Friday, 28 February 2014

GCHQ turn pervy

The latest Snowden leaks really do plumb some depths. The spooks have been viewing webcam images from Yahoo. 1.8m users targeted in a six month period. Of these a significant amount contained body images and sometimes pornography. So much so that GCHQ had to warn their snoopers to be aware of the sexual nature of the content:

‘Sexually explicit webcam material proved to be a particular problem for GCHQ, as one document delicately put it: "Unfortunately … it would appear that a surprising number of people use webcam conversations to show intimate parts of their body to the other person. Also, the fact that the Yahoo software allows more than one person to view a webcam stream without necessarily sending a reciprocal stream means that it appears sometimes to be used for broadcasting pornography.”Guardian 27/2/14

This is not ‘targeted’ surveillance. This is mass snooping. People, paid for by our taxes,  are sitting in offices in GCHQ, Cheltenham, 'earning' their living trawling through thousands of webcam images created by innocent citizens. This latest leak poses several very serious questions for the authorities to answer.

  1. Some (how many?) of these images will be from young teenagers - under the age of sixteen. Does this place the snoopers at risk of being prosecuted for having child pornography on their computers?
  2. It has been reported by computer experts that the technology exists to replace/adapt/alter images to implicate someone in an activity they had no part in. Has this technique been used? It is potentially very useful in helping put pressure on wavering politicians. 
  3. Could this go some way to explain our government’s (and Parliament’s) supine responses to date?
  4. How are staff chosen to view the material resulting from ‘Optic Nerve’ and what checks and balances are in place that the material will not be abused and used for personal gratification? 
  5. GCHQ infamously say they do not comment on ‘security matters’. Why the hell not? Particularly as this latest revelation has bugger all to do with ‘security’ and a hell of a lot to do with them behaving reprehensibly.
  6. We do live in a democracy ————- don’t we? 

With all their sophisticated data gathering equipment, the very existence of this blog with GCHQ in its title and content will no doubt trigger a collection bug. So these last questions are directed at the spook(s) who have to read it. 
  • Are you happy in your work? 
  • Do you feel valued by the great British public? 
  • Do you feel there should be much stronger safeguards to protect citizens’ privacy? 
  • Have you ever watched ‘The Lives of Others,’ the brilliant film about the way the Stasi operated? If not, why not? If you have - why are you still snooping at GCHQ?

Time for the bosses of this rampantly out of control organisation to be finally held to account. The old ‘we don’t comment on security matters’ will not wash this time. 

This is about GCHQ behaving like a bunch of perverts.

Time for Parliament to rediscover its cojones.  

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Toffs: ‘Workers Are Tories’ Surprise

To be filed under “You couldn’t make it up!” 

The very idea that Grant Shapps (aka Michael Green), the Walter Mitty spokesgob for the nasty party, has come out declaring the Tories are the party for the workers fair takes the biscuit barrel. Another Tory declared that the Old Etonians currently running the country have discounted vast swathes of the north of England as unwinnable. Whatever next?

Well try this dose of reality from the letters page in yesterdays Guardian.  

“A young man I have been mentoring was given a three-month sanction in May 2013 for failing to attend a meeting the DWP had not told him about. His appeal was refused in late July. A tribunal hearing on 20 January found against the DWP. A month later he has heard nothing from the DWP, and certainly has not received the money he is owed. Meanwhile he is on a zero-hours contract that has given him no work for three weeks. No work means no money. No money means no food, no heating and inability to pay the rent. He can't resign because to make himself voluntarily out of work means he would get no benefits for six months even though, in reality, he is not employed. This cannot be right.” Richard Davey

Toffs Workers Party? Bollocks.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Private Eye exposes crap governance

Several learned commentators have positively pontificated on the appointment of ex-M & S boss, Sir Stuart Rose as an advisor to the NHS. It takes a genuine independent, campaigning journal to add the bits the supine mainstream media left out.

“Health secretary Jeremy Hunt proudly claims that Sir Stuart Rose will bring a high-street retailer’s experience to the NHS, following the appointment of the former Marks & Spencer chief executive – now part-time Ocado chairman – as an unpaid advisor.
     However, Hunt seems rather less keen to mention Rose’s other current chairmanship – of Bridgepoint Capital, a private equity firm that owns at least three private health businesses in Britain, including care home provider Care UK, dental chain Oasis and “telehealthcare” firm Tunstall. 

Bridgepoint’s website boasts that it has €1.7bn invested in healthcare and pharmaceuticals businesses across Europe. With Sir Stuart now getting a foot in the door in Whitehall, the prospects for greater private involvement in the NHS look distinctly, er, Rosy.” P. Eye. 1360

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Fancy That! Greedy farmers increase flooding

Thanks to George Monbiot for this withering look at the causes of the flooding. 

Are you listening PR Dave?
“It has the force of a parable. Along the road from High Ham to Burrowbridge, which skirts Lake Paterson (formerly known as the Somerset Levels), you can see field after field of harvested maize. In some places the crop lines run straight down the hill and into the water. When it rains, the water and soil flash off into the lake. Seldom are cause and effect so visible.
That's what I saw on Tuesday. On Friday, I travelled to the source of the Thames. Within 300 metres of the stone that marked it were ploughed fields, overhanging the catchment, left bare through the winter and compacted by heavy machinery. Muddy water sluiced down the roads. A few score miles downstream it will reappear in people's living rooms. You can see the same thing happening across the Thames watershed: 184 miles of idiocy, perfectly calibrated to cause disaster.
Two realities, perennially denied or ignored by members of this government, now seep under their doors. In September the environment secretary, Owen Paterson, assured us that climate change "is something we can adapt to over time and we are very good as a race at adapting". If two months of severe weather almost sends the country into meltdown, who knows what four degrees of global warming will do?
The second issue, once it trickles into national consciousness, is just as politically potent: the government's bonfire of regulations.
Almost as soon as it took office, this government appointed a task force to investigate farming rules. Its chairman was the former director general of the National Farmers' Union. Who could have guessed that he would recommend "an entirely new approach to and culture of regulation … Government must trust industry"? The task force's demands, embraced by Paterson, now look as stupid as Gordon Brown's speech to an audience of bankers in 2004: “In budget after budget I want us to do more to encourage the risk takers.”
Six weeks before the floods arrived, a scientific journal called Soil Use and Management published a paper warning that disaster was brewing. Surface water run-off in south-west England, where the Somerset Levels are situated, was reaching a critical point. Thanks to a wholesale change in the way the land is cultivated, at 38% of the sites the researchers investigated, the water – instead of percolating into the ground – is now pouring off the fields.
Farmers have been ploughing land that was previously untilled and switching from spring to winter sowing, leaving the soil bare during the rainy season. Worst of all is the shift towards growing maize, whose cultivated area in this country has risen from 1,400 hectares to 160,000 since 1970.
In three quarters of the maize fields in the south-west, the soil structure has broken down to the extent that they now contribute to flooding. In many of these fields, soil, fertilisers and pesticides are sloshing away with the water. And nothing of substance, the paper warned, is being done to stop it. Dated: December 2013.
Maize is being grown in Britain not to feed people, but to feed livestock and, increasingly, the biofuel business. This false solution to climate change will make the impacts of climate change much worse, by reducing the land's capacity to hold water.
The previous government also saw it coming. In 2005 it published a devastating catalogue of the impacts of these changes in land use. As well as the loss of fertility from the land and the poisoning of watercourses, it warned, "increased run-off and sediment deposition can also increase flood hazard in rivers". Maize, it warned, is a particular problem because the soil stays bare before and after the crop is harvested, without the stubble or weeds required to bind it. "Wherever possible," it urged, "avoid growing forage maize on high and very high erosion risk areas."
The Labour government turned this advice into conditions attached to farm subsidies. Ground cover crops should be sown under the maize and the land should be ploughed, then resown with winter cover plants within 10 days of harvesting, to prevent water from sheeting off. So why isn't this happening in Somerset?
Because the current government dropped the conditions. Sorry, not just dropped them. It issued – wait for it – a specific exemption for maize cultivation from all soil conservation measures.It's hard to get your head round this. The crop which causes most floods and does most damage to soils is the only one which is completely unregulated.
When soil enters a river we call it silt. A few hundred metres from where the soil is running down the hills, a banner over the River Parrett shouts: "Stop the flooding, dredge the rivers." Angry locals assail ministers and officials with this demand. While in almost all circumstances, dredging causes more problems than it solves, and though, as even Owen Paterson admits, "increased dredging of rivers on the Somerset Levels would not have prevented the recent widespread flooding", there's an argument here for a small amount of dredging at strategic points.
But to do it while the soil is washing off the fields is like trying to empty the bath while the taps are running.
So why did government policy change? I've tried asking the environment department: they're as much use as a paper sandbag. But I've found a clue. The farm regulation task force demanded a specific change: all soil protection rules attached to farm subsidies should become voluntary. They should be downgraded from a legal condition to an "advisory feature". Even if farmers do nothing to protect their soil, they should still be eligible for public money.
You might have entertained the naive belief that in handing out billions to wealthy landowners we would get something in return. Something other than endless whining from the National Farmers' Union. But so successfully has policy been captured in this country that Defra – which used to stand for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – now means Doing Everything Farmers' Representatives Ask. We pay £3.6bn a year for the privilege of having our wildlife exterminated, our hills grazed bare, our rivers polluted and our sitting rooms flooded.

Yes, it's a parable all right, a parable of human folly, of the kind that used to end with 300 cubits of gopher wood and a journey to the mountains of Ararat. Antediluvian? You bet it is.” Guardian 18/2/14

Friday, 14 February 2014

Judge them by what they do Volume 2: Tristram Hunt

Yet another example in a seemingly endless list of leading labour politicians clueless about values and integrity. 

“I can … imagine the giant stone bust of Marx above the Old Man’s resting place at least tutting when Labour’s shadow Education Secretary, Tristram Hunt, crossed a lecturers’ picket line this week to deliver a talk on Marxism.
Today, class, we’re going to learn about solidarity,” was presumably not Hunt’s opening gambit as the ashes of irony were scattered along the lecture theatre’s floor. Hunt’s excuse was that he was not a member of the striking University and College Union. “Why not?” is a fair question, but in actual fact an irrelevant one.
Continuing to supply labour during industrial action helps to fatally undermine a strike. If there are those willing to work while others lose a day’s pay fighting  for the rights of both themselves and  their colleagues, then the employer has  little reason to even bother negotiating. “We’ve even got members of the Labour front bench keeping the show on the road!” they can boast.
University staff have suffered a real-terms pay cut of 13 per cent over the past five years – yes, beginning under a Labour government – and are having yet more below-inflation pay rises imposed on them. The “Labour” (the clue is in the name) Party should be supporting these workers. Instead, a Labour frontbencher – whose salary places him comfortably in the top 5 per cent of earners, and who is being offered an 11 per cent pay rise – has taken time off from his half-baked opposition to the Government’s education policies to help sabotage a strike.
It is, unfortunately, a revealing insight into the Labour leadership’s relationship with the labour movement. The party may have been founded by the unions to give working people a political voice, but the Tory jeer that the party is in their pockets is laughably baseless. Thirteen years of the union-bankrolled Labour Party in government left Britain with the “most restrictive union laws in the Western world”. Not my words, but those of Tony Blair.
If the unions had been dictating Labour Party policy, there would have been, say, no Iraq war, no scrapping of the 10p tax band, proper regulation of the City, and public ownership of the railways. The current Labour leadership openly snubs the trade unions on a whole host of policies: backing the Tories’ real-terms pay cut for public-sector workers, for example; and pledging to initially stick to George Osborne’s spending plans (or “more cuts”, to give a less clunky description). Just as depressingly – the odd welcome intervention from Ed Miliband aside – the Labour leadership hasn’t been very effective at making the case for what trade unions are actually for. It is perverse that Labour is relentlessly savaged for being funded by the biggest democratic movement in the country, one which represents everyone from supermarket check-out workers to bin collectors. The Tories, on the other hand, get bankrolled by hedge-fund managers, bankers, legal loan sharks – many of those who helped cause economic disaster or now profit from it – and yet the scrutiny is virtually non-existent.
Admittedly, part of the problem is the media. It is owned by a handful of rich people who see unions purely as problems, and who look back at Rupert Murdoch’s crushing of the unions at Wapping in 1986 as a seminal moment. Key journalists tend to hail from privileged backgrounds – the less well-off filtered out by unpaid internships and expensive graduate qualifications – and often have no understanding of, still less sympathy for, unions. The dinner parties of the media elite are more likely to be attended by City types than trade union officials. Union leaders are routinely described as “union barons”, even though unlike barons they are elected, which owners of the press are not.
The case for unions needs to be made. Unions won basic workers’ rights that are too often taken for granted. Through the party they founded, they were instrumental in the founding of everything from the welfare state to the NHS. Wages for many workers began falling long before the financial system went belly-up, even as companies were posting record profits, in large part because hobbled trade unions were unable to stand their ground. Cheap credit was offered as an alternative way of topping up falling living standards, which panned out marvellously for everyone involved.
If Labour wants to deal with the “cost of living crisis” in a sustainable way, giving unions the ability to win a decent share of the wealth their members are creating is pretty fundamental. I’m sure Tristram Hunt would agree that while ex-public schoolboys like himself have their place, Parliament needs to look more like the people it serves. That means more former supermarket workers and care assistants making it to Westminster, which means trade unions making more of an effort to train and support potential candidates, with the support of the Labour Party.
Crossing a picket line is bang out of order, Mr Hunt. But Labour’s failure to make the case that the living standards and rights of working people depend on trade unions is more serious. What a travesty it is left to unelected newspaper columnists like me. 
Owen Jones

Independent 13/2/14

Monday, 10 February 2014

How long will the UK government keep its head above flood water?

Skimping on flood defences has proved to be a terrible false economy, and Owen Paterson's new funding now looks too little too late

“Just as the winter launched its wet weather assault on England in December, new maps from the Environment Agency identified No 10 Downing Street as one of the 5m properties now at risk of flooding. Two months later, after thousands of filthily submerged homes and at least in £1bn in damage, the murky waves of political danger now crash against the prime minister's door.

To understand how it came to this we have to go back to the sun-blessed, rose-garden days of the summer of 2010. As the austerity knife was being sharpened, one of the first to offer up a departmental budget for a juicy cut was the environment secretary, Caroline Spelman. The department, guardian of the air we breathe, the land we live on and the water we drink, suffered the biggest cut of any major department in Whitehall.
Flood defences are one of the department's big-ticket items, and inevitably those budgets immediately fell by almost £100m a year. The gloomy warnings of the government's own scientists that greater flooding would be far the most damaging impact of climate change in the UK were ignored. No matter, the sun was shining and drought, not deluge, was the concern. That changed sharply in 2012, when the dry spell broke in spring with downpours that ran to Christmas.

In July that year, I identified 294 shovel-ready flood defence schemes that had not proceeded because of the cuts. Maintenance of existing defences was suffering too. By September, Spelman had been sacked after an attempt to sell off the nation's forests. Owen Paterson took the helm, and by the end of November 2012 had wrung some money out of the Treasury to plug a little of the funding gap.

In January of this year, however, the wettest winter month for at least 250 years revealed the government's flood defence plans were as leaky as a sieve. On Thursday it was forced to throw another £130m of emergency funding into the hole – yet that still left spending this year lower than in 2010.

If Paterson had taken over a leaky ship in a squall, he had now managed to steer it into a force 10 storm. His capacity for hard work is not in doubt, nor his charisma (as I discovered personally when inadvertently doorstepping him in church on Christmas morning: he was charming). But as a senior environment department insider told me: "Sheer force of will is no substitute for thought, planning, expertise and evidence. He is an otherwise savvy politician, but he just never spends time listening to people whose views he doesn't naturally share. It's all a bit Andrew Lansley."

Had Paterson listened, he would have been told that skimping on flood defences is deeply false economy even in austere times: ministers admit each scheme saves £8 in damage for every £1 spent. The costs are now being counted across the south.
Worse, Paterson's scepticism on climate change – a ludicrous trait in an environment secretary – led him to slash by 40% his departmental spend on developing the UK's adaptation to global warming. Pre-empting the risks to mainline railway links, such as the one smashed into the sea at Dawlish that has cut off Cornwall, is precisely the role of that climate adaptation effort.

In May 2013, while ministers battled the chancellor over the next wave of cuts, Paterson stood firm, with one cabinet colleague saying: "He doesn't want to go down in history as the man who endangered Britain's flood defences."

Paterson won another partial top-up in that spending round. But, as the latest Atlantic fury advances on these islands, it looks too little too late. The attempt by Eric Pickles to blame the Environment Agency, out of which his government is ripping 25% of the staff, is panic politics at its most repulsive. (my emphasis) Paterson is in danger of being dragged under by the historical epithet he most wanted to avoid. As the howls of public anger grow, the danger for Cameron and his government is that they could sink with him." Damian Carrington, Guardian 10/2/14

Yet again we judge them by what they do - not - in any way - what they say.

Thanks to Steve Bell for bubbling the prick...

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Gove 'Deranged' official!

‘It is sometimes hard to know whether to take Michael Gove seriously. In a speech in London on Monday, the education secretary said he was aiming to achieve a situation where, if you visit a school in England, "standards are so high all round that you should not be able to tell whether it's in the state sector or a fee-paying independent".

So as parents visited, say, Marlborough College (founded 1843), they would ignore the demand for £27,420 for a year's teaching and nearly another £5,000 for boarding. They would breeze into classrooms and wouldn't notice that, for 870 pupils, Marlborough has more than 150 teachers and assistants, a ratio that, if applied to all England's 8.2 million schoolchildren, would require the teaching workforce to be tripled to roughly 1.3 million. Then they would wander the grounds and somehow fail to clock 11 rugby pitches, eight cricket squares, 14 cricket nets, 12 tennis courts, an eight-lane swimming pool and .22 rifle range, a variety of facilities which, if extended to every state school, would require (according to one calculation) 33m acres, or more than half the English countryside.
Gove is a former journalist and, like many contemporary politicians, aspires to good headlines rather than good policies, using techniques that made him a competent Times columnist for news-starved Monday mornings. You can't beat "I'll make all state schools as good as Marlborough and Eton" or, to take another theme from Monday's speech, "I'll tell teachers how to tame unruly children". But even his natural allies have started to chide him. "Mr Gove must be careful not to mistake gimmicks and gestures for real policy," warned a Mail on Sunday leader. Matthew Parris, former Tory MP and now Times columnist, wrote that he feared his friend Gove was becoming unhinged. Sir David Bell, the judicious and discreet former permanent secretary at the Department for Education, now vice-chancellor of Reading University, advised Gove: "don't believe your own hype".
Peter Wilby Guardian 3rd Feb 14

Yesterday the argument rumbled on when two head-teachers compared notes. A typical state secondary school receives on average just over £4000 per pupil. This compares with a non-boarding fee of nearly £15,000 for an average private school pupil. 

As Minister of State for Education, Gove must have known these figures. 

Unhinged, dangerous and playing political games appealing to the swivel-eyed tendency. What an example to hard-pressed teachers across the land. As one reported on Radio 4, “Every time Gove starts to speak I begin to cry.”

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Boris and Bob: spot the villain

“Over the coming days strike action by London Underground staff will be characterised in certain quarters as the action of out-of-control union "barons" intent on "holding the country to ransom".

Last week the rich were threatening to elope if Labour introduced a 5p increase in the top rate of income tax; this week London Underground staff will walk out over a plan to close every single tube ticket office and cut up to 1,000 jobs.

Yet only one of the above will be on the receiving end of vitriol in the press. I'm sure you can hazard a guess as to which one.

Particularly lamentable is the extent to which London mayor Boris Johnson is escaping the scrutiny visited upon those who will be walking out.

In his £250,000-a-year weekly column for the Daily Telegraph, the mayor wrote that, while he did not begrudge Bob Crow his holiday, the Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) boss was not entitled to "disrupt the lives of millions of people who are not on holiday but who want to work".

"It is absolutely outrageous that London, the motor of the UK economy – now contributing 25% of GDP – should be held to ransom by this tiny minority," he wrote.
The assumption is that it is the union boss, rather than the mayor of London, who is rocking the boat unnecessarily by leading his members on a walkout.

What short memories the mayor and his supporters have.
Whether or not ticket office closures on the London Underground are inevitable, almost no criticism is being levelled at Johnson (I won't call him Boris, because he's not my friend) for pledges made by him while running for mayor in 2008 and then again in 2012.
When Johnson ran for office in 2008, he opposed the closure of 40 ticket offices by his predecessor Ken Livingstone. During that campaign, Johnson even signed a petition calling for London Underground to abandon plans to "drastically reduce the opening hours" of ticket offices.

In his manifesto he also promised to ensure that "there is always a manned ticket office in every station". He repeated this promise again in 2010. And yet today the closure of ticket offices is being billed as something which tube workers should have been expecting all along – despite the fact that the mayor had been saying the opposite for a number of years.

Three quarters (77%) of RMT members who voted in the ballot backed strike action, whereas Johnson won the 2012 mayoral election with 55% of the vote – and many who voted for the mayor did so under the impression that he would not close London Underground ticket offices.

If nothing else, the mayor's giant U-turn is certainly more newsworthy than pictures of Bob Crow sunning himself in Rio de Janeiro.” James Bloodworth for Left Foot Forward

Monday, 3 February 2014

Gove, Ofsted and Free Schools

‘Ministers who appoint their own partisans to run what should properly be independent inspectorates breach one of the cardinal principles that help to ensure trust in government and to enhance good policy management. Michael Gove's sacking of Lady Morgan, a Labour supporter who nevertheless supported school reform, as chair of the Ofsted inspectorate – and his reported wish to appoint Theodore Agnew, a Tory donor and insurance magnate, in her place – falls squarely into this category. It is not the only recent example of such an approach in this government, although there are some counterexamples too. The tactic also seems designed to promote men at the expense of women, which recklessly sacrifices another important principle.’ Guardian 3/2/14

Over the last few weeks we have had illustrative stories about the doings of Gove.

  • Heads complained that following an Ofsted inspection, they were receiving phone calls from agents promoting the ‘academisation’ of state schools. The callers quoted the as yet unseen Ofsted report so clearly had access to it before the school did. 
  • This is part of the drive to make all state schools academies free from lea control. That in itself may be laudable - what isn’t is the subtext of putting control of groups or clusters of these schools in the hands of private companies who have shareholders to satiate.
  • The much lauded (by a handful of right wing obsessives) Free School policy has been somewhat undermined by events on the ground. With little oversight, religious fundamentalists in Derby were allowed to go ahead with their unenlightened medieval curriculum paid for out of public funds.
  • At a time when there has never been a greater need for understanding the complexities of modern life we are giving significant funds to people who believe that girls are inferior and should be educated apart from boys - if they are to be educated at all. 
  • These funds have to come from somewhere. 6th Form Colleges complained today their funds for vital courses in Maths and English to pay for this untried, untested and incoherent piece of folly. 
  • Almost half of the Free Schools opened so far did not achieve their predicted numbers with some being barely half full. A local authority maintained school with such figures would be ripe for early closure.
  • The National Audit Office has recently highlighted the rising costs of this scheme. £6.6 million on average is earmarked for building costs for each new Free School. These schools are not ‘free’ to us taxpayers. They also deprive good schools of essential repairs or upgrades as the money is diverted to the ideological folly.

Tories are no strangers to cronyism - a charge frequently levelled at Labour (with some cause) but they are quite simply breathtaking in the insouciance with which they feather the nests of their supporters. 70% of Tory party funding comes from the City - Bankers and Financiers. Anyone still surprised at the lack of action to arrest the spivs and gamblers who devastated our economy?

One slight note of hope in all this morass: when first in post Gove talked of having a ‘big tent’ hence the appointment of Baroness Morgan. As the election nears, the big tent has been junked for a much smaller, right-wing tory version as Gove scrambles to get in place as many of his wacky ideas as possible. Todays talk of breaking down the walls between private and state schools is yet another precursor to increasing privatisation (oh how they love it - despite G4S, Crapita and all the rest grabbing and running). The Swedish model of Free Schools which Gove took to heart is currently collapsing under claim and counter-claim of fraud and mismanagement - and falling results. 

Further thoughts from 'Wonderblog'

Maybe New Labour also did this but it doesn't make it right.
Furthermore, this story is taking on a life of its own because Gove is raging out of control.
His first move at Education was to send out bibles to every school, while many of the buildings were failing apart. Last week we hear that creationism is to be taught as scientific fact. Plus his flagship policy of free schools is a mess because they don't have to recruit qualified teachers, they don't have to follow a curriculum and they're sucking huge amounts of money from state schools. And still going bankrupt.
Now he's getting rid of the head of the one organisation that might actual provide independent analysis of his policies to make way for a lickspittle who will ask no questions, will approve whatever mad plot Gove concocts next and who will also, no doubt, swell the Tory coffers with donations.

This is corruption writ large and rubbed in our faces. I don't care about one bureaucrat or another but I mind very much when the entire future of our nation's education is being trashed by a madman who ignores evidence in favour of his own swivel-eyed ideology. And even more worried that everyone is powerless to stop him. ‘Wonderblog’ 3/2/14