Tag Archives: Francis Maude

Maude exposed as Tory plan to smear the public sector founders

Francis Maude - a chip off the old Mekon block?

The government tried its damnedest to get the public on their side on Thursday. The carefully constructed enemy within – the public sector workers – was little more than a strawman. Some ministers went on the charm offensive: Gove popped up at a school that was still open (and no doubt staffed by scabs) and Francis Maude, the son of a man known as “The Mekon” was horribly exposed by Evan Davis, who is himself a scab of some standing. Maude tried desperately and repeatedly to ram home the point that the government’s plans for public sector pension ‘reforms’ were “fair”. He reiterated the lie that public sector workers enjoy “gold-plated” pensions (the majority of public sector pensions are worth little more than £3000) and that is was “unfair” for the taxpayer to pick up the bill.  First he claimed that the pensions were “unaffordable”, then he said they were “untenable”. Maude, not being in possession of a great deal of logic or intellect, managed to overlook the glaringly obvious: public sector workers are taxpayers too and none of them avoid tax…unlike many of Maude’s millionaire cabinet colleagues and Tory party donors. Incidentally, Maude’s personal wealth is estimated to be around £3m.

Yesterday, Telegraph blogger, Ed West produced an article with a title that looks as though  he found a few words lying about; crammed them into a pestle and mortar, mashed them up and smeared them paste-like onto the blog. Here, he treats us to a glimpse of his childhood.

I bitterly remember that in one year in the 1980s my teacher was almost alone in our school in not being a member of the NUT, and so when strikes occurred, which they seemed to do every week, our class had to traipse in while everyone else went to the park. So I just hope the kids who get a day off today appreciate it, and enjoy their time drinking cider or sending pornographic text messages to each other, or whatever kids get up to these days.

The strikers in one sense have a point; teaching is, in many ways, an underpaid job, not just in the sense that most work very hard for not very good pay, but also because a good teacher can have a hugely disproportionate effect on society compared to, say, a good plumber. A good headmaster even more so.

In terms of sensible investment a society can’t do much better than education spending.

On the other hand there are a lot of bad teachers around and, thanks to the strength of teaching union, their influence on a community can also be significant. These two issues – bad pay and virtual unsackability – are not unrelated.

So the upshot of this is that teachers who happen to be in unions are bad teachers? Lazy thinking.  As with the Hon Tobes and Katharine Burbling Thing, he attracts the usual spittle-laced rage of the Telegraph commenters, all of whom are unanimous in their condemnation of Thursday’s strike. This one is fairly typical,

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Give it 12 months and the left will hopefully be a spent force in this country and someone on the right will have the courage to step forward and bring this once great country back to normality.
“John Pierre”, eh?
Anyway, back to Maude. Yesterday, Mekon Jnr decided on a slight change of tack.  He suggested that public sector managers who have been made redundant can work for free.  Remember, this is the man who, when asked if he gives up his time freely to volunteer, said that the question was “unfair”.
 
Mekon Jnr has had a tough couple of days. The government tried and failed to convince the people that the public sector were parasitical and responsible for the budget/structural deficit (notice that I didn’t say “national debt” as is the wont of too many Tories and Lib Dems). I’m not a big fan of Polly Toynbee but she comes up with a couple of insights in this blog. Here’s a snippet,

This week the Tories tried to resurrect fears of the bad old 1970s – but it didn’t work. Cameron tried to paint Miliband as the creature of the unions that elected him: he sidestepped that trap and rightly castigated the government’s behaviour over the pensions issue. A bit of history may help: as far as I can discover, no Labour party has ever officially supported a strike, not the General Strike, nor any miners’ strike. Shirley Williams was pilloried for joining the Grunwick picket line which later turned violent, but it wasn’t Labour policy. Neil Kinnock was tormented for not backing the miners against Margaret Thatcher in 1984, or the six-month-long ambulance strike in 1989-90.

It’s both laughable and tragic that the Tories consider Ed Miliband to be a “creature of the unions” when it is quite clear that Milly Band did a “Kinnock” and declared the strike to be “wrong”. The Tories are so desperate to land a fatal blow on their opponents that they will come out with any old nonsense in the hope that someone is listening. But no one is….apart from the lunatic fringe that reads the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail.

In Britain, public support for strikes is split with many of those against strikes taking their views directly from the mouths of government ministers and the Tory-controlled press. In France and other countries (apart from the USA), there is much more solidarity; most people support striking workers. Why is this country so different?

Mekon Jnr has been quiet in the last 24 hours. Let’s hope it stays that way. Perhaps he’ll go the same way as Mekon Snr: he’ll resign and then be kicked upstairs to the Lords.

Finally, this picture from the Daily Mirror sums it up: Milly band is no friend of the unions, let alone a creature of them. The Tories are going to have to rethink their strategy of painting him “Red Ed”, bacause he looks more like a “Blue Ed” from where I’m standing.

Post script

From the Telegraph

  • Francis Maude, the shadow minister for the cabinet office, attempted to claim the mortgage interest on his family home in Sussex. This arrangement was rejected by the Fees Office. Two years later, Mr Maude bought a flat in London a few minutes walk from a house he already owned. He then rented out the other property and began claiming on the new flat: the taxpayer has since covered nearly £35,000 in mortgage interest payments.

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Let’s talk about: mandates, unions and strikes

With a public sector strike looming, the Tories are questioning the legitimacy of the numbers of those union members who have voted to go out on strike. Although those voting in favour were in the majority, the turnout was as low as 29%.

But the Tories forget something: most by-elections attract a turnout of around 30%; sometimes less. Yet, in spite of the low turnout, a candidate is elected to parliament with no questions asked about such poor numbers. Many local authorities are also elected on similar turnouts – some of those councils, incidentally, are Tory-controlled councils. In fact,  the turnout for local elections in Britain is the lowest in Europe.  Indeed, some of their own MPs were elected on low turnouts. But not a peep from them about this.

Recently, the likes of Vince Cable, Boris Johnson and now, Francis Maude have all threatened to introduce tougher anti-union legislation if the unions ‘cripple the economy’, which is just another way of passing the buck and covering for the fact that the government is clueless in its approach to the nation’s finances.  In today’s Guardian, Maude said that he and the rest of the government “had not ruled out” tougher legislation. Interestingly enough, one of the unions that voted to strike was the Association of Teachers and Lecturers. The ATL, as far as I know, has never gone out on strike. But this doesn’t stop the Telegraph’s gobshite-in-chief from spouting rubbish about “hardcore Trotskyites”. The ATL is usually known for  encouraging and allowing strike-breaking among its members in its Further Education section.  Of course, The Hon Tobes, being the ignoramus that he is, completely ignores the union’s history to get in a spot of union-bashing.

Having debated Mary Bousted on numerous occasions (see here, for instance), I don’t doubt that she’s completely sincere in her belief that Michael Gove’s education reforms will have a negative impact on state education. She’s wrong, of course, but she’s entitled to use the public platform granted to her by her union to put her case as strongly as possible.

But to go further than this and exploit her members’ anxiety about pension reforms to pursue her own ideological agenda is unacceptable. Whatever her political views, she and her trade union have an obligation to abide by the decision of the British people and respect the will of its elected representatives. To call a strike this summer would not only be an unforgivable attack on our schoolchildren, it would be an affront to democracy.

This Tory-led government is committed to making public sector workers pay greater contributions towards their pensions. Hon Tobes wilfully misleads us when he claims that Mary Bousted is “exploiting her members’ anxiety”. The concern among public sector workers is very real. I wonder if he’s actually spoken to any teachers?

In today’s Torygraph, Maude said,

For the parents – particularly if you’re a single mother who’s working and you’re dependant on the school being open and your child being at school – when that school randomly closes down when all the discussions about the dispute are still going on, people are going to be quite angry about that.

This is an odd statement, particularly as the Tories have repeatedly shown little sympathy for the plight of single parents. But, once again, Maude seems to think that it’s only women who are single parents. But none of us should be surprised by the impoverished thinking among members of the current government. This comment from Hon Tobes blog perfectly illustrates the widespread and wilful ignorance that pervades the party,

If Bob Hawke could fire all the domestic airline pilots in Australia and Ronnie Regan could fire all the air traffic controllers in the USA with neither action really impairing the airline industry, why not fire all the striking teachers. British education is a sad joke and it would be the ideal time to start afresh, completely afresh. A good first point would be to start teaching kids to read phonetically.
This commenter doesn’t think about the process involved in training and, more importantly, retaining teachers. In his/her mind they can all be easily replaced. Presumably this commenter would just as well employ unqualified teaching assistants as teachers. As I mentioned, one of the biggest problems for the education sector is the retention of teaching staff. Many newly-qualified teachers (NQTs) leave the profession in the first year. But this fact appears to have passed the Tories by.
Not only are the days long gone when teachers could consider themselves particularly poorly paid, they still have greater job security and longer holidays than most. High investment in education over many years has seen salaries rise – and rightly so, since attracting and rewarding good teachers is important for the country. But equally, many children are leaving school without even the basic standards of literacy and numeracy, shortcomings for which the profession must take a large share of the blame. Strike action will hardly help matters: it will be damaging to the children and deeply inconvenient for parents, who will have to organise
child care or take time off work.
This idea that teachers have “longer holidays than most” simply isn’t true. During those supposed holidays, most teachers are marking, researching or preparing lessons. Then there’s the stress, the pushy or aggressive parents that need to be dealt with. The endless paperwork. The form-filling. The long hours.
There is a notion in ciculation that the state school system is inherently left-wing and damaging the minds of the nation’s children and,on the other hand there is another that supposes that teachers and other public sector workers are a drain on the nation’s life-force. This image has been partly concocted by the Tories’ allies in the media to create a new Other; a new enemy within for our times.  Public sector workers are variously portrayed in the right wing press as bloodsuckers and greedy bastards. They are seen as the ones who are the obstacle to the nation’s economic recovery. In the Tory imagination, society is represented as an upside down pyramid: the most powerful are at the bottom while the rest of us are on the top, pushing down, oppressing the millionaires and billionaires. It’s a Randist fantasy.
 Good night, everyone!

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