On politics and objectivity

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My latest at the NS, on why a little noticed admission of error from Michael Gove tells us much about the subjective nature of public spending decisions.

Politicians can come up with a formula based on an objective set of numbers – but which numbers they choose, and what they do with them, will always be a matter of judgement.

You can read the piece here.

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How to make friends and influence people

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As part of my continuing campaign to alienate everybody in the entire world, I wrote a thing explaining why, for all his talk of being the heir to Blair, Michael Gove’s real political inheritance comes from Gordon Brown.

And just in case that wouldn’t annoy enough people anyway, I persuaded the generally pro-Gove Telegraph website to run the thing.

You can read the article here. This, for your delectation, is my favourite of the comments left underneath it:

“After reading this hack-job I searched the author’s name. He works for the Guardian and similar Left-wing rags. Why is he spewing this kind of garbage in the Telegraph?”

Good question.

Jonn @NewStatesman: Bits and bobs

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A couple of recent political bits from over at the Statesman.

Back in March, I wrote this, on why Michael Gove’s tendency to dismiss everyone who disagrees with him as a bunch of cackling Trots is coming back to bite him. Starts thusly:

You know who I hate? Children. Little bastards, with their snot and their questions and their boundless curiosity about the world. You know what I’d do, if it were up to me? I’d thwart them. Seriously, I’d thwart the bloody lot of them. I’d deprive them of vital general knowledge, not teach them to add up or spell, and we’ll see who’s laughing then, eh?

You can read the rest here.

More recently, I wrote this, on why the Tories’ refusal to countenance even the slightest criticism of Margaret Thatcher are going to shaft them come 2015.

The Clause 4 moment that everyone was waiting for, the thing that would show that the party had really changed, was a proper assessment of its last government’s record: one that admitted that parts of the country had been lain waste, and showed that the new leadership had learnt from its predecessor’s mistakes. But David Cameron never did that. Until someone does, it’s hard to see how the party could ever win a majority.

If that isn’t enough to convince you (and why wouldn’t it be?), you can see my reasoning here.

Jonn @GuardianEdu: On Gove’s original sin

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Throwing rocks at Michael Gove again, this time for last Tuesday’s Guardian. (Why yes, that is a flatteringly photo-shopped photograph of my face they ran with the article. How kind of you to notice.)

This time I’m asking “Will Gove’s legacy be parents petrified they won’t find a primary school for their child?”

Incidentally, “For goodness sake don’t tempt fate by saying you’ve identified MG’s worst cock-up!” may be the best comment posted under anything I’ve ever written.

You can read the piece here.

Jonn @NewStatesman: The Gove Delusion

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I don’t have any particular problem with Michael Gove. He’s set a goal and moved steadily towards it, so by the standards of this government, I suppose, he’s a superstar.

But I am utterly bemused by the bizarre way in which his rather modest achievements are constantly boosted by the Tory press. So, I wrote an essay for the New Statesman explaining why, if you actually know the first thing about education policy, he really isn’t all that:

Back in 2010, a bunch of councils took Michael Gove to court for his decision to snatch away money they’d been promised to rebuild their schools. He lost. The court couldn’t order the government to re-fund those projects (judicial reviews carry no such power). But Mr Justice Holman described the process as “so unfair as to amount to an abuse of power”, and demanded Gove reconsider.

To give you a hint of the gulf that’s grown up between Gove’s press and objective reality, here’s how the Spectator headlined the news: “Overall, a win for Gove.”

You can read the rest here.

Some old education stuff

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In which I spend altogether too much time in contemplation of the actions of Mr Michael Gove

The products of some the many hours I’ve spent fretting about the nation’s youth.

  • On Labour’s strangely unnoticed school building programme (New Statesman, March 2007) – and on Gove’s decision to scrap it (New Statesman, July 2010)
  • On charity, private schools and unintended consequences (Guardian, July 2009)
  • A question it took the government a surprisingly long time to ask. These free schools: how we going to pay for them? (The First Post, May 2010)
  • And where are we going to put them, come to that? (New Statesman, May 2011)
  • Is a degree still worth bothering with? (The First Post, July 2010)
  • The never ending debate on grade inflation isn’t fair to anyone. It’s time to grade A-Levels on a curve (The First Post, August 2010)
  • There is a fairer way to fund universities – it’s called income tax (The First Post, November 2010)
  • Why the New College of the Humanities isn’t a new Oxbridge (New Statesman, June 2011)

The 50-foot update, part 2: the politics stuff

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The second of two mega catch-up posts, covering everything I’ve been up to over the last 11 months. This one covers the political stuff. You can see the previous post, covering matters cultural, here.

On education:

  • No more A-level moaning: grade students on a curve (The First Post, August 20th 2010)
  • The fair way to fund universities? Income tax (The First Post, November 12th 2010)
  • What exactly is going wrong with Michael Gove’s pet free schools policy: it’s all a question of money (New Statesman, May 9th 2011)

The rest of the political stuff, from either side of the pond:

  • The LibDems’ Belgian problem: on the reasons for the party’s fall from grace (Liberal Conspiracy, October 13th 2010)
  • The good news for Obama: a statistical lifeline, of sorts (New Statesman, October 15th 2010)
  • Why the tea party is a liability for the Republicans (New Statesman, October 28th 2010)
  • On the Tomlinson verdict: How far can we trust the Metropolitan Police? (Londonist, May 4th 2011)