The Margaret Beckett prize for making a problem worse
Here is my first 2008 nomination for the Margaret Beckett award, for spotting a problem and proposing action guaranteed to make it worse. It goes to those Labour MPs who propose to deal with the issue of parents allegedly "discovering" a religious faith in order to get their children into faith schools, by blocking the expansion of such schools.
Margaret Beckett was the Secretary of State responsible for introducing the Single Farm Payment regime for handing out EU farm and rural support money. Her department identified "Deprived areas" and "Exceptionally Deprived Areas" and set out to make them even more deprived by making disproportionately large cuts in farm support in those areas. (The apparent objective was to drive people out of farming.) Mrs Beckett has returned to the backbenches, but her Single Farm Payments legacy is still causing great hardship to farmers in Copeland and elsewhere and stands as the classic example of identifying a problem and exacerbating it.
However, it appears that Labour MPs have not lost the talent for making problems worse. It is reported in The Times today that large numbers of parents have started churchgoing at the stage in their children's education where this will increase their chances of getting into faith-based schools.
Anyone with even the most borderline capability for rational thought ought to be able to work out that, if parents really are manufacturing a religious commitment, this would only make sense if the parents concerned think that faith schools will offer their children a better eduction and expect those schools to be oversubscribed.
So what do Labour MPs propose? According to The Times, they are trying to stop any expansion of the very schools which parents want to get their children into. A move guaranteed to exacerbate the problem, ensure that they remain oversubscribed, and give parents even more incentive to play the system than might otherwise be the case.
As Jeremy Clarkson might have said, you couldn't make it up!
Any other nominations for the Margaret Beckett award ?