Yesterday on CT, tomorrow in government policy!

by Daniel on August 6, 2008

Talk about burying the lead! All the press coverage of Shadow Education Secretary Michael Gove’s recent speech to the Institute of Public Policy Research focused on the fact that he had a bit of a go at “Nuts” and “Zoo”[1]. But they missed the real highlight of Gove’s speech, which is that he favourably cited CT’s own Harry Brighouse (and some bloke called Adam Swift, who is less newsworthy. Yay Harry.

If you look at Gove’s speech, it’s actually surprisingly socially liberal and sensible stuff – a bit of apologia for the Tory Party’s historical treatment of gays and single mums, a bit of blah about communitarianism and a strong hint that Crooked Timber will be invited to draft future Conservative education policy once they get into power (I may be reading a bit too much between the lines here). I could almost see myself voting for the guy if it wasn’t all so transparently a pack of bollocks. I mean really, the Conservative Party, in office, is going to subsidise unprofitable post offices? I was born during a shower of rain, but I wasn’t born during the last shower of rain. Increased devolution to local government? Subsidised maternity nurses on the Dutch model? I scratch my chin, sir, and nod vaguely in the direction of the marginal rate of capital gains tax. About the only thing in this speech which you’re ever going to see is the education vouchers proposal, and I confidently predict that the administration of that one is going to be cocked up on an epic scale.

But nonetheless, the philosophical underpinnings of Cameronism, in as much as Gove sets them out here, are both interesting and sensible. Worth a look.

Update: Despite the implication given by the title of this post, the Conservative Party are not currently the government.

[1] Non-UK readers might not have heard of these two. Basically, they’re quite successful women’s magazines, not unlike a downmarket version of Cosmopolitan – obsessed with clothes advertisements, celebrity gossip and sex quizzes- which have achieved a degree of commercial success by marketing themselves toward men.

{ 16 comments }

1

Dave 08.06.08 at 3:01 pm

Why hide the truth? Nuts and Zoo are “magazines” of such moronic lack-of-quality and [particularly] cheesy sub-soft-porn titillation that they’d probably be taken as portents of the Apocalypse in the USA. The fact that they’ve been accepted into the Great British Meedja with scarcely a shrug speaks volumes about our descent towards wholesale social collapse…

2

Marc 08.06.08 at 4:07 pm

Dave –

Have you spent much time in the USA?

Here’s the thing I notice as an American living the UK: British morons read things (Nuts, Zoo, the Sun, etc etc etc). American morons don’t, ever. Even on a half-hour commute on the train. Ever.

Though it’s certainly debatable, I think this puts Britain one step further away from the collapse into animalism that conservative commentators have been faithfully and incorrectly predicting for time immemorial.

3

Matthew 08.06.08 at 4:47 pm

Isn’t it all a bit irrelevant given the existence of The Interweb?

4

Dave 08.06.08 at 5:25 pm

The existence of the intertubes certainly makes one wonder why *anyone* would pay the cover-price for soft porn… Maybe, as they say, it is only for the articles…

Point taken about US morons, but it’s less the direct readership than the wider cultural tolerance for overt public cheesy t&a drivel I was reflecting on…

5

Katherine 08.06.08 at 5:58 pm

The thing about the subsidised maternity nurses is really starting to get my goat. What is really needed is more and better funding of maternity services, more midwives and more funding for health visitors so they can go back to daily visits in the first 10 days (midwives), and so the local clinics don’t have to ask you to contribute £1 to the orange squash fund when you go to the first-time-mums classes (no, really, they did).

The subsidised maternity nurse could be incredibly useful for some – lone mothers for example – and yet I somehow don’t see the Tory Party throwing money in their direction. Some cretin would be bound to complain that this was encouraging teenage degenerates to get pregnant. And people like me, with lots of support and a particuar parenting philosophy that I want to follow, quite frankly don’t need or want a stranger coming along and telling me what to do.

This plan of theirs sounds ever-so-lovely, but dig beneath the surface and it’s bollocks.

6

dsquared 08.06.08 at 6:20 pm

The subsidised maternity nurse could be incredibly useful for some – lone mothers for example – and yet I somehow don’t see the Tory Party throwing money in their direction

In fairness, in that particular speech Gove pretty much did say that this was the plan; I share your scepticism as to whether it’s remotely likely to actually happen (and reserve judgement on Gove’s sincerity – he frankly sets off my PLF-radar like nothing on earth, but it’s at least possible that he has convinced himself that Cameron-era conservatism is not inconsistent with European-style social policy). If it turns out that these nurses actually get paid for, we’ll both owe him an apology.

7

Bob B 08.06.08 at 6:27 pm

“Here’s the thing I notice as an American living the UK: British morons read things (Nuts, Zoo, the Sun, etc etc etc). American morons don’t, ever. Even on a half-hour commute on the train. Ever.”

Sadly, the praise here is appreciated but is probably undeserved:

“Up to 12 million working UK adults have the literacy skills expected of a primary school child, the Public Accounts Committee says. . . The report says there are up 12 million people holding down jobs with literacy skills and up to 16 million with numeracy skills at the level expected of children leaving primary school.”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/4642396.stm

“A £2bn scheme to improve basic skills among adults has been called a ‘depressing failure’ by education inspectors.”
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/4506410.stm

8

dsquared 08.06.08 at 6:33 pm

Up to 12 million working UK adults have the literacy skills expected of a primary school child, the Public Accounts Committee says.

I seem to remember the Sun aiming for a reading age of 9 and doubt that Nuts or Zoo are significantly more grammatically convoluted.

9

Dave 08.06.08 at 6:33 pm

Only the thought that sub-literate thugs might be the only ones to survive the end of civilisation as we know it prevents me from looking forward to it…

10

novakant 08.06.08 at 7:40 pm

Bloody hell, (functional) illiteracy is a huge worldwide social problem and I have a feeling that being all condescending about it, calling those affected morons and thugs or invoking Oswald Spengler isn’t going to help much.

11

Bob B 08.06.08 at 9:09 pm

“I seem to remember the Sun aiming for a reading age of 9”

Contrary to malicious rumour, Sun readers are not stoopid. I was in a longish superstore checkout queue the other day during the evening rush hour. The guy ahead of me had a copy of the Sun in his shopping pile on the checkout conveyor. Evidently bored with the waiting, he started to read the newspaper. By the time he got to the head of the queue he had read it so he pushed it aside and didn’t check it out with the rest of his shopping. Smart guy.

12

Dave 08.07.08 at 7:25 am

@10: And? Since when was I supposed to say something that “helps”?

13

Alex 08.07.08 at 9:48 am

Gove gives me the snake feeling; alien, uncannily dangerous, probably best to hit it with a shovel without further discussion. That bastard will get us into the next war.

14

deliasmith 08.07.08 at 10:10 am

On reading and that:

Straw men erected, paraded and demolished in this article in The Guardian – a response by a bloke off of the telly to these mild observations by someone who works in the field.

And here’s an interesting titbit from a survey published last year, to virtually complete ignoral:
Mother tongue, by Government Office region
UK: English 88%, Other 12%
London (Government Office Region) English 60%, Other 40%

Note that London G.O. Region is all the metropolis, not just melting-pot inner city; and it was a big, professional survey – face-to-face interviews with a weighted sample of 4,916 adults, aged 17 and over, in the UK in the period 7–25 February 2007.

15

ajay 08.08.08 at 11:29 am

The report says there are up 12 million people holding down jobs with literacy skills at the level expected of children leaving primary school.”

That doesn’t sound that bad, really. It’s not like they are completely illiterate – they just have difficulty with complex text. And, obviously, there are 12 million jobs out there which only require the literacy of a 12-year-old.

16

engels 08.11.08 at 5:47 pm

Update: Despite the implication given by the title of this post, the Conservative Party are not currently the government.

Could have fooled me.

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