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Cameron’s woes a mix of out of touchness and media revenge re Leveson

Posted on 1 April 2012 | 11:04am

I resisted the many requests from Sunday newspapers to offer crisis comms advice to Number 10 as a combination of granny tax, tax cuts for the rich, pasties, petrol panic and a Tory funding scandal combine to give the government a fairly choppy period.

Partly this was because I remember once spotting Bernard Ingham, Maggie’s press spokesman, popping up on telly and fulminating against me and and all my works, and saying to my kids: ‘If I ever end up like that, put me down.’ Also because I was having a very nice time in Rennes, Brittany, at a rather splendid event organised by Liberation newspaper, in which thousands of people wandered off the streets to join in all manner of political and philosophical debates.

But I always know if a frenzy is nothing more than that, or if it has lasting political significance, by the volume of media bids and the volume of calls from people I used to see and speak to on a regular basis. Like the Tory MP who called me this morning, just to ask if I could believe how badly Number 10 had cocked up since the budget. He said something which echoed the comments of his colleague Nadine Dorries in a recent reasonably favourable profile of David Cameron in the FT magazine. She said the problem with the government was that it was run by two public schoolboys who did not know anyone who had to put things back on the supermarket shelves after looking at the price.

I met Nadine Dorries when she and I appeared on The Big Questions a few weeks ago, and found myself being more impressed by her than I had expected to be, based on something of a caricature which had emerged since she was elected. Of all the comments in the FT piece, hers struck me as the most politically potent, which is why I cut it out.

What we have seen in recent days has borne her out. It was echoed by one of my callers this morning. He said Cameron and George Osborne rely on a very narrow gene pool, both politically and in class terms, because they really do think they are superior. Whenever anyone goes on about their background, they get accused of waging class war. But just as Nadine Dorries saw the relevance of their background to the looming ‘out of touch’ problem, so did my Tory caller. ‘They do not have, and do not know, elderly parents who have to worry about the price of everything. They don’t know middle class people for whom child benefit really makes a difference. They are not rooted in the world that most of our constituents live in.’

If the background and the upbringing risks breeding arrogance, then touches of that are being shown in their mishandling of events. Osborne was sneaky in his Budget presentation, but thought he would get away with it. Granny tax, then pasties put paid to that. Watch out too for a backlash on changes to charitable and philanthropic giving. Then Cameron thought he could get away with saying he was coming clean on funding when actually he wasn’t. Rule 1 when dealing with a big Sunday paper expose – always be on guard for what they have kept back for Week 2. I said last Monday he should set out the full story, and defend what he thought was right, and deal with what he thought was wrong. He didn’t do that. He just gave the impression he was.

Cameron’s biggest strength so far has been looking and sounding like a PM, but I have said before unless there is substance, values and a real sense of strategy to what he does, that will not be enough. There is a sense developing that he and his team are prone to panic under pressure. He needs to stop that becoming a trend. He also needs to get a grip of ministers who drop the ball as easily as they have over petrol. Jerry cans indeed. Extraordinary.

I used to keep a file of cuttings in which various newspapers and magazines announced ‘the end of the honeymoon’ for TB. We had been in years before finally they stopped. I imagine the Sunday papers have a few such references today.

There is another factor at play here, and that is the PM’s decision to establish the Leveson Inquiry. It was the right thing to do, and it would have been scandalous had he not done so. But he did so not out of burning principle or worries about the press culture. He did so become a combination of Andy Coulson, closeness to News International and Millie Dowler made it impossible not to. In some ways, the press has been on its best behaviour as the inquiry goes on, hoping that the judge and the politicians will buy the line that the very existence of the inquiry has led to a change of culture. This is of course entirely tactical, in that if they get away with another round in the last chance saloon, they will then revert to type.

Indeed, the way some are turning the heat on Cameron suggests that on this one, they can’t resist their continuation as instruments of unaccountable political power. Revenge a dish best served hot. And amid all that, particlarly relevant is the continuing love-in between Rupert Murdoch and Alex Salmond. I don’t know if the Leveson team keeps an eye on the Scottish papers. But as we near the point when past and current leaders are likely to be summoned, I do hope that Salmond is among them, so that he can explain this touching relationship, and that Murdoch is asked why he has suddenly become a proponent of breaking up the UK.

  • Lesleycookman


  • “…Murdoch is asked why he has suddenly become a proponent of breaking up the UK.” Now that would be the ultimate political revenge – to play a role in the dissolution of an entire nation-state! I almost admire Murdoch’s chutzpah and the sheer glee with which the billionaire businessman presents himself as an enemy of the elite and thus, by implication, simply an everyday guy.

  • Ehtch

    Heard Ed Miliband has resigned as Labour leader after the Bradford result disaster, or am I a couple of hours too late to say this….

  • Olli Issakainen

    The Tory-led government has lost grip.
    David Cameron is now Savonarola of British politics.
    As Machiavelli put it, “a ruler must never imagine that any decision he takes is safe”.
    Girolamo Savonarola was overthrown along with all his reforms when people stopped believing in him.
    George Osborne has become Marie Antoinette figure. Osborne´s Notting Hill house is worth £3m. His shareholding in wallpaper company is £4m.
    Let them eat cakes!
    Tax cuts for the rich in the age of austerity is bad politics. And now we have new revelations in the Cameron-for-cash scandal.
    The Tory-led government is simply incompetent.
    George Osborne is wrong. Austerity is for the boom years, not for the slump.
    We are now governed by the political wing of the wealthy.
    A Very British Coup by Chris Mullin is now actual.
    Will people prefer to be ruled by elected government or by people who remain behind the scenes?
    Rich elite in Britain uses Chatham House, Bilderberg Group, Ditchley Foundation and Tavistock Institute to govern.
    Britain has 620,000 millionaires.
    But Anthony Eden and Harold Macmillan were not like David Cameron.
    Mr Cameron has started a new class war.
    Heath, Thatcher and Major were not emphasising class. The class war should have ended on 22 July 1965 when Sir Alec Douglas-Home resigned as the leader of the Tories.
    Harold Wilson had won in 1964. Social revolution had happened in British politics.
    Edward Heath then was a common leader. Etonians were not running the show.
    Thatcher, Major, Hague, Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Howard came from humble origins.
    1945 grandson of duke lost to Attlee´s egalitarian party. Voters condemned Tories as out of touch and uncompassionate – party of two nations, not one.
    Harold Macmillan made himself to look both modern and progressive.
    The success of George Galloway should be a warning to Labour. Labour party does not have a monopoly on anger.
    It must listen to trade unions, students and anti-cuts movement.
    The only two certainties in life are death and tax avoidance. Mr Osborne will not be able to get five times more from the rich.
    RBS should not be sold at loss to Abu Dhabi.
    Rupert Murdoch has now got his revenge. But why was he ever allowed to own 40% of newspapers?
    Well, there was a secret meeting between Murdoch and Thatcher at Chequers on 4 January before News International was cleared to buy the Times and Sunday Times in 1981 from the Thomson family.
    The bid should, of course, have been referred to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission.
    So, nothing has changed…

    Ps. Edouard de Rothschild owns 37% of the Liberation daily founded by Sartre in 1973. 

  • Cammy_in_Germany

    Murdoch leaves me cold and always has. It seems to me at all politicians have at one time been too close. I include Labour in that.

  • Ehtch

    Remember Alastair I keep barking on about old alpine distant extract travelled blonde taffy ladies, Mary is one of the mark ones in modern times,
    Met her a few times in the last few years, still got that sweet smile of hers, that makes you just want to grab her and just simply hug her.

  • Kate Monahan

    I agree with al of this. And am particularly concerned at the salmond / Murdoch alliance!
    I would add only that I think the confession of the Govt that it deliberately created a fuel panic for political gain is more that just stupidity & arrogance it constitutes an abuse of power.
    Whilst Maude may have got away with giving idiotic but genuine advice that was false & potentially dangerous, can he survive giving phoney advice he knew to be misleading, with the PMs agreement, that may have led to serious injury, purely as manipulation, in an attempt to discredit their political rivals?!
    It is unacceptable surely for a Govt to deliberately invoke an unatural panic, indeed create exactly the disruption they so consistently criticise strikes for causing, misusing cobra etc to their own partisan ends?

  • Ehtch

    What is all this nonsense that supposedly number ten has asked Shaun Ryder of the happy mondays to come into their circle in the coalition? Surely a pisstake? Shaun would surley tell them where to stick it and just say piss orf ya c***s?

    ha ha APRIL FOOL

  • Anonymous

    It’s interesting how the press can make a great deal of difference to the success or failure of a political enterprise.  The Tories have been shielded until now – take away the protective coating of a co-operative press and what do you get?  An alarming insight into the way those in government do (or don’t) function.  

    You say Cameron doesn’t always ‘get a grip’ of ministers, but surely his whole entourage is full of incompetents?  Can you name one for whom you have any respect?  When you were managing government relations, were you really having to stop everyone from being complete idiots, all the time?  

  • Pedrofour4

    wot because as had a cuppa and a tunocks tea cake…..get real

  • rob

    A lot seems to have gone wrong since the demise of one Andy Coulson. Lack of “inside” knowledge? 

  • Ehtch

    Bit claustraphobic to suggest Salmond is up to something with Murdoch. Murdoch could be playing it like a desperate man in what is happening to him in the UK. Salmond is well above it, and will use Murdoch for the best of Scotland. And the best of Scotland has been fucked by England too long, and Cameron needs to realise it, and wake up and smell the, ummm!, yes that is it, smell the thistles. Sorry, that is the best I could think of. Flowering sporing nectar thistles have an excellent smell though, quite a hardy odour in the country air. Coalition is losing Scotland, what with all this crap misinformation lies that is coming out all of the time. Scots weren’t born yesterday. They remember the poll tax crap, and victimising Clyde Shipyards, and making out their oil was actually off Dover or something,

  • Libdem

    More like a lack of common sense, it seems to be totally missing in the Conservative party. My lot are as bad, they’re all opportunists!

  • Ehtch

    Just had a phone call, by some high up bloke in the welsh eisterddfod or something, and he has told me I am doing a “good job” on you tube and also here. Freaked me out a bit, I thought I was doing and EXCELLENT job. No pleasing some, ey, Alastair? Anyway, a song for him, two welsh feisty young ladies, and no, they are hard work, but talented, don’t get me wrong, but budding frigging divas, in their own minds, but as I said, marvellous singers, as you will find out here, Beth-Angharad and Eve, shitty stick time, head fucks to get them on the stage,

    One way to rise their profile, but they are hard work.

  • reaguns

    Congratulations to George Galloway. I hope there are many more like him who go beyond the current liblabcon consensus of centrist mediocrity. Does anyone know GGs policy on workfare? If he is against then he or a Respect candidate could get my vote. I finally found a right wing anti workfare voice too, the Adam Smith Institute.

    Cameron indeed looks and sounds like a PM. He and Osborne are out of touch both with ordinary people and with conservative economics – a rare combination! There is no substance to Cameron, but then we are constantly told Ed can’t win even though he has substance! What do people want? There is no doubt that Cameron is getting a better press and public perception than Major or Brown, but not as good as Blair. Its fair in terms of Blair because he is not in Blair’s league, but is he in Major and Brown’s league?

    Murdoch is certainly beginning the revenge attack against Cameron – we’ll see where real power lies. Andrew Neil is most interesting on this. BTW I thought Neil was a thatcherite but since found out she tried to jail him, he backed Hezza against her and today on sunday politics he sneered at the government and said “perhaps they should stop trying to have thatcher moments” re the fuel tax.

    Also saw someone say today that one problem this government has is there is noone who can manage strategy, communications and people as well as Alastair Campbell and Jonathan Powell. I agree, even though Miriam and Janiete say he wasn’t in Blair’s government lol! Tell it to a question time zombie.

  • sarah dodds

    It is OK for the government to be a bunch of incompetents, as long as Labour is seen as a competent  alternative. This cannot be allowed to become a ” we are crap, but just not as crap as them” debate.”
    Or are we just a nicer version of crap with a social conscience?
    It feels a bit too long to be giving Ed Miliband the benefit of the doubt, which I have been more than happy to do until now.
    Until and unless Labour raise their game, my fears for 2015 will continue to grow.

  • Ehtch
  • Chris lancashire

    Cameron did indeed establish the ridiculous Leveson inquiry to deflect attention. Just as Mr Blair did with the equally ridiculous Hutton inquiry. It’s what politicians do – you should know Mr Campbell.

  • Ehtch

    Beth-Angharad and Eve in one of their front rooms, strumming and jamming… and getting the giggles at the end, as they do,
    Good strummers. More tea Vicar?

  • Anonymous

    Oh, look at the Times headlines today – more anti-Cameron stuff.  When thieves fall out…

  • simon

    How many people filled their tanks NOT because of any advice from the government but because of the way the papers and TV had been stoking up fears of a strike threat ?

  • Ehtch

    Think this what actually did it, what I posted here,

    What i posted was, I quote myself,

    “fy mlodyn bach wen o’r gaeaf


    my small white flower from the meadow

    STOP SQUIRMING IN JOY, will you. : ) ”

    I have a way with words…. OK, also feel free to squirm in joy also, ladies of any age.

  • Ehtch

    I was asked to join that party, I no doubt could have been good at it, but seemed a well boring job to me. Firearms? What for? Hardly ever be able to use them, away from the range, unlike Bruce Willis and Michael Caine in the films. Only chance I would have got was to shoot rabbits in a field.

  • reaguns

    No question about it, there is no doubt that:
    1. Tony and Alastair were once too close to Murdoch.
    2. Alastair has now taken to attacking Murdoch.

    I am not sure if Alastair has ever admitted that they were too close, I suspect he probably has, or would do if pressed. I don’t think it was entirely within their control.

  • reaguns

    I’d say you’re 6 months too early!

    Do people think Ed Miliband will make it through to the next election? A lot of press saying he is certain to lose, probably will lose the leadership before that, that Cameron can win not by being good but by Ed being bad.

    I disagree. Still think Ed is underrated. I think he’ll retain the leadership and have a good go at the general election – he could win it by relying on Cameron to mess up.

    Could Yvette Cooper or David Miliband do better? I think all 3 are strong, but no need to change.

  • Janiete

    The Sunday Times sting certainly was a taste of Rupert’s revenge, for Leveson definitely, but also I suspect, for the non-delivery of BSkyB and for the loss of Rupert’s man in No 10. Rupert Murdoch’s interest in political parties has always been about the furtherance of his own business interests and in that regard, Cameron now is of little use to him.
    It was inevitable their colours would show as they settled into office and started to implement policies close to their (donors’) hearts, and inevitable too that the public would soon see through the PR platitude of ‘we’re all in it together’. But the collapse has been pretty spectacular and is wholly self-inflicted. Numerous attempts to regain positive headlines since Osborne’s disastrous budget, have merely exposed their desperation and incompetence. Despite their persistent but feeble attempts to justify ‘petrolgate’ the public saw through this from the start. No advice, of any sort was necessary, given the legal requirement of 7 days notice of a strike.
    It is just possible though that this (probably accidental) run on petrol may save Osborne’s bacon. If the extra spent on fuel in the last few days of the 1st quarter, just pushes up GDP enough to avoid a technical recession, a massive political embarrassment could be averted. Then again, maybe not, we’ll have to wait and see.


  • petesmeats

    Interesting thoughts and chimes with mine and my colleagues views of the last week. On your last par, I do hope that Shrek does get a grilling from a decent QC at Leveson, even if it means we can bottom out some of the indy claims. I’d buy a ticket. 

  • Ehtch

    “Change”, as a word, needs to be changed. It is becoming a political cliche, reaguns. Agreed?

  • Ehtch

    3. Got to have the papers on your side that day. But today is now different, shitty stick time.

  • Dave Simons

    Ed came across on Channel 4 TV last night as someone who has yet to grow beyond the lavish grooming and training he must be undergoing. Presentation skills are only the icing on the cake – if Ed’s not careful he’ll become a shadow of Cameron, who is, as far as I’m concerned, all icing and no cake.
    A belated thanks, by the way, for the University of Lincoln conference with Melissa Benn at the beginning of March, and lovely to meet you!

  • Ehtch

    Giggle at this, that “England”,

  • Anonymous

    Maybe – I do think that some things need to be given more time to bed in, sometimes that is good government but governments (and new management in private sector) always want to change so they can say “we did this or that”. They want to fiddle with and intervene even when its better not to, so that they can claim credit.

    An example is the 50p tax rate. Almost everyone, even those who disagree with it, say it needed at least one more year to work out if it worked or not. Bendy buses and routemasters might be another.

    Then again, resisting change is somewhat of a small-c conservative value. Not for this lot though, they just love to meddle!

  • Michele

     Too close to?
    Or used his properties as conduits to reach those that they never would have otherwise?

    For heaven’s sake, will this simplistic smear be used ad nauseum for ever and a day or even longer?

    Do you think AC et al would have done so much loud protesting about that other AC (and DC) if they’d not known how careful they’d needed to be re NI during their own time at No 10?

    Until a few months ago there were unproven allegations against the likes of NI from a few luvvies that might well / could have been using some weird PR tactic. 
    They’ve now been proven  right and yet despite that there are now yet other unproven allegations, these having been made by those same disgraced NI employees and blow me down, they’re all being taken seriously and repeated everywhere.
    The most exemplary piece of advice I’ve heard from a  public person is the link I placed a couple of weeks ago from Stephen :Lawrence’s friend who’s now a councillor (Lib Dem).

  • Dave Simons

    ‘Mr Cameron has started a new class war. Heath, Thatcher and Major
    were not emphasising class. The class war should have ended on 22 July
    1965 when Sir Alec Douglas-Home resigned as the leader of the Tories. Harold Wilson had won in 1964. Social revolution had happened in British politics. Edward Heath then was a common leader. Etonians were not running the show. Thatcher, Major, Hague, Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Howard came from humble origins.’

    Old Etonians were running the show fifty years ago, as they are now. That’s progress. What the Conservatives have had to do in the interim is front their party with meritocrats from relatively ‘humble’ backgrounds – Heath, for example, was an obvious foil for Wilson (ex-grammar school boys). Baroness Farsi is a current front candidate to cover up the inherent racism of the party and play for the Asian vote (Sammy Davis Junior was used similarly  by the US Republican Party when Nixon was President). Disraeli was a bit comparable in the nineteenth century – Jewish (in a party rife with anti-Semitism) and relatively modest in background. It’s one of the Conservatives oldest con-tricks because behind the fronts the leopard doesn’t change its spots much. The very fact of the continuing use of this tactic should confirm that the class war has never ended, especially in the last fifty years when Conservatives have repeatedly been telling us that we live in a classless society and indeed ‘we’re all in it together’.

    When people talk about the UK being classless society ask them:

    Does the concept of ‘class’ ever mean anything?
    Was the UK ever a class society?
    If so, when did it cease to be a class society?

    Mr Cameron has not started a new class war – he doesn’t emphasise class any more than the others you mention. The debatable ‘social revolution’ you refer to in the 1960s was followed by a ‘political counter-revolution’ in the 1980s and we’re still suffering from it.

  • reaguns

    Do you think they (AC and Tony) were too close or not? Surely the point is that we either agree that it is good for govt to engage through newspapers, in which case nothing improper has been done by AC, TB, and now DC, and in old days Thatcher/Ingham – or: it was improper and they all should regret it and seek to change? Can’t be one rule for labour and one for cons surely? (Not saying you are saying that but some are.)

    If you ever look at David Mitchells soapbox rants on guardian, he has a brilliant one on this.

    This is separate from phone hacking, Milly Dowler etc – that was wrong and is entirely the fault of NI and other newspapers engaging in it. And any government would need to be strong against it.

  • reaguns

    Dave have you seen Andrew Neil’s documentary Posh and Posher? He examined how someone like him (scottish council estate, grammar school) was once able to compete for top university places and then top jobs with the public schoolboys. He spoke of how from Harold Wilson onwards till Cameron we had moved away from the public schoolboys running the country but now we are back.

    I believe his conclusion (though he didn’t state it) was that it was grammar schools which removed public schoolboy leaders, and abolishment of grammar schools which brought them back.

    What do you think, is that fair, or do grammar schools just create another form of inequality?

  • Ehtch

    Yep, the torys like a good fiddle, at anything that is the new hobby of the day for them, but chaos always results. Politics is all about nudging things along, I think, not smashing it down and starting again. That’s the road to ruin. Never mind if the existing status quo is dysfunctional, you have just got to move it slowly to a better place, and that is the most efficient way.

  • Michele

     ‘Too close’ – subjective opinion; yours.
    ‘Used them as conduits to reach people they otherwise couldn’t’ – another subjective opinion, mine.

    Did you miss the rest btw?
    Too close to? 
    It’s the media age, would there really have been a point in doing anything other than getting the muckspreaders onside? 
    Perhaps you can describe it, tactics and reactions/results and all (remembering to put yourself in the context of the late 70s to early 90s, which all you surely have nouse about).

    It has to be personal taste about where to draw lines then our decisions describe us.
    We disagree about ‘too close’ – be content with your own valuations and stop needing people to agree with you.

  • Miche

    The Barnett Formula has put higher per capita allowances Scotland’s way for decades.
    I wonder if there’s ever been exploration in to the question of whether the North Sea’s oil would ever have been found if BP hadn’t explored and brought/paid for all that expertise from America to do so?

    LoL about some Scottish reactions to it at the time.

  • Ehtch

    More legoman here, anyone remember Bernard Cribbins? Still going strong last I heard, here is his top ten hit from mega-donkey years ago, put to legoman,

  • Dave Simons

    I didn’t see the documentary.
    I went from a council estate to a boys’ grammar school and was in the top ten of the ‘A’ stream up to ‘A’ Levels. It was very competitive, semi-military in organisation and like a  poor man’s non-residential public school in its school ethos. I’m still in touch with a lot of ‘old boys’, most of who I would classify as pillars of the establishment and probably backwoods Tories. I appreciate being in touch though I’m not on the same wavelength. Like them I acquired a grammar school personality, and like the public school personality, you recognise it in someone straight away, even though you might be complete strangers. A kind of unofficial freemasonry develops – recognition leads to preferment. It’s happened to me on many occasions and it’s not fair on other people.I like to think I’ve got it out of my system now, but it gets ingrained at a critical period in life.
    I’ve no experience of comprehensive education, but I think the grammar school I went to was too elitist and competitive, too geared towards university entrance, and ruled by a reign of terror. I think people should be encouraged to develop at their own pace but they should also be made aware that other people may be slower or even incapable, and they should help these people to the best of their abilities, not outrun them, and certainly not walk over them. Government by meritocracy is preferable to government by entitlement, which is mostly what we have at present, and in that sense I do agree with Andrew Neil. But as you say, grammar schools did create another form of inequality. Roy Greenslade wrote about grammar schools in ‘Goodbye to the Working Class’, based on his experience in Dagenham, and I recognise a lot of what his research turned up, though I disagree with his silly Maoist conclusions. Incidentally my main criticism of grammar schools is that they perpetuated the monastic tradition of separating boys from girls at puberty.

  • Ehtch

    Scotland could build windfarms, and a couple of hydroelectric stations, and still coin it with energy. They have been badly dealt, due to english politics. That is the way I see it. It has a vast area per head, and could really make a go of it with self-determination. I will not hear any of this rubbish that the Coalition, torys especially, spout – they are, in what they say, frankly, a bunch of numbnuts.

    Sorry for being so blunt, Michele, but that is the way I see it, without prejudice.

  • Ehtch

    One of my favorite bits of Bernard Cribbins is when he appeared in “Fawlty Towers” in the 1970’s – spththpoons!

  • Michele

     Blunt?  Do you imagine I’m insulted to be deemed pure English?  However  I’m at least 25% Irish and all the faux crap from the anti-English brigade only offends me by being half-baked and disingenuous.

    Yep, Scotland could have more wind farms, is anyone English stopping them?  I wish we had more in England although I’d prefer that they were not earning huge bribes for some of the richest landowners there are, such as Cam’s FiL . 

    Am not sure what that has got to do with how NS oil came to be discovered and exploited (and it was not by many Scottish taking financial risks to free itself or anybody else in the UK  [now that’s a daft notion that I should erase]  from OPEC’s domination and supply).

    UK Govt had to allow US expertise in to the exercise, a lot of 20C’s more-pragmatic decisions were only made due to our then-position in the world (and our still having WWII debts to pay back).

    Also not sure what’s sensible about you being on auto-pilot about ANYthing sensible that the Tories also happen to spout, that is gormless.   It’s a bit like playground behaviour and credits them with originating stuff that they did not. 

  • Ehtch

    “Papers yet Fawlty”
    “No, not yet Major” : )

    Cleese has had his personal moments, been troubled with upstairs in past. Let me know Campbell how he is these days, old fruit, since you tend to know these types, if you get what I mean, old boy.  : )

  • Dave Simons

    Sorry – I meant Warsi, not Farsi! It could have been worse – I could have used a ‘c’ instead of an ‘f’! Incidentally I note that Mehdi Hasan, in the current  ‘New Statesman’ (9 – 22 April), does not seem to be aware of the traditional function of Warsi in the Conservative Party, though he describes well the tensions her role creates within the party.

  • Janiete

    Interesting discussion. As a child my experience of the grammar school system was a negative one. Up to age 11, I had a very close friend, we walked to school together everyday and we played in and out of each other’s houses as we lived on the same street. That stopped when she was judged bright enough to go to the grammar school and I wasn’t, our paths never crossed again.

    It sent me a message at an early age that I was in the ‘dim’ section of the population and affected my own view of my academic ability until well into adult life.

    Two members of my family had been deemed more suited to a secondary modern education but achieved 1st Class degrees as mature students. Something wrong somewhere!

  • Michele

     Help me out Ehtch, I was in brilliant UV till Tuesday and am freezing today. 
    Dad’s parents were both full Irish, he was the last of 14 children and born shortly after they moved here when RoI happened. 
    I do believe that makes me 100% UK while 50% Irish 🙂

  • Anonymous

    I don’t see anything else that needs addressing, and as for needing people to disagree with me I stated my opinion (that they were all too close) and when you replied to me I asked if you think they were too close. I think you don’t.

    I know that others would describe it as a very good media operation (and it was.)

  • Anonymous

    I went to a grammar school too but it was the opposite to the type you have described! Discipline was practically non existant, and so the pupils got away with murder, (in fact one did actually commit murder in later life), high achievers were bullied and so most did not achieve till later in life. I wouldn’t want to go to a school like my parents where the kids were battered, but I wouldn’t recommend the school I went to either.

    I believe in selection based on behaviour. Kids can’t choose to be smart, but they can choose whether or not to bully, disrupt, vandalise etc.

    I am grateful for one thing though – our school had girls! I think that is partly why it had the problems it had, it was originally geared to cater for girls only and had never really realised that boys are different.

  • Anonymous

    That is sad and no doubt repeated countless times throughout the country. I also lost friends due to going to different schools too.

    My schoolteachers “didn’t believe” in the 11-plus, which is fair enough but they also didn’t believe in preparing pupils for it. So pupils either had to be exceptionally good at those sort of exams, or had to get coaching privately – but many didn’t and failed it who I believe would have passed it in other schools. A few of these went on to university and great careers in spite of this thing happening at 11 which might have made them think they couldn’t – or worse condemn them to a school which would not enable them to do so.
    Tough problem.

  • Dave Simons

     The most popular masters at my grammar school were able to keep their classes under control whilst remaining human and interesting. They were usually a bit nonconformist and had a sense of humour. Unfortunately there weren’t enough of them – the Gestapo ruled!

  • Ehtch

    Don’t worry, I am 12 1/2% english, though Yorkshire though, so not too bad. : ) And even further back in the nineteenth century, had a jewish grand something grandfather that was a seamans tailor in Pembroke Dock, but that could just be a family rumour. But maybe that is where I get my certain Joan Rivers/Mel Brooks sense of humour from, you never know.

    A joke for you, why do Tottenham supporters have bald heads and ears that stick out? Because when they got into every shop they say ” How much!” grab ears “OY-OY-OY” and rub head.

    If you don’t know what the large part of Spurs supporters are, you might not get it.

    And by the way Michele, my daughter is 25% Irish, her grandma was Derry City Catholic, before moving to London to work in the late 1950’s. Even worked at Decca, or was it EMI, and met Mick Jagger and many others from then.

  • Ehtch

    Norwegians are the experts in oil getting in seas these days I believe, and have good connections in Scotland, as close neighbours. Those are the sort of facts that make you think. Well, it does with me.

  • Ehtch

    Might as well post this, Mary singing the title track “Where’s Jack”, that film of a London tealeaf starring Tommy Steele, a fan’s vid with good interesting postcard type pics of Old London Town,

    And here her singing the title song of “Kidnapped”, struggle of the last Stewarts of Scotland and all that,

  • reaguns

    We had a couple of them too, and a couple of gestapo or would be gestapo, but most definitely both in the minority! An early introduction in security vs civil liberties ie I would have been quite happy to see the worst pupils get caned, but not so happy to get it myself!

  • Ehtch

    Bugger it, might as well, Val Doonigan and otters, the film starring Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, her true life wife, she playing a doc in remote Alban, he a lost prospective writer,

    Bill Travers practising as Geordie to get into the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, I think it is, a brilliant clip,