You really would need a heart of stone not to laugh at what's happening to the Tory Conference.
Swept off the headlines by the financial crisis, they're now much less likely to get a post-conference bounce in the polls.
They are also on a sticky wicket in calling for more regulation of the financial markets, something which they have not only consistently opposed but which most of them have an ideological, visceral aversion to.
Presumably, we'll hear no more of that fatuous phrase "sharing the proceeds of growth
" since in the medium-term there won't be
any fucking growth.
They have, however, made billions of pounds of spending commitments (including a new high-speed rail line) despite George Osborne asserting that the coffers are empty.
Meanwhile, on Panorama
, David Cameron was challenged by a voter on the wealth and privilege of most members of his shadow cabinet. His response was to cite William Hague, describing him as, I think, "a tough Yorkshireman
You have to be pretty desperate to try and portray William Hague as an ordinary bloke
. It's true that he went to a state school but his parents were relatively affluent, having their own soft drinks business. And young Hague was the ultimate precocious political nerd, famously addressing the Tory Conference at the age of 16. Then there's that bizarre, strangulated accent, a kind of 'posh Yorkshire'.
Unlike many other upwardly mobile Tory brats, Hague never mastered the accent thing. Unlike, for example, John Major, whose first employer once told a friend of mine, rather unkindly, that he used to speak like a "little Cockney guttersnipe
." Still, both Major and Hague, in their different ways, have added greatly to the gaiety of the nation.
: a solicitor speaking on Radio 4
"Once you put something on the internet, the world and its oyster can see it
Does that include the oyster's wife?
Getting your words in the right order is as crucial as not muddling your metaphors. During a trail on the Today
programme this morning, a "spanking new show
" was described as "a brand new spanking show
Ed Stourton said that wouldn't work too well on radio but I'm not so sure. Isn't the sound of the 'thwack
' an essential ingredient in that particular fetish? I only ask. It's not something that rocks my boat.
When I left my last employment I was reasonably au fait
with fashionable jargon and could swap benchmarks
and key performance indicators
with the best of them. But time marches on and the bullshit generator never sleeps. So my jaw dropped a few centimetres when I read the job title of a woman writing in the Guardian
"Gifted and Talented Strand Co-ordinator for the Great Yarmouth Excellence Cluster
What fresh, titular, linguistic hell is this? What a fool you'd look at the Team Meeting if you got your strands mixed up with your clusters.
The Chairman of the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference
which represents 250 private schools (no non-gender specific 'Headteacher
' nonsense for them
) was on Today
this morning. A bloke called Tim Quicksticks-Smith.
Sorry, that should be Tim Hastie-Smith.
He's the chap who said this week that The X Factor
had replaced God. I think he meant, more plausibly, that Simon Cowell has replaced God.
Anyway, he said this morning that the psychologist Oliver James was addressing the Posh Twats' Conference this week. This intrigued me because, as I mentioned recently, Oliver James has written of the harmful effects of putting babies and small children into nurseries. So he surely can't be an enthusiast for parents shunting eight year olds into boarding Prep Schools. I shall look out for reports of his speech and if he doesn't give it to the private school industry with both barrels, my respect for him will be considerably diminished.
As it happens, there was a much-praised but depressing documentary on More4
last night about sexual abuse at Caldicott prep school. It consisted almost entirely of now middle-aged men talking directly to camera about the details of their abuse.
I watched it for less than half of the full two hours. This wasn't so much because of the subject matter but because it felt prurient, voyeuristic and inappropriate to have these complete strangers revealing these details directly at me. I don't question the motives of either these men or the programme makers in doing this. But it's the sort of thing a close friend might divulge to you after a few drinks to share a burden with someone they felt would be understanding. On at least two occasions, people have confided such things to me; in one case, someone who had been abused by an older boy at boarding school. That may well be even more common than abuse by teachers.
But given how many such cases of abuse have been reported in private schools, it's all the more amazing that parents can put children into these places with equanimity.
And although the climate has changed and there's much greater awareness of abuse, the astonishing fact is that private schools, unlike State schools, have no obligation to report abuse to the police.
Indeed, yesterday's Education Guardian
reported that a much more recent case of alleged abuse at Caldicott was never reported to the police or social services. This was partly because the parents were never informed that anonymity for their child was guaranteed.
The aforementioned Tim Hastie-Smith boasted to his conference that the private sector was "free from political control, free from the red tape and dictates which can smother our collegues in most of the maintained sector
" and that's why private schools are so wonderful.
No Sir, that is the problem. Try telling your self-serving garbage to the abused, the bullied and the emotionally stunted and traumatised who will still be appearing in television documentaries in thirty years time if parents continue to have the right to buy privilege and pain in equal measure.