It's not always that I read the comments of a Labour MP and warmly support them, but the MP for Mitcham and Mordern, Siobhain McDonagh, is clearly a woman of high intellectual calibre and strong moral worth. The reason for such an endorsement? Her speech in an adjournment debate which was positive and enthusiastic about the role of Combined Cadet Force units. She started thus:
I am delighted to have been given this opportunity to promote the good work of the armed forces, and to raise the subject of the need to increase the number of schools involved with the cadets.
Later, we get this:
Traditionally, cadet forces have offered many attractions for young people, including the chance to try hill climbing, abseiling and other outdoor sports. Cadet forces have also given them opportunities to learn about subjects such as aviation and engineering, which cannot be offered by mainstream schools. They have given young people a strong sense of belonging to a community, and they have helped to instil them with a sense of self-discipline and respect.
And, as if to push the point home, this admirable MP goes on to say:
The cadets are exactly what many young people need to remain engaged at school and to prevent them from becoming disillusioned, bored and, ultimately, truanting from school. At present, as well as 100,000 cadets in youth groups outside school, there are more than 40,000 cadets based in schools as part of the combined cadet force.
She does go on to pursue an interesting class/race angle as well:
Today, Sir Keith Ajegbo, a former head teacher and a Home Office adviser, published a Government-commissioned report that says that more needs to be done to engage white pupils, particularly those who are working-class. His report says that white pupils can feel just as disfranchised as pupils from other ethnic backgrounds...Why should those of us who believe in a good state education sector allow public schools to monopolise a programme that could benefit children from less privileged backgrounds?...I am persuaded that cadet forces offer many young people, particularly white boys, something of real educational value, and I wish that the opportunity to join was more widely available.
Well, well. Some interesting truths from the honourable member for Mitcham and Mordern. Perhaps we should get her to visit.