Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

MODERN TIMES: The Dinosaur Column

In Dinosaur on June 22, 2012 at 2:13 pm

No silver spoon for Gove

Many folk must have blinked at least twice when they read that Michael Gove had hit out at the dominance of those from public schools in top positions – including, of course, his own government. He seemed to have hit on the point that privilege rules in our society

But surely Gove is one of them? One of those who had a privileged eduction and slipped easily into government? But it seems that’s not quite the case.

I did a bit of digging, courtesy of Wikipedia, and discovered that our Michael was actually adopted at the age of four months by a “Labour supporting family” (albeit middle class) living in Aberdeen. Initially he attended a state school, before winning a scholarship to the independent (and posh) Robert Gordon’s College. From here he went on to Oxford to study English.

So Michael Gove, unlike the Camerons and Cleggs of this world, wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He was a product of what used to be called our “meritocracy”. It’s just a pity that he didn’t stick to journalism, where he was doing so well; instead of seeking a career in politics. Then he wouldn’t be in a position to create such havoc with our schools.

Some Old Lags’ Delight, please

A new wheeze dreamed up by government minister Ken Clarke, is to turn our prisons into residential factories, where the inmates can pass their time producing goods for retail companies. They would “learn a trade”, and then it would be a case of hey ho, hey ho, it’s off to work they’d go.

Already Timpsons, the shoe repair chain, has set up what it calls training academies in prisons. The prisoners learn to repair shoes and watches, and cut keys (though not the get out of prison free variety!).

Amongst the companies quoted as having a possible interest is Marks & Spencers. Other retail firms are also being approached. The breezy Mr. Clarke describes it as a “more intelligent way of running the prison service”. But GMB union spokesman Paul Kenny retorted that “Ken Clarke has taken leave of his senses.”

I can see his point. It’s a way of using cheap labour, at a time when some two million are on the dole and looking for work.

Inmates would be earning as little as £10 a week for their labour. In the world of work outside, there’s such a thing as a national minimum wage which employers are expected to pay their workers. I’m sure there are plenty of companies out there who may be tempted to opt for cheap prison labour.

OK, teach prisoners a trade, by all means. In more enlightened days, this was done as a matter of course. Inmates could take courses, and learn skills which stood them in good stead when they were released. This approach still continues, but in recent years too many in authority have seen our prisons as somewhere where we could just lock up miscreants and throw away the key (unless it was one cut for Timpsons of course).

Your health in their (private) hands

I got a leaflet through my door the other week. Well, I’m always getting unwanted leaflets – indeed, you could paper a good size room with them. But this particular one was from the privately owned Winfield Hospital, just up the road from Gloucester.

Would you like to experience the many benefits of private healthcare it asked? Well, no, not really – but with a weird sense of repugnant fascination, I found myself reading on, anyway.

On offer were a range of “fixed cost packages for a wide variety of treatments”. And then it went on to quote some of its prices.

Just to give a few samples, treatment for cataracts, varicose veins or a hernia would set you back £1,800 a piece. The same price is quoted if you want your vasectomy reversed, whilst “lumps and bumps” (up to three) can be treated for a mere £600. A knee replacement costs £9450 and replacing a hip would set you back £8450.

Easy payment options are available, it says, but will be required prior to admission. So, come on, treat yourself!

A sign of our times, perhaps? I’ll refrain from further comment, though. I’m sure folk will be able to draw their own conclusions.



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