Wednesday, 30 November 2011

All in all, pretty good

Right then. First things first. The government's lines on this have simply got to look ridiculous to most people by now. If it doesn't, I may have to despair of my sunny, optimistic view of human nature. On the upside, the last poll I saw showed a majority of support for our action.

From the inside, it was good. I was on two picket lines today and no one crossed at either of them. The demo in the city centre was pretty good:

The general turnout seems to have been pretty good - 7,000 in Leicester, 20,000 in Bristol and Liverpool, for example and the strike action seems to have been fairly solid nationally.

From my personal experience there was a good level of general support from the public, too. Unfortunately no one particularly amusing was in opposition (unless you count the homeless bloke who shouted 'Get back to work you lazy bastards' at us. Which I don't, on account of its being genuinely baffling.)

The biggest problem was that there were a couple of thousand people and the only space that was available for speeches was in a marquee big enough to hold a couple of hundred. That, and the ice rink that was filling most of the space, leaving us wedged up against the Guild Hall. These are, as I'm sure you'll agree, pretty minor complaints.

Of course the big thing now is: what next. Personally, I think we should be planning for more action in January. What say you, interwebs?

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Oh, for Gods' Sake

There are many reasons not to like Michael Gove. But aside from his elitism, parochialism, incompetence, viciousness, fundamental opposition to the concept of public service, his general meanness of spirit and possession of less charm than Arnold J Rimmer, his stupidity is what is currently annoying me.

This isn't actually related to the strikes - that's a whole other seething cauldron of outrage. This is his move to put a copy of the KJV in every school in the land - with a foreword of his own.

OK, it's only 2 lines, so it's not worth getting too worked up about. But he's not a Biblical scholar. He can't have anything to add to the text other than his own opinion on it - and who the fuck cares what he thinks about the Bible? It's only a few months since he tried to remove the statutory requirement to teach RE from the national curriculum, and has completely opposed including RE in the EBacc. And judging from his behaviour, he clearly isn't much of a Christian either, so sending round copies of his no doubt awe-inspiring thoughts on the KJV just smacks of arrogance.

What really annoys me about this is not the redundancy of spending money at a time when he's cutting everything else on a book that all schools have plenty of anyway (as the National Secular Society have pointed out).

There are 2 major annoyances that outrank this:

  1. He doesn't seem to be in a rush to send out copies of other major religious texts. The excuse for this surfeit of self-promotion is the 400th anniversary of the publication of the KJV. Last year was the 100th anniversary of the first simultaneous English-Arabic translation of the Qur'an. I don't remember a free copy turning up at school.

  2. The KJV is not a good translation. Most of the NT is based on a single, late, Greek edition and from an educational point of view the NRSV is much better, being a modern English edition based on decades of study by scholars piecing together a representative text based on the widest possible selection of the most accurate available texts. Personally, I wouldn't use the KJV in teaching.

In short, another day, another reason plethora of reasons to dislike the secretary of state for education.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

The inevitable pre-strike post.

Phew, we're nearly there. The Tories have obligingly refused to 'negotiate' any further so not even Barber has an excuse to cave in now. We're nearly there.

*A scuffling is heard from the back of the crowd. A scruffy urchin forces his way through the press of bodies. Removing his woebegone cap in an automatic gesture of genuflection, the wide-eyed, soot-besmirched imp stares in wonderment.*

"What's that, Tide? You wanted the Tories to break off negotiations? Why you left-wing communist with your infantile disorder!"

"Young fool", saith I, loftily, "that is not so. For you see, there were no negotiations to break off!"

"Why sir, you are a veritable verbal prestidigitator and no mistake! But how so? For surely I heard Mr Cameron this very morn insist that they would make no more concessions. Logically there must have been some in the first place for there to be any more even in potentia?"

Ahem. I'm dropping this frankly ludicrous pseudo-literary device now.

No. There were no negotiations. There was a bit of clumsy divide-and-rule, trying to hive off the very lowest paid and those closest to retirement from the rest, but it was so appallingly done that no one fell for it.*

Even more brilliantly, the government point-blank refused to carry out the triannual review. This is the 3-yearly review to check if the pension fund is OK. The fact that they wouldn't do this review is pretty good evidence that they knew there wasn't a problem. For corroboration you could look at these two interesting facts:
  1. The teachers' fund has had £46 billion more paid into it since 1923 than has been taken out.
  2. Teachers' pensions are unfunded. The money just disappears into the Treasury.
They should really just admit that the extra money would in fact go not on our pensions anyway, but on deficit reduction. Because we don't need to put any money into the pension scheme. So while Cameron boasted yesterday about cutting corporation tax and a maximum wage for the wealthy has been ruled out, the poorest paid in society (civil service pensions average at around £5,500 annually) are to be taxed to reduce the deficit. Say it again: "WE'RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER."

I'm not going to be dumb enough to try to predict the future in a situation like this, but I think it's clear that the best chance of breaking this deceitful, manipulative, plutocratic shower of piss that calls itself the coalition has got to be a big day next week. And where possible it has to be whispered: All out and stay out.

Because this isn't about protest. It is about winning.

*Here's how it would work. Those earning under £15k would not face an increase in contributions. Hurrah! You might think. But this would include pro-rata posts. So you could work 2 days a week and still face a doubling of your contributions. And guess what? Lots of low-paid workers are part-time! Clever.

At the other end of the scale, the over-50s were told they wouldn't have to face an increase in retirement age. But they'd still have to double their contributions and they'd still have had the RPI measure switched to CPI. So they'd still lose.

*Attenborough whisper* The mistake I think the ConDems have made is in assuming that we're as stupid as they are.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

The Post of Surreal Frivolity, or, Why Kevin Ovenden Has the Head of a Giant Fly

This has nothing to do with anything really, but it's been hanging around the periphery of my mind's eye (not sure where that would be - in the corner next to the Locked Trunk of Teenage Embarrassment?) and tonight seems to be the time to expunge it.

Here it is: I think Kevin Ovenden has the head of a giant fly.

Wait, come back! Let me explain.

I've never met Kevin Ovenden. From what I've seen of his comments on Lenin's Tomb he seems like a sane and interesting commentator. This is in no way a comment on Kevin Ovenden.

On Lenin's Tomb he posts like this:

Perhaps some of you already see the problem. For the rest, watch MY MAGNIFICENT BRAIN.

In my head, Kevin's ID becomes:

See where I'm going with this?


See, I'm not mad! NOT MAD, I TELL YOU!


Sorry, Kevin. I'm not entirely sure why I had to share this. Anyway, on a completely unrelated note, I'm off to bed. Like the Dread Pirate Roberts, I'll probably kill this entry in the morning.