Gavin’s got secrets to share

Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education has messed up big time. Not because he used coronavirus to unfairly disadvantage working class kids but because he got caught doing it. So he may be the next government scapegoat for Boris and his handler, Dominic Cummings to hide behind.

But Gavin knows a lot of embarrassing secrets and he may not go quietly.

Hitler youth in modern UK?

Denounce your teachers!Early last year a new group started making waves in UK. An American far right import, Turning Point UK (not to be confused with the social care charity of similar name) set its sights on influencing British domestic politics. The alt-right offshoot spared no expense in promoting its cynical message to British youth, even creating the 21st century’s answer to Diana and Unity of the Mitford sisters, Alice and Beatrice whose grandfather headed up one of the nation’s largest banks. I critiqued a couple of their vacuous videos here and here.

Diana and Unity Mitford

The group has been endorsed by senior right wing politicians including Jacob Rees-Mogg and Priti Patel as well as Nigel “Mr. Brexit” Farage himself which really ought to tell you all you need to know about their right wing aims. Farage even misrepresented socialism on video for the group. But in case you’re in any doubt let’s take a look at Turning Point UK’s latest escapade.

In an attempt to further indoctrinate British young people, the far right group has asked children to ‘denounce’ their teachers should they say anything that might be construed as non-supportive of neoNazi ideals. For example.

Yeah, the Trump picture is a bit naughty. Funny though and Trump’s policies really can be argued to be analogous with an aggressive cancer spreading internationally.

Next up is a perfectly reasonable analogy about the behaviour of cells described as “remainer propaganda” in this paranoid campaign.

A lecture on Marxist perspective (presumably in a social history or similar class) is described as evidence of indoctrination – it seems that only one side of the political spectrum is to be taught, even though a balanced approach is the only way for young people to make truly informed decisions.

Here, an appeal to critical thinking contrasted with the non-critical Daily Mail is objected to for no apparent reason. Nobody could seriously argue that it’s not a valid contrast. The Daily Mail is far from renowned for facilitating critical thought – but it is a right wing rag and so the fash from TPUK will brook no criticism of it.

Now where have we seen this sort of thing before? How about the actions of the AfD in Germany – the modern white-supremacist successors to the Nazi party?

“The far-right Alternative for Germany’s decision to set up web portals to denounce teachers who express political opinions in the classroom unleashed a storm of protest this week. Critics hear an echo of Nazi tactics or repression in Communist East Germany.”

In perfect style German teachers have reported themselves en masse to the party, explaining that it’s a matter of public duty to be recognised as someone who stands up to fascism as an example of good citizenship to the young people they seek to educate.

In this country the National Front tried a similar thing, encouraging school children to denounce lefty teachers, several of whom were attacked and seriously injured by NF members as a result. Like all the rest of our examples the NF campaign sought to encourage the teaching of traditionalist, nationalist history with a very definite bias instead of the accurate history, increasingly favoured by modern educational establishments.

The new far-right government of Brazil did the same in 2018 as did Mussolini prior to WW2. But perhaps the most widely known example of this ‘teacher denouncing’ occurred in Nazi Germany, beginning soon after Hitler seized power in 1933 and resulting in an almost complete takeover of German education by the Nazi party. The parallel with Nazi Germany interfering in academic freedoms to promote a bias for Nazi ideology is clear. After all, Turning Point UK doesn’t appear to have any problem with right wing teachers talking politics in the classroom or lecture theatre.

It really is time for British people to sit up and take notice. This is happening now, right under our noses and, just as the German people were too complacent to take the threat seriously, so are many Britons. Nazi Germany was already established with all its disastrous consequences by the time most people realised what had happened. Then, as now, the far right, the racists and the aggressive ultra-nationalists targeted impressionable children because it works. It worked then and if we’re not very careful it’ll work now.

Don’t let that happen here. There’s still time to protect our laws, our customs, our legal system AND maintain our democracy

Oh yes – and just in case you were wondering…It’s not Godwin’s law if they really are Nazis!

A little history: Alfred the Great (849 – 899)

220px-Statue_d'Alfred_le_Grand_à_WinchesterIn 872, when Alfred was only 23 he succeeded his brother, Aethelred as King of Wessex. Shortly after this he embarked upon his famous retreat into the Marshes, complete with implausible stories about burnt cakes. The war with Guthrum’s invading Vikings was brutal and bloody but eventually, a combination of Saxon courage and Alfred’s strategy won the day.

It’s no exaggeration to report that Alfred’s victory really did change the course of history, not just for Wessex and the Saxons but for the whole of Europe and ultimately the world. Without Alfred we’d have lost more than we can count, so great was his influence that it stretches right up into the modern era and will continue to do so far into the future.

Following the defeat of Guthrum, Alfred consolidated and even expanded his Kingdom, establishing around 33 fortified Hide defences, each one within a days’ march of its neighbour and each one capable of accommodating and protecting the local community from future attack. These defences, known collectively as the Burghal Hidage, also served as bases for military strikes against any future invading armies. The fortifications contained permanent garrisons which complemented the equally permanent standing army ‘in the field’. This was a military infrastructure that was both entrenched and responsive!

Alfred even established the first proper Navy (no – it wasn’t Henry VIII – Alfred did it first) to combat Viking marauders who threatened the coastline. But that’s not why Alfred was ‘the Great’. It was his intellectual, legal and administrative influence that earned him his place of honour in word history.

Like Charlemagne before him, Alfred was keen for his people, all of his people, to be educated. There’s an astonishing circularity of influence throughout Medieval Christendom that begins with Gregory the Great and ends with Alfred. The cycle moves from Gregory the Great and Isidore of Seville to Bede of Jarrow, to Alcuin of York, to Charlemagne, to Alfred the Great and then back to Gregory with Alfred’s Anglo- Saxon translation of the famous Pope’s ‘The Pastoral Care’ some 400 years after it was first written down in the original Latin.

Alfred also personally translated Boethius’ ‘Consolations of philosophy’ and was clear that the many Anglo-Saxon translations he created or procured were to be widely taught among the Anglo-Saxon youth. Alfred was the first English authority to understand the value of educating not just the nobility, but everyone. He was the original British champion of what we now call ‘universal education’, a theme of modern socialism which sees education as the most effective and long-lasting means of improving the general standard of living for working people.

Following Boethius’ model of the hierarchy of topics such as the trivium and quadrivium, Alfred intended for Anglo- Saxon literacy to be widespread, for the translated core texts to be widely studied and only then for Latin works to be the focus of further study. He saw literacy as vital to the life of an effective state and language as the glue that would hold the developing nation together.

Just as Charlemagne had focussed on Latin translation of important texts to ensure their wide distribution, Alfred reversed the trend for the exact same reason. Charlemagne had been so successful in creating Latin versions of key texts that few were available in any other languages. That may not have been a problem for the head of the Carolingian empire but for Alfred, the King of a relatively minor region in the South of England it was a very big problem indeed. Almost none of his subjects were able to read Latin and this meant that many of the greatest minds were quite literally closed books so far as England was concerned.

So – in his late thirties Alfred organised and even participated in the translation of key texts into Anglo Saxon. He had these books distributed throughout his kingdom. Like Charlemagne before him, Alfred instigated a public education programme, a system which in turn facilitated his new administrative system. It’s no exaggeration to say that the idea of modern England was born with Alfred who not only expanded his realm but also educated and cared for those within it.

Alfred organised and in part authored the Anglo Saxon Chronicle, a history of his realm written down for posterity and, perhaps most importantly of all – he produced a written record of codified laws. It was this collection of record-keeping, education, jurisprudence and the creation of national identity that transformed Wessex (and ultimately England). Alfred’s dominion went from a rough collection of allied principalities to a unified state with the foundations that eventually built a nation, an empire, a legal system and even a parliamentary system of government.

Without Alfred it is arguable that the knowledge that facilitated the beginnings of the English state would never have been made available to the masses. It was Alfred’s work that kept the torch of non-clerical education alight throughout the centuries to come when the medieval church tried their best to keep knowledge and literacy to themselves. His translations of foundational texts effectively broke the religious monopoly by enabling and encouraging successive English generations to champion the vernacular and keep secular education alive. Without Alfred’s work there would have been little for them to study anyway. We will meet some of the heroes of this intellectual tradition as the series progresses.

Alfred’s influence stretches far beyond the ninth century world he inhabited. Without Alfred we would live in a very different (I suspect a much poorer), religiously dominated society indeed. He was one of our nation’s most benevolent leaders and he genuinely seems to have understood the value of opportunity for every man (women’s rights still weren’t a thing in Alfred’s day, I’m afraid) to be educated to the limit of his ability and for all to have an opportunity to learn and develop intellectually. That’s one of the many reasons why Alfred is still recognised as ‘The Great’.


Compare that to the words of conservative cabinet minister, Michael Gove who, in 2003 whilst he was secretary of state for education, told The Times

“Some people will, apparently, be put off applying to our elite institutions by the prospect of taking on a debt of this size. Which as far as I’m concerned is all to the good.”

Mr. Gove, who can say these things whilst simultaneously opposing private schools went on to trivialise the debt burden by comparing it to favourable earnings post-graduation but the underlying divisiveness came across loud and clear. He may just as well have said…

Those people too poor to throw £20 odd grand around without having to think seriously about it first are probably too stupid to be in further education in the first place!

Inequality (but in a good way)

I’m about to put all my lefty credentials at serious risk. If people read only the first few paragraphs of this article I’ll be drummed out of the tree-huggers, yoghurt-knitters and snowflake breeders union before you can say “Corduroy jacket with leather elbow patches”! And that’s fine – because there are no yoghurt-knitters in my world, no snowflakes and no 1970s social workers with leather elbow patches either. There are a few tree-huggers but that’s OK – that’s actually a good thing.

My world is populated by people who know the hardships of the real world, who are strong enough to cope with them and who still find the energy and resources they need to stand up for their neighbours. We’re the working class, we’re not the stereotypical snowflakes, constantly offended by every little disagreement, that’s much more characteristic of the far right. They get hot under their sweaty little collars whenever anyone says a compassionate word or suggests that the welfare state might be worth protecting. Neither are we sad little loners sitting at our computers in our parents’ box-rooms wishing we had some friends. That’s more characteristic of the disaffected far right, too. Fucking snowflakes!

We, on the other hand, tend to be realists. Mostly working class, we come from generations of hardship and we know what it means to struggle. We don’t seek simple answers and we’re not interested in blaming the brown-skinned easy target next door just because they’re accessible. We go after the real issues and the real enemies of our society and our class. And, even in the face of defeat on a massive scale as we saw last Thursday we remain relentless.

And we understand something fundamental… (here’s the bit that just might get me evicted from the offence-takers’ circle). We understand that inequality is inevitable, even desirable. But not for the reasons Boris Johnson had in mind when he sang the praises of inequality a couple of weeks before the general election.

Please my fellow lefties – read on before you condemn your fellow socialist. You won’t be nearly so alarmed at my words if you do. Not only that, you may find that this argument will actually persuade some of your tory acquaintances to think again too.

Firstly, we know that even if we treated everyone the same with absolute equality of opportunity, outcomes would differ because people differ. We differ in intellectual ability, in temperament, in physical potential and in personality. All else being equal, the strong, determined industrious and intelligent woman will do better than the weak-willed, lazy and indolent young man who lazes his days away in the pub or on the street corner. She’ll also do better in the equally hard working but less intelligent school-leaver who lacks both her brains and her contacts. See we work only on equality of opportunity. You don’t need to be lazy to be disadvantaged in our unequal world, even with equality of opportunity, if you’re not in a position to compete with the strongest, the brightest, even the most attractive.

So what would be the solution in an ideal world? Follow the argument to its logical conclusion and it’s obvious. In an ideal world we’d all have equal abilities. But think about that. That’d mean we’d all be exactly the same. We’d all think the same thoughts, live the same lives and enjoy the same recreations. We’d all be clones and all hope of creativity would fly out the window along with the winged pigs necessary to bring such a world about. We can’t have equality of opportunity because we can’t have equality of inate ability and that really is a good thing.

So what can we have?

Well – we can have equality of facility. We can compensate for disadvantages without having to worry about unequal ability so long as we have decent outcomes. We can have lifts in underground stations for wheelchair users. We can have hearing loop systems in public spaces for hearing aid users. We can have systems in place to ensure that the inequality we see around us doesn’t prevent people from achieving to the best of their ability. There will still be inequality but nobody will be left so far behind because of it that they can’t afford to eat.

And it’s not just about hearing aids and elevators. If we must charge for higher education we could ensure that those from poorer backgrounds get extra help with accommodation fees and general living expenses on campus. If we’re really going to keep VAT on food we can provide an additional weekly top up for those who don’t benefit from reduced income tax equivalent to the VAT paid on an average week’s shopping. After all, VAT is paid at the same rate whether you’re on top rate income tax or too poor to pay any income tax in the first place. That’s no different in principle from providing a lift in the tube or a hearing loop in your local community centre. It’s compensating for inequality without pretending it doesn’t exist.

You see, Boris is right – we do need inequality – but not because it stimulates envy and greed as he would prefer. We need inequality because the only way to do without it is to do without diversity and creativity.

But once we’ve acknowledged that we can’t have equality of ability we can compensate to protect all people from the worst excesses of inequality of outcome.

John Rawls famously asked people to design a social structure for a society that exists behind a ‘veil of ignorance’. It was a hypothetical society in which they could be either the most able, the least able or at any point in between. They could have the most opportunity or the least opportunity. They could be anyone but, as the thought experiment goes, they would be someone. Everyone who participated had to imagine themselves born somewhere into the social structure of the world behind the veil. And a remarkable thing happened.

When people didn’t know their own place in life they became fairer – not because there was no inequality, but because they couldn’t see it clearly.

We all know, even the stinking rich know that this unequal society is unfair. We all know that dog eat dog provides almost nobody with a truly satisfying meal. A society where so many suffer has disadvantages for all. An underfunded education creates a society full of under-educated people – people who vote and people who become so unemployable they need to steal to eat.

An under-funded healthcare system leads to ill health and epidemics. Under-funded police and fire services leave us all at risk – especially those with most to lose. In an unequal society everyone loses.

And, as the veil of ignorance demonstrates, we all understand just how unfair the present system is – that’s why nobody supports the sort of society we see today in UK when they’re planning the land behind the veil. Inequality of ability isn’t the problem. The pretence that somehow everyone can achieve the same outcomes with vastly different starting positions is the problem.

It’s not fair to raise VAT and say that means everyone pays the same tax when some people have so little they can’t afford to eat as a result.

It’s not fair to reduce income tax ‘for everyone’ when some people don’t even earn enough to meet the income tax threshold to begin with.

It’s not fair to say that everyone can go to the best universities when most people could never afford the cost of living or even the rent in our centres of educational excellence.

It’s not fair to pretend that everyone can be what they want when professional ladders begin with extended unpaid internships that bar everyone but the wealthiest from getting a foothold in the first place.

Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill gave us utilitarianism – a philosophical system begun by Bentham and refined by Mill that advocates for seeking the greatest good for the greatest number. That’s usually what happens in the land behind the veil. People plan fairly.

In our world, in modern UK we seem to be content to provide the greatest good for the smallest number whilst a third of British children remain undernourished and living in poverty.

We can do without that sort of inequality, Boris.



Last night at 10pm the exit polls announced their results. Right from the word go, even as the count was only just getting started TV pundits were predicting a landslide majority for the conservative party. And they were right.

The tory party now has a massive overall majority in the British parliament and there’s nothing to stop them doing exactly as they please. And there’s the rub.

No excuses

There are no longer any excuses for Boris and his disreputable gang of bully boys. There’s nobody to blame for their failures or for their cruelties. Whatever they do in the next five years, longer if they implement their ‘enabling act’ (see p.48 of the Tory manifesto) will be entirely down to them.

Well, they made a lot of promises, as tories always do. Election time is the only time when the conservative party starts talking like socialists. As if by magic they suddenly begin en masse to care about the NHS waiting lists they created. They start to worry about people struggling in poverty due to Tory party policies and they claim to want more educational opportunities for our young people who’ve had their prospects decimated by 9 years of Tory rule.

We’ll be watching

So let’s make sure they do what they set out to do. Let’s make sure they keep those promises too. After all, we know they’ll keep the right wing pledges they made to take even more from ordinary people and give it to the super rich. We know they’ll be falling over each other to flog our NHS to the Americans and there’s absolutely no doubt that they’ll further decrease our access to legal redress when our rights are trampled. That’s the trajectory they’ve been on for years.

Let’s hold them to their words about the good stuff too.

Left eye view


Left eye view will keep watching this government and compare its actions to its manifesto and election promises. New laws, changes to taxation and reductions in funding for necessary services will be compared against Boris’ promises to us, the people. Let’s see how sincere this government really is.

Jules’ story

My childhood friend, we’ll call her Jules

Our lives kept pace through different schools

She was a child when Daddy died

The cancer ate him up inside.

She didn’t know about the pain

Relief that fogged his addled brain.

She didn’t know her great grandma

Had gone the same way years before

No pain relief for her back then

No hospitalisation

She lay there helpless, agonised

Till mercifully at last she died.


Times were hard for Jules’ Mum

Child benefit was such a boon

Three kids to feed and free school milk

Meant Jules grew strong – all the kids did

Free meals at school meant Jules stayed nourished

While Mum to better herself studied


Jules mother strived to make life better

A grant for college and a letter

Explaining how she’d few resources

Helped her to study pre-reg courses


By the time we went to secondary school

Jules’ Mum was working as a teacher

She’d passed her exams, fees all paid

And life was going up a grade


Jules’ flew through school, she’s very clever

And uni was her next endeavour

Free tuition, like her Mum

A great career had just begun


Soon after getting her first job

Jules conceived her first child, Bob

Her aunt had lost her job that way

But Jules just got maternity pay

And soon enough she came right back

Nobody had given her the sack


Bob grew up strong, a fine young man

And so is Mike, Jules second one

They’re both good lads, Bob’s soon to vote

He’s thinking Labour’s worth a punt

But Jules took him aside last night

And warned against that left wing shite

Fine words are all well and good you see

But the Labour party’s done nowt for me!