After doing some canvassing this afternoon I came home, had tea, and picked up the sunday paper - and I am still in shock from what the dominant stories say about the state of Britain today.
The stories which dominate the news are
* British victims of the credit crunch are trying to get out of debt by offering to sell one of their kidneys for £25,000 (link here).
* General Mackay who recently resigned as one of the British commanders in Afghanistan, has said that he was asked whether he could postpone an attack on a Taleban position until after Gordon Brown's visit to the country (link).
* Tony Blair has demeaned the office of Prime Minister which he used to hold by allowing admirers to pay £180 a time to pose with him for photographs (link).
* Another rash of stories about how the Attorney General, e.g. the government minister responsible for enforcing the law, continues to survive in that post despite having broken a law which she herself steered through parliament, including an extraodinary war of words with her Tongan cleaner here and an item here about her expenses claims.
* A law about impersonating police officers which was intended for use against conmen who try to genuinely fool their victims into thinking they are policemen in order to defraud them, has been used to mount a ludicrous prosecution against a group of G20 protestors for donning costumes which included the odd riot helmet along with boiler suits and visible underwear, at a cost to the taxpayer of tens of thousands of pounds (link).
* A trade union baron, who is also the husband of deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman, was supported by party HQ to be Labour candidate for a normally safe seat at the same time as his union paid £1 million to Labour, and the former Labour general secretary at the time is quoted today as saying "My colleagues and I felt we had an obligation to deliver the seat." (link).
Any one of these six stories would be worrying. All six of them together in a single day's papers is strong evidence that the Labour government has been in power for far too long and it really is time for a change.
But the worst story of the lot is the saga of the dinner lady of Great Tey.
I have a daughter who is a year older than the child who was bullied at Great Tey(and a son of the same age.) I ask myself a hypothetical question: how I would feel if I discovered that my daughter had been tied to a fence and whipped with a skipping rope by four older boys, if I learned this not from the school but because the dinner lady who rescued her from this situation, innocently assuming that of course the school would have told me, asked how she was, and if the dinner lady concerned were then sacked for telling the parents what had happened to our child.
If that is what happened, I think "incandescent with anger" is a pretty mild description of what most parents would feel about it.
Minette Marrin puts it very well when she says
"It is possible that this is not quite what happened in Great Tey, Essex. Such stories are not usually as simple as reports make them seem and small villages are often cesspits of intrigue. However, the school and its governors do not deny the dinner lady’s allegations. The fact that they haven’t is telling. If her story is untrue, the school would have had absolutely nothing to lose by saying so.
"For years Labour has been promising us a new order of openness, transparency, accountability, consultation, empowerment and inclusion. But what do we get, in this case and countless others like it? The precise opposite. Transparency, accountability, consultation and empowerment do not exactly square, policywise, with shooting the messenger, as here.
"It seems daft to most people, as do many other gross inconsistencies and follies in the public sector. Think of the political survival of Baroness Scotland. And that’s because all public services and government agencies are now firmly in the grip of a mindset in which words mean what new Labour at the time chooses them to mean.
"Befuddled by jargon, frightened by diktats, vaguely aware of a requirement to square circles and believe several impossible things at once, overburdened by unachievable targets — put an end to bullying in schools but never exclude bullies, for example — public servants are losing their common sense, in a toxic combination of fear and folly.
"This corruption of sense leads directly to the desperate silliness of the case of the dinner lady of Great Tey, and to a much wider corruption as well."
You can read the full article here.