Sunday, 27 March 2016

The Sun is ordered not to be so bigoted, hate-filled and rong (sic)

Rupert Murdoch's Sun newspaper has been ordered to retract a story that claimed 1 in 5 British Muslims supported people moving to Syria to fight for 'jihadi' groups such as ISIS.

The Sun has been ordered to print a statement acknowledging that its claims that one in five British Muslims supported people who have gone to Syria to fight for jihadi groups such as Islamic State were significantly misleading.
The Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) said a front page article from 23 November last year – as well as more coverage inside the paper – misrepresented the results of the poll on which they were based because the relevant question in its poll did not support the claim.
Respondents were asked to what extent they had sympathy with “young Muslims who leave the UK to join fighters in Syria”, rather than with those who went to fight with Isis or any other Islamist group.
But, while Ipso upheld the complaint it investigated, the paper was spared having to print notice of the adjudication on its front page. The watchdog said the newspaper had agreed to publish the notice on page two of Saturday’s edition, having been ordered to place it no further back than page five.
“While the newspaper was entitled to interpret the poll’s findings, taken in its entirety, the coverage presented as a fact that the poll showed that one in five British Muslims had sympathy for those who left to join Isis and for Isis itself,” Ipso said.
“In fact, neither the question, nor the answers which referred to ‘sympathy’, made reference to [Isis]. The newspaper had failed to take appropriate care in its presentation of the poll results and, as a result, the coverage was significantly misleading.”
Might take more than a mealy-mouthed correction on page two to stop the Sun being bigoted, hate-filled and rong (sic) but it is a start.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

More Educational Excellence Everywhere

Surprisingly, political interference in pursuit of a myopic vision of 'excellence' in education results in failure, distress and demotivates students. Wodathunkedit????
The government’s overhaul of primary-school assessments has turned into a shambles, according to the teachers who will have to carry them out from next month, with complaints that seven- and 11-year-old pupils find the new standards too hard and too confusing. 
The new spelling, punctuation and grammar tests came in for particular attack from those who responded to the National Union of Teachers’ request for comment, with 86% of those saying that the education secretary, Nicky Morgan, should cancel this summer’s assessments. 
More than 5,000 primary-school teachers in England responded to an NUT request for their opinion, and virtually all agreed that the new assessment levels were inappropriate for the pupils, given their age, and was likely to brand many as failures. 
More than 90% of teachers at key stage 1 and key stage 2 said much of the material in the new spelling, punctuation and grammar tests – nicknamed Spag – was too advanced or inappropriate for the age groups being tested. 
Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said many adults would struggle to answer the demands of the new assessments. 
“I can tell you that quite a lot of people who ply their trade by writing in English are incapable of getting 100% on the key stage 2 Spag test,” Blower said. 
One teacher told the NUT survey: “The terminology for Spag is a constant cause of stress for children who find it all confusing. They are feeling like failures because they can’t remember the four different types of nouns, or they are confused by the fact that some things can have several different terms.” 
Another said: “As a year 1 teacher, I am finding myself teaching complicated whole-class grammar in order to prepare them for next year when some of my children still can’t write their names. It’s setting the majority up for failure, no matter how much you prepare them.”
Nothing promotes educational excellence everywhere like setting kids up to hate school and to think of themselves as failures from an early age.

Why is it every government feels it has the God given right to interfere in Education?

Here's a crazy idea. Why not give teachers a bit more freedom and independence to make their own decisions, based on professional experience and with promoting excellence, critical thinking and enthusiasm in their students?

If the Conservatives think the chicken killing and pig slaying industries are competent to regulate themselves, why can't education?

In the Land of the Pig the Butcher is King

I can see no way, no Earthly way, this could possibly go wrong. It isn't like we managed to inflict Mad Cow Disease on ourselves (and cows) by letting the industry decide on its own standards, or anything.
Conservative ministers are planning to repeal an array of official guidance on animal welfare standards, starting with a move to put the code on chicken-farming into the hands of the poultry industry.

Liz Truss, the environment secretary, is overseeing moves to scrap the statutory codes on farm animal welfare and move to an “industry-led” guidance as part of her department’s deregulatory agenda.

In a change that has caused concern with the RSPCA, Compassion in World Farming, and opposition parties, the government has already quietly tabled a draft order to scrap the official code on farming chickens for meat and breeding.

It is planning to revoke the code on 27 April – the day that new guidelines will be made public by the British Poultry Council, which will in future be in charge of writing and keeping the new regulatory code.

The industry body counts chicken hatchers and breeders as well as meat-processing giants such as Faccenda and 2Sisters among its member companies.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs confirmed it will now begin working with other livestock sectors in a staged timetable of reform. Other sectors that could get control of their own guidance include the cattle, sheep and pig farming industries.
At best this will lead to a massive deterioration in the standards of care for the animals; at worst, it may lead to poisonous, disease ridden DEATH FOOD being served.

The post title, by the way, refers to a song from Meatloaf's third Bat Out Of Hell effort.  It isn't very good, and Meatloaf endorsed Romney (and is probably fawning over Trump) but, oh well, past glories and all that.


Skoolz

One minor measure in George Osborne's budget, which has been generally overlooked in the fuss about sugar taxes, is his scheme to turn all the schools in England into academies.  Academies are tax payer funded, independent schools which aren't required to follow the national curriculum.

Given the state of the national curriculum, post Michael "Memorise them Kings!" Gove, that might seem to be not a bad thing.  But it is.

Even Tories realise this.
Leading Tory councillors across the country, dismayed by key elements of the education white paper outlined by the government last week, are calling on education secretary Nicky Morgan to rethink her policy of compulsory academisation for all schools. 
Their concerns echo those of many teachers and parents, who took part in rallies in London and many other towns and cities on Wednesday, to protest against the government’s forced academy programme. 
Around the country, councillors – many of them lifelong Tories who have devoted decades to working with schools in their areas and in many cases improving attainment – expressed profound reservations about the changes. 
The government’s white paper, Educational Excellence Everywhere, says all schools that have not begun to convert to academy status by 2020 will be directed to do so under new powers. Councils will lose responsibility for the remaining maintained schools, the majority of which will be expected to join multi-academy trusts, regardless of performance. 
“I feel really angry,” said Melinda Tilley, cabinet member for education for Oxfordshire county council, which covers the prime minister’s Witney constituency. 
“If it’s not broke don’t fix it. I don’t think schools should be forced. We’ve been supportive of the government’s agenda. We were going along quite well, helping schools to convert where we could. Now all of a sudden they are going to force the rest of them. It makes my blood boil. I’m put in a position where I can’t protect schools. One size does not fit all.”
Educational Excellence Everywhere is a great name for a white paper on education.

Just as you can tell a country that ostentatiously includes the word 'democracy' or 'democratic' in its name is nothing of the sort, you can tell straight away that these measures will not foster educational excellence anywhere.

Friday, 25 March 2016

UK Polling

Another poll showing the Tory lead has evaporated:

CON 37
LAB 35
LDEM 7
UKIP 9

(And there was another one as well, showing pretty much the same thing)

So either the worthy yeomen of Britannia are falling in behind Corbyn and his Red Guards; or the Tories are so awful that people are willig to vote for anything; or we are entering that magical period where the polls diverge from reality.

Interestingly, in the perceptions of leaders, Corbyn now leads Cameron, though his numbers aren't exactly great:

Cameron -25
Corbyn -11
Farage -2
Farron -12

This is interesting as it was these metric, rather than the actual poll numbers, that held up in 2015. The Conservatives were always ahead of Labour in the economic competence ratings, and Cameron always beat Milliband as preferred leader. But things are getting messy.

Oddly, I think this might make Corbyn more vulnerable in some ways. Once it looks like Labour might be in with a shout, people will start to think about how much they want to be Prime Minister.  Suddenly Corbyn will find plenty of Cassius's seeking to plant knives in his back.  Even more so than he's had to put up with already, I mean.

I suspect his enemies will view this as a starting pistol for more scheming and plotting.  They will look for an opportunity - the Scottish elections, where Labour might be pushed back into third place BEHIND the TORIES might afford it.  Corbyn has smartly not involved himself in the problems of Scottish Labour, but it is a strategic problem the party is going to have to face up to.

(Though the first question any aspiring replacement needs to have yelled at them, loudly, is "What are you going to do about Scotland, you tube?")

I actually do wonder if the recent resurgence in Labour - oh, my giddy aunt, 35%! - might actually be because of, and not in spite of, Corbyn.  Having weathered a miserable first six months, and with an operation that is slightly less amateur than it was before, perhaps he is starting to register with the electorate.

Which might mean if he is pushed out in favour of a blandly electable Blairite, we might see those promising numbers slump once again.  And we'll certainly see a Hell of a civil war beak out.  And the right wing won't be able to so much as whimper, having schemed and plotted and conspired against Corbyn from the start.

As for the other side, obviously the Conservatives have had a dreadful couple of weeks, with the Worst Budget Evah from George Osborne, the Iaian Duncan Smith resignation and the continual, ongoing problem of Europe.  It is likely they will find the next few weeks even more trying.  And if it does drag out, the calls for Cameron to go will get louder.

Whoever thought a leader who delivered an outright majority would collapse rapidly and utterly?  Clearly, ten months is a very long time in politics!

Thursday, 24 March 2016

The one that got away

This so should have been the flag of New Zealand.



Jeong Hyuk Fidan from Canterbury, I salute you.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Musical Interlude: Tonight Is What It Means To Be Young

The 80s weren't all bad.

Pretty much, this all the songs Jim Steinman wrote all being played at once.  Absolutely fantastic.

Seems appropriate for the Greatest Day In Recorded History.



If Dumbarton can beat Morton on Sunday, it will be the Greatest Weekend Of All Times!

And while we'll at it ...

I could watch this all day ...


Good news just keeps on coming today:
Simon Danczuk, the Labour MP for Rochdale, has agreed to repay more than £11,000 in expenses after saying he made an error in claiming extra accommodation costs for two children who did not “routinely” live with him. 
Danczuk said he had made the claims on what he believed at the time to be an accurate interpretation of guidelines from the parliamentary expenses watchdog, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa). 
“Regrettably, due to the vague wording of the rules, I inadvertently claimed 10% more than my annual living allowance, money which was paid directly to my landlord in London and not to me. I hold my hands up and admit that this was an error on my part,” the MP said in a statement.
The "vague wording" the slimy little toad is using to justify his rip off claims:
A supplement of up to £2,425 a year for each dependant you care for. You will need to certify that the dependant routinely lives with you.
Labour ahead in the polls, Iain Duncan Smith has fallen on the trusty British sword of truth and fair play, and Danczuk revealed to be a turd.  Already, this is the best day of my life.

Iain Duncan Smith resigns, immolating George Osborne in the process

It's a sign of how mental George Osborne is that even IDS has quit rather than impose his plans to harvest organs from beneficiaries and put taxes on breast milk:
Iain Duncan Smith has resigned from his role as Work and Pensions Secretary complaining of Treasury pressure to make cuts to benefits.

In a statement to the media, Mr Duncan Smith said he "incredibly proud of the welfare reforms that the Government has delivered over the past five years" but said he is "unable to watch passively whilst certain policies are enacted in order to meet the fiscal self imposed restraints that I believe are...distinctly political rather than in the national economic interest".
Even Scrooge can't stomach what Osborne intends for the proles!

it is an impressive piece of political shafting by IDS.

IDS might have been a dreadful leader, an awful minister ... but quitting like this just days after the budget, and calling the budget a piece of ideologicaly motivated national sabotage must have put paid to Osborne's leadership hopes.

Nothing in his political life became him like the leaving of it, as Shakespeare almost said.

Friday, 4 March 2016

Tory Leadership Slow Motion Apocalypse Underway

Get in now for front row seats as the Best Show On Earth After The American Election And Most Other Shows Even Cats gets underway.

Who will replace the red faced non-entity bumbler when he finally buggers off the political scene, having accomplished nearly nothing other than squandering a recovery, prolonging a recession and making Britain look stupid for the whole of Europe - even Greece (GREECE?!) - to laugh at?

Will it be Boris, effectively upping the buffoon quotient?

Or George 'Why did 80,000 people boo him' Osborne?

Or someone thing else?

Who will turn out to be the brightness in this dullness of Tories? The fastest in this loiter of sloths? The sternest in this gutter of wet bus tickets?

Relevant stuff:
Earlier this week there was a new YouGov poll of Conservative party members in the Times or, more specifically, two new polls of Conservative party members: YouGov polled the same party members before and after Boris Johnson came out in favour of leaving the EU to see what impact it had on the leadership race. Results are here.

At the simplest level Boris was ahead before, and was ahead afterwards, but there were some interesting shifts. Boris’s approval rating among Conservative party members dropped significantly after he came out (from 83% approval to 76% approval), but his position in the leadership race improved. Presumably he annoyed some members who saw his actions as disloyal or disagreed with his stance, but he consolidated the support from those who did not.

Almost unavoidably Boris coming out was going to upset some members – he has carefully avoided having many fixed political opinions over the years, so I expect many pro-European members would have assumed Boris agreed with them, many anti-EU members would have assumed Boris agreed with them. For once, he is forced off the fence and forced to upset some people – so his overall approval rating among Tory party members fell. However, in the race to be the next Tory leader his position has improved. 
43% now say they’d back Boris, up from 38%, with support falling for Theresa May and Sajid Javid, both of whom were seen as potential “outers” and both of whom ended up supporting Remain. Asked how they’d vote in a match up between Osborne & Boris the figures don’t change as much (Boris 55%, George 36% before, Boris 56%, George 38% after) – the broader balance between those party members who want Osborne as the next leader and those who don’t hasn’t changed much, it’s just Boris is now more clearly the “not-George” candidate.

Only a quarter of Tory party members said that the leadership candidates’s stances on the EU were an important factor in picking the next leader – 4% said they wanted the next leader to be someone who had campaigned for the UK to stay, 20% wanted the next leader to be someone who campaigned to leave, three-quarters picked other criteria as their main considerations. Far and away the most widely picked criteria was someone who will make a competent PM, picked by 67%, followed by someone who has a good chance of winning the next election on 52%.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, but if only Anthony Wells was a girl and there was a sort of heterosexual equivalent of being Gay Married, I'd do that with him in an instant.

Prediction

There's nothing stupider on the internet than putting down your thoughts in an indisputable form.  So that, of course is what I am going...