Friday, 14 January 2011

One Month before Heartbreak

It's a blogswarm!

People's lives will be seriously affected by proposed changes to Disability Living Allowance.

It's reassuring to know that the new government is much the same as the old government.


It's NOT reassuring at all.

It's heartbreaking.

How do MPs sleep at night?

Maybe they don't.

If they don't have the same needs (eg: sleep) as ordinary people I suppose they have great difficulty empathising with them or understanding what their lives are like.

Shame on them.

Read more here or here.

Then hang your head and weep because society seems to have lost its compassion.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Strange times

Oh what strange times we live in.

Today we have an emergency budget. Let's face it, as a country we're now looking for the change we dropped down the side of the sofa. Mixed feelings - yes, "something" needs to be done, but it would be better if the "something" affects other people and not me. The NIMBY attitude?

And watch the hypocrisy. People who were in government not so long ago and spending money wildly (eg: on the really pointless Badman review?) now saying that they would do things differently and the sums are wrong. Can't help wondering who got the country into this mess - or at least, who was supposed to be in charge when all the financial disasters happened? If GB was saving the world, what went wrong?

It's reassuring, isn't it, to find that normal life is still there? Last Thursday the Independent reported how Ofsted said that home educators should be forced to register. Not again ... has the season for hounding home educators restarted so soon? And why does every article about home education seem to have a photo of parent and child sitting at a table writing or looking at books? Haven't journalists heard of socialisation? Why not have a picture of children playing or running round, exploring castles or just building sand castles or playing with Lego to develop their interest in construction?

No, hang on - this isn't normal life. Look what happened next .... Graham Stuart MP, the chair of the Education select committee sent a press release which put Ofsted in its place! It's reported here and just read what he says:

'It is astonishing that the Chief Inspector of Schools should stray onto home education and get it so wrong. In Ofsted’s official press release she says that “it is extremely challenging for local authorities to meet their statutory duty to ensure children have a suitable education”, when they have no such duty. Parents, not the state, have the statutory duty to ensure that their children have a suitable education.'

Although CYPNow didn't include all of Graham's quotes, he went on to say “I find it deeply concerning that, after months of work, the Chief Inspector should make such a basic mistake and so utterly confuse the duties of local authorities and parents. Parents who home educate deserve our respect and awe at their dedication and achievements, not the relentless suspicion of an over mighty state.”

Have I strayed into an alternative reality? Ofsted's chief inspector getting her knuckles rapped and home educators praised by an MP?

Graham Stuart rocks! How can someone who isn't a home educator be so in touch with the realities of home education? This is rare! THANK YOU, Mr Stuart. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!

Never mind, it's not all good news. Yesterday there was clarification about Local Authorities funding college courses for home educators - or not, as the case may be: "It is for the LA to decide whether to fund the provision: they have the discretion to do so but are not required to do so".

Well, I think we all know the answer to that one - the money may be there, tucked away down the back of a Local Authority black hole sofa bought in a DFS half price sale, but the will to actually provide the money to fund a course for those misguided home educators certainly isn't. Not a chance. Though they've made the right noises, it's called passing the buck (but not the pound, certainly not to fund home educators).

Oh, and as for Christine Gilbert, the Ofsted boss who got it so wrong about whose responsibility it is to ensure a child receives a suitable education - well, it seems she's digging in her heels and refusing to go according to the Telegraph.

Strange times indeed. At least there's Wimbledon - if a Brit does win I'll know that it really is an alternative reality.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

So it's Goodbye to the DCSF and Hello to the Department for Education.

It seems that they're putting everything on hold according to CYP. I suspect they're looking for the broom for a clean sweep - maybe Ed's taken it with him.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

It's a new dawn, it's a new Prime Minister

Well, almost one week after the election and we finally know who is the Prime Minister of Great Britain.

It's been rather unsettling, waiting to see if the Lib Dems would work with the Conservatives or whether they'd try things out with the Labour Party. The prospect of Ed Balls possibly getting back into any position of power was unnerving for me.

So, last night it all happened. Gordon Brown went to see the queen, tendered his resignation and David Cameron got the keys to Number 10 and a new best friend in Nick Clegg. It's a different style of government for the UK - how well it works will emerge over time.

No doubt some details of the behind-the-scenes machinations will eventually emerge - some may be true, others mere speculation. There's already talk about how GB's resignation as Labour Leader had the ring of a Mandelson manoevre and how some Labour folks such as David Blunkett weren't pleased at attempts to cling on to power after the electorate had spoken. According to the Daily Mail, Lord Mandelson and Alistair Campbell may now face a backlash for their work.

Channel 4 was lucky enough to have a news programme scheduled for the time of Mr Brown's announcement last night (poor old BBC had to postpone Eastenders). Jon Snow interviewed Ed Balls - I was almost impressed. Mr Balls looked serious - more serious (in my opinion) than he looked when talking on breakfast news some time ago about the tragic Baby Peter case.

Of course, there has been talk about how Ed Balls will be a candidate for the Labour leadership and would be Mr Brown's choice - maybe that's why he had his "take me seriously" face on. Maybe he's been practising - if you read Matthew Norman's Independent piece from a few weeks ago (really? just a few weeks?) it certainly seems that way.

I thought Gordon Brown looked far happier last night as he left Downing Street than he's looked for a long time. I seriously wish him and his family well - I may dislike many of the things he and his Government did, but he and Sarah have had a share of heartache and I would not wish that heartache on my worst enemy.

As for Ed Balls as leader of the Labour party ... if that happens, Guido Fawkes may well be able to report the end of the Labour party. Surely they wouldn't go for an MP who managed to decrease his majority so much?

Oh, and what about my old MP, the one who was seizing every photo opportunity around yet seemed to me to have done very little for his actual constituency during his years in office?

Well, Mr Brown wrote to at least one new voter urging them to go out and vote on May 6th.

When did the letter arrive? May 7th.

Did the old Labour MP get back in anyway? Now, that would be telling, but I'd say that chickens come home to roost and his commitment to seriously address constituents' concerns was repaid in full.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Election nerves

So, Election day is here.

A lot of people have been undecided how to vote - me included.

I live in a marginal constituency, one which was traditionally Conservative but fell to Labour under Tony Blair and has remained in their hands, though with a dwindling majority.

So, how to vote - I've used a process of elimination because I have quite a choice.

First, I can discount any party whose policies I fundamentally disagree with.

My current MP has been (in my opinion) pretty useless whenever I've contacted him about anything, though he does have a knack for finding photo opportunities. He also manages to somehow get himself associated with anything "successful", even if he's had nothing to do with the success other than maybe giving an opinion or turning up to an unveiling. Just my humble opinion, of course.

His campaign seems to have been based on the lines of "There's so much I want to do for this constituency, give me the chance to do it." He has, in my opinion, had the chance to do those things for some years now and has failed to do them. So, why should I believe he'll put any more effort in to actually doing them now?

The final nail in his political coffin (for me) is the attempt(s) made by his government to change the landscape for home education in this country. I contacted my MP about my concerns and let's just say that he lived down to my expectations. On top of that there's the spectre of Ed Balls, and his promise to introduce those changes which were rejected if Labout get back in to power.

Then there's the possibility that if there's a hung parliament Labour will do a deal with the Liberal Democrats and Ed Balls will get just that chance (assuming his constituents actually send him back to Westminster).

Although Mark Field and Graham Stuart have done wonders for the Conservative image amongst home educators, I can't help wondering what will actually happen if their party does get in to power. I remember the days of Maggie Thatcher, and they're not all good memories at all. Well, apart from the Spitting Image puppet which was wonderful.

But the lasting feeling from that time is of people being selfish and self-centred, money-grabbing and materialistic.

However, these days it's pretty hard to see a real difference between the Conservatives and Labour - they were all rather good at claiming expenses (bath plug or duck house, anyone?).

As for the Greens, well, although my gut feeling is that I might want to vote for them, I'm pretty sure they won't get this constituency.

So I'm going to amaze myself and actually do something that Ed Balls has suggested - I'm probably going to vote tactically! You'd expect him to be really pleased at somebody following his advice, but I suspect he won't be because my tactics probably aren't his tactics - I still have my conscience.

However, until I've put my cross on the ballot paper, anything is possible - well, almost anything!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Tut, tut, Mr Balls

Oh dear, poor Ed Balls.

It seems he made a mistake - he broke the law. That's the LAW, Mr Balls, the law of the land that applies to everyone, whether they're humble home educators or MPs (or former MPs since we haven't had the election yet).

According to the Telegraph he was fined for using a mobile phone while driving - with his three children in the car!

The Telegraph quotes him as saying: "I 100 per cent support the law on mobile phones - it's there to protect the safety of all drivers, passengers and pedestrians.''

So, if he supports it (good to hear) and knows that it's there to protect people's safety (including passengers' - that means his own children in this instance) why exactly did he break it? ''Although our car has hands-free, I took my phone off the cradle because I did not want to wake the kids,'' he told the Telegraph.

Ah, now I understand. He risked injuring or killing his children (that is why the law is there about not using mobile phones, isn't it? It's there to protect the safety of passengers, didn't he say?) because he didn't want to wake them up. That's a clear choice, isn't it?

The Daily Mail has a bit more to say about it all, including condemnation from road safety groups.

They quote him as saying "It was a fair cop. It was late at night, I had no points on my licence. The police pulled me straight over. I immediately accepted the fine and the three points."

That's OK then. It was late at night, the time when children are expected to sleep; parents usually know this sort of thing. Did he not think about this before setting off, that maybe his children would fall asleep? If he didn't want to use the hands-free set he could have switched off the phone.

This is the man who has been in charge of the Department for Children, Schools and Families - that's the department that's supposed to have an interest in looking after children, keeping them safe, even.

"The police pulled me straight over." Hey, that's their job - if they see somebody breaking the law, they stop them.

"I immediately accepted the fine and the three points." Well, what other options were there? Are we supposed to applaud? Yeah, he broke the law, but that's all right because he accepted he'd done it and just took the punishment? That makes it OK, does it?

The Mail also quotes him as saying "it was a stupid thing to do, but that happens from time to time". I'm not sure how to take that, to be honest. Is he saying that he does stupid things from time to time or that he uses his phone while driving from time to time? If it's the latter, should he really have more than three points on his licence? If it's the former, well ....

I can almost feel Gordon Brown's irritation. The Daily Mail again: "Gordon Brown said Mr Balls would apologise, adding: ‘These things happen and I hope he's going to apologise, as he will.’"

So let's summarise here.

Ed Balls was the minister in charge of the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF).

He was in charge of the DCSF when the Children, Schools and Families Bill was going through parliament.

He was in charge when Schedule 1 of that Bill (which proposed draconian measures around home education) was dropped in the wash-up.

It was Ed Balls who wrote to Michael Gove saying that opposition to the proposed registration scheme for home educators was "profoundly misguided and will put children at risk in the future."

In the same letter Mr Balls said "However, without our reforms the small minority of children at risk will remain so. By opposing these provisions you have removed a potentially valuable tool for local authorities in their work to safeguard all children."

He also said that he would "be campaigning to ensure that this Government is returned and that these measures do make it on the statute book in the first session of the new Parliament."

Safeguarding children, hmmm? That means keeping them safe, taking steps to make sure they don't get injured.

This is the same man who broke the law by using his mobile phone while driving with his three children in the car.

Would I trust him to take measures that would keep my children safe? I'll have to think about that.

Of course, if ever those proposed registration measures do become law I suppose people who fail to register could always say in defence that "these things happen".

Read more:

Tuesday, 13 April 2010


I'm sure I'm not the only one who finds it a little bizarre that three former MPs who are accused of fiddling their expenses are going to get legal aid! It's been reported pretty widely, such as here.

Legal aid is paid for by the taxpayer.

MPs' expenses are paid for by the taxpayer.

MPs are paid a salary that most of us would envy - ooh, hang on, that's paid for with our taxes too, isn't it?

Most peculiar - it's an Alice in Wonderland moment, isn't it?!