Showing posts from April, 2014

Death Comes to a School

A teacher helping a student in a busy, focused classroom.  A normal scene in schools up and down the land, barely worth a mention.  Then the whole scene becomes tortured into something violently, scarily different, as a boy approaches the teacher from behind, thrusts a knife into her back and then does it again and again, until the teacher collapses in a pool of blood, and later dies.  No wonder the appalling murder of Mrs. Maguire in her school classroom has drawn so much attention.

It is an exceptional incident, and the multiple coverage of it sticks to the pathos and tragedy of the story itself, rather than suggesting there are some wider lessons here.  But there may be one or two, and both are drawn out by a former pupil of Mrs. Maguire's, novelist Anthony McGowan.  In a powerful article for the Daily Telegraph, McGowan both remembers why Mrs. Maguire was such an important teacher for him, and combines it with reflections on the difference that has passed in schools between h…

Bashing Blair, Cabinet Confusion and Other Stories

A quick round-up of some recent commentaries, starting with the Economist's Bagehot on Tony Blair and his Middle-East speech.  Blair has never been the most profound political thinker in the world, and his observation that radical Islam poses a global problem was a little akin to a modern scientist reminding us that the world is round.  Nonetheless, Bagehot begins with the harsh statement that "One of the most hated men in Britain gave a speech on 23rd. April...." Admittedly, the Economist columnist's point was to suggest that while Blair's stock remains low - almost down at banker levels - we should be reminded that he was a giant of his times.  In fact, Bagehot is trying a rather schizophrenic approach to Blair in his column, spending the first half eloquently reminding us why the man is such a political millstone these days, but then trying to recant that view with a less convincing call to recognise his real greatness.  The worst part of Bagehot's contor…

Democracy Deficit and a Participation Crisis? AS Politics

The powerpoint for AS politics students on political participation and the democracy deficit is here.  The quote, or slogan, that starts it is suggested by Roger Scruton in his "Dictionary of Political Thought", while an article by Rowena Hammell for "Politics Review" provided much of the substantive evidence for the 'democracy deficit'.

I mention at the end an article by Sebastian Payne for the Spectator, which suggested that elected mayors is where it's at, if you want to get things done as an elected politician.  He summarises some of his key findings here on the Spectator website.  His article had extolled the virtues of Bristol's George Ferguson, amongst others, where he noted that the officially Independent mayor had, in the space of 17 months, banished cyclist-unfriendly bendy buses, revoked Sunday parking charges and signed off on several new primary schools.  The broader thrust of his article noted that mayors were not only able to take ci…

Punch and Judy Never Really Left PMQs

The headline on the BBC News site was about air pollution reaching new levels, and I did wonder for a moment if this wasn't an appositely titled heading to a report about today's Prime Minister's Questions, which seemed to be a particularly hopeless round of personal abuse even by current standards.

If we get the politicians we deserve then we should be genuinely concerned about the state of the body politic in the UK.  Not so much because of sex scandals or expenses shenanigans - though these things hardly encourage us in our attitude to our would-be masters - but because of the dismal calibre of our political leaders.  At least, if Prime Minister's Questions is anything to go by.  No-one expects this weekly parliamentary jousting to be a masterclass in political education - although it would be no bad thing if that were an appropriate expectation - but neither should the most regularly broadcast piece of parliamentary theatre be such a depressing collapse into unima…