiation. Lest we forget, on 17 June, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander preempted negotiations between the government and the unions by announcing the coalition’s intentions for public sector pension ‘reform’.

This Tory-led government has been gunning for education since it came to power. They introduced free schools. They announced that they were going ask Niall Ferguson to rewrite the history syllabus, then it cancelled the Better Schools Programme.  “Won’t someone think of the children”? Won’t someone think of them, indeed.

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Filed under Conservative Party, Cuts, Education, Government & politics, Journalism, Media, propaganda, Yellow journalism

UEL – lobbying the Board of Governors

Vice Chancellor, Patrick McGhee on his way to the Board of Governor's meeting

Yesterday we lobbied UEL’s Board of Governors ahead of their meeting. A group of  staff and students from the soon-to-be dismantled School of Social Sciences gathered outside the Knowledge Dock on the Docklands campus to let the Board know our feelings towards the proposed restructuring contained in the White Paper. As I have reported in a previous blog, the restructuring dismembering of the school falls into line with the Government’s objectives to limit the provision of arts, humanities and social sciences courses at post-1992 universities and to transform them into McEducation-style institutions that offer the same courses.

As you can see from the image, Prof. McGhee took the direct route into the Knowledge Dock and was lobbied by the protesters.  However while Mark Hannam, the board’s deputy chair was listening to our concerns, Prof. Joughin took the heaven-sent opportunity to sneak around the left flank of the group and creep into the building. He was carrying what appeared to be a very large file.

It was good of Mr Hannam to listen to our concerns but whether or not he and the rest of the board can act against the decisions of Joughin remains to be seen.

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Filed under Cuts, Education, Education, Government & politics, Higher Education, London, Society & culture

UEL and UCLan – a tale of two universities and one management team

I have already blogged about the proposed dismantling of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of East London. The current management team of UEL was at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) before they descended on East London. It appears that they were also involved in a similar exercise there. Like he has done at UEL, John Joughin, allowed a short consultation period and the staff and students were given a ‘Hobson’s choice’.  I understand that Joughin also  cut the word “Humanities” from the name of one of the schools. I am told that the new School of Journalism, Media and Communication has lost much of its identity as well as its former Historical, Critical Studies and Humanities ethos. At UCLan, Sociology is now part of the School of Education. At UEL it will be part of the School of Law. You can see what’s happening here, subjects like Sociology will exist to serve education, law and order and crime detection.  The proposed title for the new school at UEL is to be the School of Creative and Digital Industries. Joughin insists that the word “humanities” will exist in the name of this new school. Does he seriously believe that he can cram all of those words into that School title?

If Joughin believes that we will accept his word that this proposal isn’t ideologically-driven, then he’s clearly either a very bad liar or a complete fool.

It is also interesting that Cambridge University has opened a School of Humanities and Social Sciences.  The timing could not be more perfect. I suspect that the government wants to see a more state-centred approach to HSS.  Looking at the web page I can see that there is no reference to Cultural Studies. Is it possible that this government, through the universities,  is trying to force Cultural Studies to serve specific needs or phase it out entirely? It is unlikely that research projects that examine or investigate popular culture will be funded in future because such things are not deemed to have any value in the collective mind of the Tory-led government.

I am told that UCLan hasn’t recovered from its evisceration at the hands of Joughin and McGhee. Voices that spoke out against the changes were marginalized and many of the professors who were against the changes were purged. The future does not bode well for UEL.

UPDATE: 4/4/11 @ 1236

Added more information to last paragraph

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Filed under Big Society, Cultural Studies, Cuts, Education, Education, Government & politics, Higher Education, Society & culture

Chatting with the hatchet-man

I must apologize for the tardiness of this blog. But, as they say, better late than never. The Deputy Vice Chancellor, John Joughin, held a green paper discussion on Friday afternoon. The meeting wasn’t as well attended as I would have liked and there were plenty of empty seats in the lecture hall. I suspect, that once again, the message hadn’t gone out to the majority of students. Indeed, I only knew about it because I’d received an email on the rather poor UEL webmail service, where the fonts are 8 point – if that. If you are visually-impaired, reading emails must be a real nightmare.

As we arrive there are 2 security  guards on the door. Why? Is Joughin expecting trouble? Does he fear for his life? Is he being paranoid? FAQs are distributed to those of us who attended. My eye is immediately drawn to the words “market-based funding system, student expectations, industry requirements and Research Council priorities”. OK, but it’s that phrase “market-based funding system” that sticks in the mind. It comes directly from the mouth of Two-Brains Willetts.

Elsewhere on the FAQs it says “it is a myth that only HSS funding is being targeted by the Government”. I would dispute that statement and, as I point out in this blog, the Tories are very keen to choke off funding to the Humanities and Social Science because it does not regard these as ‘proper subjects’. In fact, as the Observer reports, HSS funding will be tied to so-called “Big Society” projects.

Under the revised principle, research bodies must work to the government’s national objectives, although the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said that ministers will not meddle in individual projects.

It is claimed the AHRC was told that research into the “big society” was non-negotiable if it wished to maintain its funding at £100m a year.

This reminds me of something that Gramsci said with regards to organic intellectuals and how they are usually suborned to the party – in this case it will be the Tory-led government. In this instance, we can see that any intellectual activity will be conscripted to serve the dominant cultural and political hegemony and any activity outside of that will be seen as ‘subversive’. Make no mistake, this ‘shake up’ is ideologically-motivated – regardless of what Two-Brains or any of the intellectual pygmies on the government benches thinks.

The discussion begins. It is moderated by Prof. Mohammad Dastbaz, the Dean of Computing Information Technology and Engineering, which, presumably, isn’t going to be targeted by the cuts. Joughin says that the consultation process has  been “an enjoyable experience”. We all laugh. These are either the words of a sadist or a masochist. I suspect it is the former.

Joughin, who seems less combative than at the previous meeting, announces that consultation period is to be extended by a week. How very generous of him. It still isn’t long enough. The floor is now open for discussion. Godwin Odusemi, makes a point that is not related to the discussion. He talks about voting and other matters. It’s not as if his school is under threat. After he makes his point he leaves with his mobile phone pressed to his ear. What a joker.

Tom raises an issue about the lack of communication. Joughin admits that this hasn’t been perfect and says that this will improve. Others put questions to him about redundancies and the worry that there will be fewer staff working longer hours. He doesn’t seem too concerned and bats these questions away with a “let’s wait and see”.  He then talks about “the national student survey” and issues such as contact time, which he attempts to link  to HSS. But this is a red herring. Social Sciences have always had fewer contact hours and for good reason: students are expected to spend a great deal of time in the library and doing field work. This is a point that is lost on Joughin.

There are 4 admin staff at the back who say “when we were showing new students around, you told us to keep quiet about the changes”. Hearing these words is like watching a torpedo hit a dreadnought at midships. The ship, explodes, lists and eventually sinks, with its bow still poking out from the water before it, too, disappears. Joughin does his best to refloat himself. He denies that he said those words, but the administrators are having none of it. Bravo!

The meeting ends with all of us feeling distinctly cheated but we resolve to fight on.

Another meeting has been called for Thursday at 6pm to accommodate those students with childcare and family commitments. I will try and be there but it will mean that I will likely get home at 10pm.  Friday is a very busy day for me .

Today, I saw a man checking names on lecturers’ doors and making notes about their hours. I can only guess why he is doing it and the thought fills me with dread.

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Filed under Cuts, Education, Education, Government & politics, Higher Education, London, social engineering, Society & culture

Today’s UCU strike at UEL and the importance of solidarity

Picket line at UEL's Docklands Campus

I was on the picket line at UEL today and I was appalled by the numbers of students – presumably all of them members of the National Union of Students – who crossed the line. Even the self-styled, but disqualified president of UEL’s Student Union,  Godwin Odusami, crossed the picket line.  On that basis alone he should be disqualified, but I will save his other misdeeds for another blog. But let’s put it this way, anyone who hopes to be president of the Student Union needs to act in solidarity with members of those unions that are on strike. There is no excuse.

I managed to convince a couple of students that it was in their interests not to cross the line, but those who decided to do so came out with the most bizarre list of excuses that I have ever heard in my life. Some of the reasons given weren’t even logical. Many of them claimed that they were going to the library. Which reminds me, where were the library staff? Had they scabbed?

There is a serious lack of critical understanding of industrial action and the purpose and function of a picket line in the minds of many young people in this country. This is due, in no small part, to the constant lies told about unions and strikes in the Tory-dominated press. For these people, strikes are an “inconvenience to the public”. One student asked me “Why can’t you organize a petition”?  Since when did a petition change anything? Another remarked on the apparent ineffectiveness of strike action but such questions are best met with a cool rebuttal that is based on historical materialism. Women’s suffrage, for example, would not have been possible without people taking action to change things. Slavery and Jim Crow laws might still be in place in the southern half of the United States.

I am always mystified by those people who cross picket lines during Tube strikes. They wait on lonely platforms for hours on end and for what? To say that they “defied the bolshie unions”? Their energies would have been better spent at home or doing the things that they wouldn’t ordinarily do while at work.

When unions go on strike in France, the majority of the media is often behind the striking workers. There is a clear understanding of why people resort to industrial action and why it is a legitimate political activity. In this country, the reverse is true and the media will present a narrative of individualism; how it affects you, the consumer, and how it impinges upon ‘your’ freedom. But such freedoms are imagined and when they are weighed against your right to collective bargaining in the workplace, they come in at a very poor second place.

There needs to an effort to educate many young people of the need for trade unions together with a drive to ram home the importance of solidarity. If we don’t, the only image of the picket line will be that of a grainy black and white photograph with the caption, “How we used to do things”.

I felt like reciting this to all those students who crossed the picket line

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

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Filed under Cuts, Education, Government & politics, London, Society & culture, Trade Unions, workers rights

Next week at UEL

In light of the recent announcement of the closure of the University of East London’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences, two events are being planned for next week.

The first is a funeral service for the School’s demise. This is from my colleague, Jenny

The Funeral will be held at
13.30 Tuesday 22nd March 2011
Outside the East Building of the University of East London, Dockland’s Campus

Followed by a gathering of students and Staff for a one minute silence to mark the death of Humanities.

The second is a strike that has been called for Thursday, 24 March by the local branch of the UCU. I will be on the picket line.

No pasaran!

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Young: I’m the whipping boy of the loony left (sic)

Could there be a more whiny, pitiful individual than Toby Young? Today, the Hon Tobes moans that he’s the “Whipping boy of the loony left” (sic).

Honestly, the “loony left”. Young is still living in the 1980’s when the Tory press routinely manufactured headlines that ridiculed Labour councils.  “Ba Ba Black Sheep” never happened. It was made up by some braindead sub-editor in Wapping.

So Young is safely ensconced in the past or so he thinks. His use of popular 80’s pejoratives reveals just how out of touch he is with the real world. His divisive West London Free school will displace over 20 charities in the building Hammersmith & Fulham Council has promised to sell to him.

Young, who has never worked in education, thinks he knows how to run a school and, more importantly, what subjects should be included in the curriculum. Here he lambasts Christine Blower, who actually works in education.

Last week, it was the turn of Christine Blower, the General Secretary of the NUT, to weigh in. She denies being a member of the SWP, but her links to the organisation are well-documented. In 2000, she stood as a candidate for the London Socialist Alliance, an affiliation of far Left political groups broadly controlled by the SWP. (It was known as “Paul Foot’s LSA”, Foot being the SWP’s best-known member.) Blower was described by Jack McAvoy, a former General Secretary of the NUT, as “controlled and supported by a group of extreme Left organisations including Militant, the Socialist Workers’ Party, the Campaign for a Democratic and Fighting Union and the Socialist Teachers’ Alliance.”

When reasoned argument fails, fall back to the default position of smearing your opponent. The rest of the blog follows the same downward trajectory until it finally reaches the gutter.

The latest Left-wing attack dog to go for my jugular is Andrew Slaughter, the Labour MP for Hammersmith. After personally abusing me in the House of Commons, he followed up with a blog post on LabourList in which he repeated the calumny about the special needs school and added some more misinformation for good measure. He claimed that the boroughs of Ealing, Hounslow and Brent all said no to the West London Free School – three lies in one sentence, which is pretty good going even for him.

It won’t surprise you to learn that Slaughter himself went to Latymer, a direct grant school that was forced to become independent when Labour abolished the direct grant system in 1976. He benefited from precisely the sort of classical liberal education the West London Free School is intending to offer, yet he now wants to deny that same opportunity to local children from low income families.

Young’s ‘argument’ is that Andrew Slaughter once went to Latymer Upper School and his education somehow excludes him from any conversation about the state school system. He lies when he says that Slaughter “abused him” in the Commons. Does this look like abuse?

Mr Slaughter: Yesterday my local Tory council announced that 22 well regarded voluntary organisations would be evicted from their home in Palingswick house, which they have been in for 25 years, to provide a site for a free school run by the self-publicist Toby Young, most of whose pupils will come from outside the borough. Will the right hon. Gentleman extend his deliberations and come to Hammersmith to sort out the broken big society there?

But Hon Tobes is a self-publicist. What’s so abusive about that? It’s a fact.

Young’s free school was supposed to have been located in the Borough of Ealing. Presumably, he had a tough time with the local council and he came to Hammersmith & Fulham where the ruling party has made shafting the disadvantaged into an art form (this is the same council that closed a load of homeless shelters). As I have pointed out in previous blogs, the council [Dear]leader, Stephen Greenhalgh wants to attract more rich people into the borough. To achieve this he has to bulldoze council estates and exile the low-waged and poor to other boroughs. This is the man who describes social housing as “welfare housing”.

All I have to say to Hon Tobes and his rich pals is “Nulli Secundis”…which is a nonsense phrase that was, nonetheless, used by him and his school as a motto. A propos, nonsense is what drips from his lips and flows from his er, pen.

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Filed under Education, Government & politics, Hammersmith & Fulham, London, Media, Tory press

If you’re looking for leadership, look away from the Labour Party

Some people say that the post war consensus ended in the 1980’s with the election of the Thatcher government. I’d agree with that. The Labour Party in the 1980’s under Neil Kinnock was a pale shadow of its former self. Kinnock as Labour leader sought to make the party electable by expelling from it the dissenters and the socialists. It first witch-hunted and then expelled members of the Militant Tendency from its ranks at the behest of Thatcher and the Tory-supporting press. Then it embarked on a period of internal ‘reforms’ to make it less social democratic and more business-friendly.

By 1997, the party had done a complete volte-face. Now it welcomed big business. Now it adopted corporate-speak as its new tongue. Now it cut its own heart out in order to please Murdoch and the rest of the Tory press. It became a new party. It joined the new neoliberal consensus. As Labour leader, Tony Blair told us how he was “beyond ideology”. Often when people say this sort of thing, they are making an effort to conceal their true right wing selves.

What Blair offered the country was a weak compromise between social democracy and neoliberalism. The two were and are mutually incompatible. First the Public Private Partnership (PPP) was introduced as Nu Labour’s concession to neoliberalism. Then came the Private Finance Initiative (PFI) which was introduced to provide a means for investing in hospital improvements. It too was a concession to neoliberalism.

By the time Brown came to power, the Labour Party looked like it had run out of ideas. It looked like a party marking time. It could offer nothing of substance to its core supporters who were deserting the party in their droves. Whilst in power the party had failed to reverse Thatcher’s anti-union laws. It also failed to build new council homes and continued with the disastrous Right to Buy scheme. It did the spade work for any future Tory administration.

Brown lost the election and the party took months to elect a replacement leader. When it eventually elected Ed Miliband, some thought that the party would change direction and draw a line between itself and the New Labour years. Even Miliband told us this. But he was just saying that for the press. A couple of months as leader and he sounds just like his mentor, Neil Kinnock.

Miliband has failed to offer real support the student protests though he said “I was tempted”. So what stopped him?  Three words: the Tory press. He was afraid of how the papers would portray him. Most of the mainstream media have been against the student protests, many of them concoct scare stories about “dangerous anarchist groups”. Some even went as far as to accuse a wheelchair-bound student, Jody McIntyre of using his wheelchair to attack the police. While the BBC and others reported on Prince Charles and Camilla’s car being attacked by protesters for days after the event; Aflie Meadows lay in hospital with bleeding on his brain, after being hit by a police truncheon. The journalists were unmoved and unconcerned. The opposition Labour Party said nothing about Alfie meadows or Jody McIntyre.

When Miliband gave his speech to conference in September, he said,

So they looked to their union to help them. They weren’t interested in going on strike, they loved the kids the worked with, they loved their schools. But they wanted someone to help them get basic standards of decency and fairness.

Responsible trade unions are part of a civilised society, every democratic country recognises that.

But all of us in this movement bear a heavy responsibility. We want to win an argument about the danger this coalition government poses to our economy and our society.

To do so we must understand the lessons of our own history too.

We need to win the public to our cause and what we must avoid at all costs is alienating them and adding to the book of historic union failures.

That is why I have no truck, and you should have no truck, with overblown rhetoric about waves of irresponsible strikes.

The public won’t support them. I won’t support them. And you shouldn’t support them either.

But it is not just from trade unions that I want to see responsibility.

We’ll take the last paragraph first, what does Miliband mean by “responsibility”? Caving in to pressure from the tabloid press? But what did he mean when he talked about “irresponsible strikes”? I would like to know what an “irresponsible strike” is. This section of the speech was intended to placate the rabid journos of the Telegraph, The Sun and The Daily Mail. What Miliband has done here is to play to the right wing press by agreeing that unions go on strike because they’re “irresponsible” and enjoy inconveniencing people. Unions go on strike because it is the last resort. In fact, it is harder to go on strike because of the laws that were left in place by Blair and Brown.

The Labour Party has been tepid in its support for the anti-cuts movement. It has offered no leadership at all. The NUS President, Aaron Porter also provided no leadership. His candlelit vigil on the Embankment became an even more laughable glowstick vigil (sic). He condemned some protesters as “a hardcore of activists” and played directly into the hands of the media.  Porter then backtracked after, it appears, he had taken advice from Labour Party Hq. His leadership remains weak and there are calls for him to be removed from office.

History has shown us that when leadership is required, the Labour Party is nowhere to be seen. It’s more concerned in maintaining its profile in the Tory press. Too cowardly to rock the boat, the Labour Party will always abandon those in real need. It even supports some of the government’s welfare reforms. In fact, when it was in power, it advocated pretty much the same reforms.

If you’re looking for real opposition to the cuts, don’t bother with Labour. They’ll only cut your throat and leave you in the ditch to die.

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Filed under Comprehensive Spending Review, Conservative Party, Education, Education, London, Society & culture, Student protests

Askham Centre to be handed over to Toby Young’s free school

Our kids will learn Latin.

I have just read on HF Conwatch that the Askham Centre in W12 is to be given to the Hon Tobes’s West London Free School. The Shepherds Bush blog has more on the story,

I have seen confidential Council information that confirms the Askham Family Centre will house the West London Free School (led by Toby Young, pictured) for a peppercorn rent until the Palingswick Centre in Hammersmith is ready to house the school on a permanent basis.

I’ve just had a look at the West London Free School website and they’re keeping schtum.  There’s nothing on Young’s Telegraph blog either.

The council claims that the Askham Centre is “underutilised”.

The Fulham and Hammersmith Chronicle ran a story last week about how teachers in the borough had criticized the council’s education policy. Dennis Charman, the secretary of the H & F Teachers Association said,

“Council leaders have clearly given up on any coherent planning for education in H&F.

“This seems to include adopting a complete failure to apply any professional scrutiny to the plans and aspirations of these proposals.

“Nor do we see any information about the effects such plans might have on the funding and stability of neighbouring schools.

“The council should be taking a more critical role in testing what these groups really are capable of offering.

“They hold our local schools to account everyday of the week but when someone pops up with a free school idea they completely lose the plot and fall over themselves to cheer them on from the sidelines.”

I understand that there are plans to open another 3 of these in the borough.

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