The daily catch-up: farewell, Two-Brains, Welby on assisted dying and intellectual property is theft

Curios and notables collected from the verges of the information superhighway
  • @johnrentoul

David "Two Brains" Willetts is standing down in the reshuffle, which is a good time to note the historic importance of his speech against grammar schools in 2007.

It marked the change in the Conservative Party, from "a grammar school in every town" of John Major's last manifesto in 1997, to an acceptance that extending selection was not the best way to achieve excellence in schools.

Tom Freeman commented:

"Social mobility data being like 'light from a long-dead star' is one of my favourite political quotes."

Willetts referred in his speech to a study by Paul Gregg and Jo Blanden, published in 2001, which compared the lives of people born in 1958 and 1970. This was often cited to suggest that "social mobility" was decreasing (and sometimes that grammar schools were the way to increase it again). "A lot has happened since these cohorts were in education," Willetts pointed out. "We are like astronomers staring at the light from a long-dead star."

Elsewhere in the reshuffle, which is now being live-tweeted by the Prime Minister himself ("I'll be reshuffling the Cabinet today; watch this Twitter feed for the very latest"), and by Grant Shapps, the Conservative Party chairman, as if it were an entertainment for the masses, Harry Cole commented last night:

"Ed Miliband calls for Ken Clarke to resign and BANG, like that, 38 months later, he's gone."

2. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has produced a report, which has attracted a lot of attention for saying that old people are richer than they were and those of working age poorer. It also supports the Government by confirming that incomes have become slightly more equal since the banking crisis, because the better-off have become less well-off more than the less well-off. It says (page 53) that this trend towards greater equality is likely to be temporary, but only that the gap between rich and poor is likely to return to roughly what it has been since 1990. In other words, although some of the 1 per cent are highly visible, Britain as a whole is not becoming a dramatically more unequal society, contrary to common perception.

3. Worth catching up with Justin Welby's interview on BBC2 Newsnight last night. After being terribly nice to the opponents of women bishops and politely refusing Emily Maitlis's invitation to talk about gay rights in the church, the Archbishop of Canterbury suddenly stopped talking in platitudes and denounced his predecessor, George Carey, for "too narrow" a definition of compassion and laid into the case for assisted dying with a forceful and considered argument.

4. Lovely. Socialist Party statement condemns the "repugnant" idea of intellectual property; going on to defend Laurence & Wishart's copyright in an annotated collection of Marx's works.

5. Some people have thought that comparing him to Neil Kinnock was an insult to Ed Miliband. Not Charles Clarke, the former Home Secretary and Lloyd Bentsen impersonator interviewed by Mehdi Hasan for Huffington Post. Clarke served with Neil Kinnock. He knew Neil Kinnock. Neil Kinnock was a friend of his. He says: Ed Miliband, you're no Neil Kinnock.

Following up its interview, Huffington Post has compiled a Top 10 in which I am proud to feature: "Five Tony Blair Supporters Who Back Ed Miliband, And Five Who Really Don't"

6. Finally, thanks to Patrick Kidd for this comment on yesterday's vote for women bishops:

"Long time no see."