Sunday, November 13, 2005

If the Government wants to stamp out bullying, it could start by minding it's own business

"New children's czar vows: 'I'll stamp out the school bullies'", says the headline in today's Observer. I'd be interested to know how he's going to do it.

Only last week, it was reported that a girl was stabbed in the head with a pair of scissors by another pupil. College principal Jerry Oddie described the incident as "shocking and appalling", but said there was a very clear, well-established anti-bullying policy which was enforced rigorously. Well congratulations Jerry, full marks for your anti-bullying policy!

The best policy that schools can and should adopt is to make bullying a criminal matter. School's don't need to wait till blood is drawn, physical assault is a crime. Schools need to make it very clear to pupils and parents alike, that if anyone is assualted, the school will instruct the parents of the victim to press charges.

Presumably the new children's Commissioner, Al Aynsley-Green, will be introducing a new anti-bullying policy of his own. Maybe school bullies will be invited on anger management course where they can express their feelings, and have a friendly chat and a cup of tea with their victim. But maybe he could do better still, and keep his hands off. For many years now, the law has made it harder and harder to restrain unruly pupils, even when teachers intervene to stop a fight, they risk being charged with assault. What schools need is more powers to tackle bullies, the last thing they need is another layer of government bureaucracy.

Extremists consulted on the causes of extremism

Friday's Guardian reports on the findings of the Muslim community working group set up by the Home Office to prevent the growth of extremism after the July terror attacks. This, remember, is the same working group who recommended scrapping holocaust memorial day and replacing it with genocide day.

The report, published by the Home Office said British foreign policy had been "a key contributory factor" in driving extremist groups, and perceptions of injustices inherent in western foreign policy were triggering "radical impulses" among British Muslims. Now there's a surprise. Not that the government plans to change their foreign policy, which begs the question: Why are we asking a bunch of extremists to advise us on the cause of Islamic extremism? Maybe in the same vein, the United States should appoint Louis Farrakhan to chair a commission of inquiry into the social chaos which followed Hurricane Katrina.

Is David Cameron another Blair?

You have to hand it to PJ O' Rourke, who is spot on in his assessment of European politics in today's Telegraph. Sometimes the best observers are outsiders, who looking in from the outside can see clearly what the rest of us can't.

His conclusion is that Britain can do without more Blairism and suggests that David Cameron risks following in the same direction. The article incidentally sits on same page as a piece by David Cameron entitled "the last thing Britain needs is another Blair". Recently, Cameron appeared on the Today programme and answered the usual question about what he was going to do about some terrible social problem with: "We're going to bring the best minds to solve this one.", what a Blairite answer!

In fact Cameron resembles Blair in more ways than one. He has been interviewed several times about various social issues and each time, he comes out with spin but without actually answering the question, he's also obsessed with modernisation and making the party liked by voters, and he comes from a priveleged background, a bit like Tony Blair. Though Labour has had privately educated leaders before (Hugh Gaitskell, Clement Attlee and Michael Foot all went to private schools), Tony Blair is the first to have used his private education as a way of reassuring upwardly mobile middle-class voters, who backed Labour for the first time in 1997, that his party really had changed. The Tories on the other hand are coming from a different direction. They are often percieved as a party representing a priveleged elite, so need to work a lot harder to prove that they represent ordinary people. Unlike David Cameron, David Davis was brought up by a single mother in a council estate, and went to a lousy state school but despite all that managed to lift himself out of his situation, a rather better role model for the Tories.

Now that Tony Blair has claimed the mantle of compassionate conservatism, David Cameron is trying to portray himself as being in the same mould. Except that Tony Blair's brand of compassionate conservatism is beginning to look rather hollow, as his government becomes ever more bloated, and as his public sector reforms are being further undermined by his own MPs. And as for the "best minds" that David Cameron refers to, you only have to look across the channel to see what happens when the "best minds" interfere in public policy: France's top civil servants at the Ecole nationale d’administration spent the past three decades devising a policy for integrating its immigrants only to find the immigrants burning down their own communities. And look at our own parliament: Despite the majority of voters supporting a new law allowing up to 90 days detention for terror suspects, MPs decided otherwise and congratulated themselves as being "experts" on what is best for our liberty.

Britain needs a leader who is prepared to cut back the role of government in peoples lives, and who realises that those who know best are the people on the ground, that is: ordinary voters, not the unions, not the charities, not the NGOs and not the various other "experts" who materialise on newsnight. The "best minds" are the politicians who listen to the people who voted for them. That requires common sense, not intelligence. As PJ O' Rourke once said, "a little government and a little luck are necessary in life, but only a fool trusts either of them".