Richard Ingrams’s Week: Who wouldn't want a millionaire for a friend?

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The Independent Online

It is good news that a man who made a multimillion-pound fortune from flogging mobile phones now finds himself in severe financial difficulties, has been forced to resign from various boards and may even have to face a criminal investigation into his share dealings.

Not widely known until this week, Mr David Ross, co-founder of the Carphone Warehouse chain, has been splashed all over the press along with pictures of his huge country seat and various of his glamorous girlfriends past and present.

Unfortunately for David Cameron, the most frequently published photograph shows Ross and his one-time squeeze Shelley Ross (no relation) posing happily with the Tory leader and his wife Samantha at a party function. The scene is a little bit reminiscent of a still from Four Weddings and a Funeral, both of the men wearing open-necked shirts to demonstrate their classlessness and love of informality.

It is all very well for Tories to say that Labour, in the shape of Mandelson and co, are just as keen as they are on hobnobbing with millionaires. The difference is that the picture makes it look as if Cameron and Ross are birds of a feather and belong in the same privileged world of the very rich –one selling mobile phones, the other the Conservative Party.

If it were a single instance it might not matter so much. But this picture is bound to remind people of the earlier Bullingdon club picture from Cameron's Oxford days which conveyed the same kind of unappealing message and which also featured Cameron's fellow old Etonian Boris Johnson, who it transpires is also a great admirer of Mr Ross. The Tories were so worried about that picture that they suppressed it by buying the copyright. Perhaps they would be wise to do the same again.

Reading, writing and jargon

If the quality of education declines, the fault is not so much with the schools as with those shadowy people who devise the curriculum. Nowadays, both main parties see education in economic terms – a necessary process to help Britain to compete with its neighbours. That is why businessmen play a major part in deciding what should be taught in schools. Blair's new academies are even sponsored by big business.

Many of those involved in running education are themselves ill-educated and unable to express themselves clearly. This week, Richard Gerver, one of the Government's advisers on primary education, wrote a letter to The Times. The present education system, he said, has "left us beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists... our children face an immediate future that will be driven by a legacy of the mistakes carved out through the ignorance of previous generations – global issues around the environment, the economy and ethnic and social conflict".

How is a future driven by a legacy? Or how are mistakes carved out? What exactly is a global issue around the environment? But forget the semi-literate jargon. We get the drift. The purpose of education in Mr Gerver's view is to groom children to be concerned about issues like racism and global warming and this is not some kind of current affairs programme for sixth-formers. You can't help thinking that the world which no longer exists and which Gerver appears to scorn may have been rather preferable to the brave new world of today.

Posthumous honours aren't doing Postgate justice

Prior to writing this article I looked up Oliver Postgate, the creator of Bagpuss and other masterpieces who died this week, in Who's Who. He wasn't in it.

It didn't surprise me at all. Some years ago a group of Oliver's admirers organised a campaign, which I happily joined, to get him and his collaborator the artist Peter Firmin an honour. Nothing happened.

Later I wrote to Melvyn Bragg at the South Bank Show to suggest a programme looking back at Oliver's achievements. I also spoke to the BBC's arts department – the BBC having commissioned all of Oliver's famous films. Both requests drew a blank.

All of which was a pity, to put it mildly, because when there are so few men of genius around we ought to do everything possible to honour and acclaim them while they are alive. As W H Auden put it, "Let us honour while we can the vertical man – though we value none but the horizontal one." The extraordinary achievement of Oliver Postgate was that 30 or 40 years ago he created at least three films – The Clangers, Ivor the Engine and Bagpuss – all of which were completely different in content and style and all of which are still in the shops. They are classics, in other words.

Unhonoured in his lifetime, now that he is dead Oliver Postgate has been widely praised in long obituaries. But there has been too much of use of words like cosy and nostalgic to describe his films. First and foremost they were funny, and at times sharply satirical – not surprising given Oliver's fiercely held left-wing views, his pacifism and support for CND.

It also annoys me when people talk about these films having delighted children for so many years. Of course they did, but they also delighted grown-ups just as much. I am now over 70 but I would rather watch Ivor the Engine than Monty Python or Little Britain.

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