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Showing posts from June, 2007

CCF Calling

Ah, July - time of Wimbledon, rainstorms and CCF main camps. And it's one of the latter that I'm off to for a week, so no blogging for a while. Perhaps I'll make it an extended summer break, and stay off the blog until September? That's the virtue of teaching, as everyone keeps telling me....humungously long summer holidays!

Perhaps I won't wait until September - if events keep unfolding at the pace they have this week the British political scene will be unrecognisable when autumn term begins! Meanwhile, as Jacqui Smith faces her first big test as Home Secretary, having had a good 20 hours or so to settle in to the job, and Gordon Brown presides over his brainy cabinet, I'll head north....

Any More to Defect?

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Westminster is apparently awash with two types of rumour tonight. One type essentially concerns who might serve in the new Brown cabinet. Amongst names mentioned by Nick Robinson et al are David Milliband for the Foreign Office, Alastair Darling as the well trailed Chancellor etc.
The other type of rumour concerns another Tory defector. Brown appears determined to produce his 'ministry of all the talents', and almost as soon as Quentin Davies went over the rumours started going that at least one other MP was imminently going to follow. The name being touted on the Guido Fawkes blog is John Bercow (here and here). I really hope not. I knew Bercow when he was a committed right-wing chairman of the Tory students and I was a Tory leftie, and at that time I was strongly factionally opposed to him, the more so perhaps because he was - and is - extremely bright and an excellent speaker. He has made an interesting political journey, and the last time I bumped into him was at Ken Clarke…

Blair's Farewell Performance

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Tony Blair is capable of performances that exude considerable bravura or great pathos. His farewell PMQ's was neither, whatever might have been expected. It was relatively low key, marked by tributes from his various questioners, and culminated with applause and a standing ovation. It was, of course, a chronic sign - perhaps the sign - of his premiership that it should begin again with a citation for soldiers recently killed in Iraq. Whatever other tributes are paid to Blair, let us not forget that his leadership has cost the lives of many British citizens, and considerably more Iraqi ones, and that echo was still with him in that farewell performance. He also gave us some of the spin for which he is so notorious. Did his recitation of improved exam results as an indicator of his government's success in education really convince anyone? Has the government's determination to keep pointing to ever increasing public exam results not demeaned the whole exam system, as t…

A Great British Tradition

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Well it's come round again. The great British summertime tradition of living and dying with Tim Henman on Wimbledon's Centre Court. Every year we hear that he's had it, yet every year we're there either physically or in televisual spirit to urge him on. And he gives us everything he's got. I have rarely watched anyone squeeze such determined, plucky heroism out of every move he makes. Ten years this has been going on, and he's still at it! What is summer, after all, without that evening match from Henman, playing like the true English soul that he is, looking near to defeat and then suddenly rallying back. It happened again today. Don't expect anything from Henman, all the commentators told us - he's 78th., only won two matches etc. What do they know. On a partially washed out Wimbledon first day he gave us all the drama we needed to start this excellent fortnight, carrying on until he and Moya both quickly acceded to the referee's suggestion of a f…

L6 Film Visit

We will be going to see the 1325 showing of 'Taking Liberties' at the Panton Street Odeon. Given the timing, we will need to leave during period 5, but for most of you that is a PS lesson so not a problem. I will issue arrangements to everyone tomorrow and Friday if necessary, but it's pretty straightforward. The earlier start time does of course mean we will be finished earlier!

Taking Liberties

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Since we're discussing liberty, this film has come out at an ideal time for an A-level class beginning the study of political ideology. This film - and its accompanying book - has, naturally, both its admirers and detractors, and clearly we need to see it and read it ourselves to make up our disparate minds. It has certainly generated comment on the blogs. Conservative blogger Iain Dale likes it, while pseudonymous New Labour political researcher (at least I think he is) Hamer Shawcross provides an eloquent, and theory packed, critique of the book. the comments thread on both comments is worth pursuing, especially on the Shawcross blog.

Suggested time to go and see the film en classe will be given tomorrow.

Pomposity versus Security

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Not satisfied with giving the school a distinct prison likeness, with all the new gates and code locks, staff are apparently going to have to wear identity passes from next term. This does all seem a bit over the top when you consider that we have hardly been the victims of a sustained crime wave. I know a wallet went missing a few months ago, and a one-man crime gang tried to make off with a defunct computer once, but that hardly constitutes a besieged school in need of high security gates all over the place. However, they're here and that's that. But the passes! Is there really going to be some doubt in our minds as to whether or not the teaching staff should be here or not? And do we honestly, in this small community, not recognise each other?

Well, as I say, I have been getting a little indignant about the whole ludicrous process, but today I came across this item on the Guido Fawkes blog, with an update here, and it has rather calmed me down! I don't want passes…

How does Gordon Brown work?

In the hope that completing the exams doesn't mean AS students will have stopped following the news altogether, there is an interesting story here, on Iain Dale's blog, about Gordon Brown, the use of spin ,and the weekend coverage of his tough line on anti-terrorism. Some things, it seems, don't change.

UPDATE: Having had a chance to read the fascinating comments thread on the original Iain Dale post, above, it is perhaps worth noting that some of the journalists whom Dale accuses of going along with the Brown spin have responded pretty robustly. As it stands, the post and comments are an interesting dialogue - some of it pretty bad tempered - about the relationship of politics and journalism. One warning though - any comments place anonymously should be treated with serious caution. And while Mr. Dale rightly subjects the paper press to a thorough-going critique, blog commentators like himself, who are taken seriously as political commentators, also need to be open ab…

The State of the Tories

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From grammar schools to the appointment of the News of the World's former editor Andy Coulson. David Cameron has encountered more turbulence this week than at any time, I think, since he became leader. A number of right-wing commentators in the Telegraph and the Mail have come out in the last couple of days to lambast the direction he's going. It's a good point at which to ask how he is doing as Tory leader - especially for A2 students getting ready for 'Conservatism in the UK Today'!
The grammar schools row has illuminated the Cameron project rather nicely, although not in the way he would have liked! The reason for Willetts - inadvisedly as it turns out - being so loud in his rejection of grammar schools was part of the ongoing attempt to show that the Tories are a changed party who want to reflect the needs of a modern society. From the beginning, Cameron has been concerned to adopt new political positions - notably on the environment, the NHS and crime - and re…

New Question Paper Format

Just so that everyone knows, there has been a minor change to the format of the question papers that are being set this summer. It is very minor, and unlikely to make you start with surprise, but in case you're interested, here's the link to the exemplar papers!

Lessons from the Deputy Leadership

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If we needed another indication that our elected representatives are often a long way from the pulse of their own parties, never mind the nation, the current state of Labour's deputy leadership contest would seem to prove it! Having struggled to just get his 44 parliamentary nominations, thus entering the race very much as the straggler, it seems that Hilary Benn is now favourite to win, having secured the support of over 50 Labour constituency parties, including those of Gordon Brown, Jack Straw (Brown's campaign manager - tough call that), and Ed Balls (Brown's alter ego). What's more, Benn was one of only two candidates - the other being John Cruddas - to enter without being a Brown brown-nose. Benn commented that he would challenge Brown's policies where he thought they were wrong! Very different from the oleaginous and utterly sycophantic Peter Hain, whose campaign ran smoothly while it was confined to Westminster, but has now hit the rocks.
Sometimes I really…

BLACK GOLD Movie Trailer

This is the trailer for the film mentioned in the post below.

Black Gold - the real costa coffee

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The Telegraph's environment correspondent Charles Clover carries an interesting wake up article about the true cost of the coffee we all buy from the burgeoning chain outlets. As an aficionado of the delightful aromas of the high street coffee brands, I've put up with the wallet busting prices just for the luxury of my morning, afternoon, or evening Latte. Clover reports the findings of a new film documentary, 'Black Gold', due out in cinemas this Friday. Take this - for every £2 we spend on our cup of coffee, just 2p goes to the actual coffee growers.
It was this dichotomy that inspired Nick and Marc Francis, 'Black Gold's' makers, to do their documentary. As Clover reports:
The Francis brothers were in Ethiopia, intending to make an entirely different film, when they were struck by the irony that there was a famine in the birthplace of the beans that supply the West's booming coffee chains...
...the shocking fact that the Francis brothers have uncovered…

Cabinet Government? What Cabinet Government?

There is a useful post on Bill Jones' blog referring to comments made by former Cabinet Secretary Lord Butler about Tony Blair's dislike of cabinet government. Very useful stuff indeed for AS students looking for supporting evidence about the current PM's attitude to the cabinet, and I recommend reading it here.

Jones quotes Butler as saying that the only decision the cabinet took (as opposed to just the PM) during his eight months in office was the one to approve the Millenium Dome. Jones then offers a brief survey of the weakening of cabinet government through Thatcher and Major to Blair.

Tory Troubles

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It had to come, of course - a genuine Tory dispute after months of being in thrall to David Cameron's bewitching media performances. The shame of this current spat over grammar schools is that it was so unnecessary. David Willetts didn't need to condemn the favoured state system of much of the Tory Party when he introduced his 'new' education policy. It was sheer tactical incompetence that blundered the party into this row, and Willetts may ultimately pay the price. There never had to be a debate on grammar schools, and after two or three weeks of party naval gazing the party leadership has been left returning to its de facto original position - if they wish to expand where they exist, let them do so. Actually, this is a slightly more pro-grammar position than they had before Mr. Willetts' ill-judged speech, as Tory MP's all voted for the 2006 education Act which has specifically forbidden further selection in England without primary legislation.
We have Domini…