Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

Back to “old” Labour??

In Dinosaur on February 18, 2010 at 8:52 am

Like many disillusioned old fogeys, I had become hardened to the slick, superficial messages broadcast to us in those TV party political broadcasts. More often than not when they came on, I switched off.

But the other week my trembling finger paused before it could press the “off” button. The broadcast in question was for Labour – but instead of the glib inanities that we’ve come to expect from “New” Labour’s spin merchants, we were treated to a brief resume of Labour’s past campaigns and achievements. There were snatches of old films of trade union demonstrations, of suffragettes on the march, of Clem Attlee and Nye Bevan, for goodness sake. True, the broadcast did have some difficulty in marrying these images to present day policies – but the main point was that Labour’s past was no longer being air-brushed out of the party’s history.

In 1997, the decision was made quite deliberately to turn the party’s back on its past. New Labour was to have new slogans, for new times. To refer to the good old days was considered tantamount to heresy. “Middle England” (whatever that may be) was the party’s target. But now, it seems, the party’s past, and its record, has been resurrected.

It might have been for one night only. It might have been a desperate attempt to bring traditional Labour voters back to the fold. But I found it quite significant – and, hopefully, just a wee bit encouraging.

… and back to council housing?

Another straw in the wind – it seems that suddenly local authorities are clamouring to build council houses again. After some twenty years, during which the supply of council homes just about dried up, they’re now back on the agenda.

It was Thatcher, in her relentless drive towards “home ownership”, who attempted to kill off council housing in Britain. First, she introduced her “right to buy” (at knockdown prices) for council tenants. And then she made it virtually impossible for local authorities to build new homes to replace dwindling stocks. The Tories also encouraged tenants to vote, to opt out of local authority control in favour of housing associations – some of them distinctly dubious.

All this, of course, led to a sharp rise in homelessness, and the deterioration of remaining council-owned stock into “sink estates”. Not that Thatcher was too bothered – she believed that those who couldn’t afford to buy at least one house were “losers” anyway – just like those who travelled by bus.

But the present Government has belatedly recognised that we need more social housing – affordable rented accommodation for those families in desperate need of somewhere to live. The Treasury was authorised to release extra cash to build 1,200 new council homes.

But local authorities have put in bids to build nearly three times that number. Interestingly, a number of those wanting to build new council houses are Tory controlled. Whatever next, I hear you ask?!

Ofsted gets a pasting

Anyone who is, or has been, a teacher will know all about Ofsted. For many of them, the very mention of the word sends a chill down the spine.

Ofsted was introduced by the Tories, to send in teams of inspectors to schools in order to see how they were maintaining standards and meeting “targets”. On the basis of an Ofsted report, a school could be condemned as “failing”. No help was given in trying to sort out problems or give friendly advice. Reports were largely based on exam results, and an Ofsted team would descend rather like a hostile army. Later their clutch was extended to include social workers.

Now Ofsted has been condemned for being too bureaucratic, of simply being concerned in ticking the right boxes – and of attempting to catch school staff and social workers out.

Many of those who are really concerned about the education of our children  must wish we could return to the days of Her Majesty’s School Inspectors. HMIs were there to assess – and to advise schools and teachers. It had a supportive role. Now, we have Ofsted, which it seems is merely there to condemn.


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