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Tuesday 8 May 2012
Letters: Tory futures
'Nasty' Toryism won't woo voters
David Cameron will only come further unstuck if he listens to the reactionary voices from the Tory backwaters urging a return to the days of the "Nasty Party". Former Conservative leaders William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Howard all took the Tories sharply to the right and all three were total failures at the ballot box.
If anything, Mr Cameron should take the Conservatives' local election disaster as a signal to build a broader cross-party coalition to create a grand alliance to address Britain's grave financial and social ills. Pandering to the dead wood on his back benches will only see his project for modern Conservatism land up on the scrapheap alongside the Big Society and Plan A. Further, deeper cuts to public services and rowing back on social policy reform will only set the Conservatives back by a decade.
The people of France have just rejected a "nasty" president along with his draconian austerity plan. The British electorate will follow and consign the Conservatives to another 20 years without a majority if the Nasty Party returns.
As David Cameron ponders government for the second half of the current parliament and his relationship with the Lib Dems, instead of listening to the Tory clamour for pushing away his partners, he ought to consider listening to them more closely.
If he had listened to Vince Cable's views on Rupert Murdoch, much political damage would have been avoided. Perhaps he should now take greater notice of Mr Cable's approach to the economy before it is too late.
George Osborne tells Andrew Marr that he hears what the electorate is saying, but he is not prepared to review his austerity measures. Now, even his own backbenchers are saying that the Posh Boys are arrogant and out of touch. How right they are.
Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire
Why Ofsted is no help to schools
I did a double-take when I read your leader backing no-notice school inspections by Ofsted (4 May). You claim that when the day of an inspection is known "duff teachers" are told not to come in and pupils are primed to be on their best behaviour. That reads like someone who hasn't the faintest idea how schools work.
Believe me, if you have a class of disruptive pupils, priming them to behave when an inspector is due is like asking Boris Johnson to talk about policy – not a hope.
I write as an ex-teacher – still a volunteer in two schools – and vice-chairman of a first school, due to become a primary, which has received Outstanding at its last two inspections.
Ofsted is essentially a bully. How it continues to survive in a world where workplace bullying is no longer tolerated I cannot understand.
As the head of the school of which I am vice-chairman said at a conference for outstanding school leaders: "Ofsted told me nothing about my school which my governors and I didn't already know."
I can only wholeheartedly endorse everything in David Saunders' letter (4 May) about the destructive effect, both before and after, of an Ofsted inspection on a school. I too have known Ofsted inspectors who feel very uneasy about what they have to do and do it because they need the work.
Far and away the best form of inspection would be for the inspectors to stay on and support, guide and encourage a school where they perceive improvements are needed. It's called living in the real world.
Michael H C Baker
Trying to hoodwink school inspectors is nothing new. One of our teachers (in the 1960s) told us how his own teacher (in the 1930s) devised the following protocol for his class to follow whenever an inspector was present: "If I ask you a question and you know the answer, raise your right hand. But if you don't know the answer, raise your left hand."
The dead hand of Ofsted is partly responsible for the near-demise of adult community education.
About 20 years ago, adult education caught the management virus and the ratio of administrators to tutors rocketed. Ofsted soon muscled in, though there was no need for inspections as students treated the classes like any other service they bought, voting with their feet and thus settling the matter of success or failure.
Many tutors, reluctant to spend unpaid hours with the new corporate stationery, left the system and often took their class with them to a church hall or their own home, where they could pursue the subject in peace. It is small consolation that the management junkies have virtually destroyed their own golden-egg-laying goose.
Olympic follies and vanities
It was rather mean-spirited of Ian McNicholas (letters, 1 May) to seek to place the blame for the increasing fiasco that is the Olympic Games on to poor Dwain Chambers. Perhaps he might consider the contributions made by the death of the old amateur spirit where sport was enjoyed for sport's sake, the surreal absurdity of East End residential blocks having surface-to-air missiles on their roofs, and the preening vanity of the men who run our country and London, and who spend extravagant sums on this circus while neglecting health, housing and transport needs.
Instead, Mr McNicholas seeks to put all the blame on one young inner-city black man trying to make something of his life, who once, a long time ago, did something foolish. Even murderers don't get real life imprisonment. Chambers has paid a huge price for what he did and deserves to rehabilitate himself.
I have no doubt the Olympic Games could be a target for terrorists. Even so, there appear to be two problems with the proposal to station a surface-to-air missile battery on top of an apartment block near the Olympic park.
The first is the implications of shooting down a hijacked airliner over an area as densely populated as east London. The consequences don't bear thinking about.
The second is that if the security measures on the ground are successful and terrorists find it difficult to get explosives or weapons into the park, any building where missile batteries are sited and its occupants may become targets.
Gold for patience at Heathrow
Further to Mark Steel's excellent take on the border controls at Heathrow Airport (2 May), would it not be possible to award a gold, silver and bronze medal for the longest time anyone queued at Heathrow from 1 June to 31 August. If you can get a gold medal for sliding on ice, on a tin tray, at the Winter Olympics, surely marathon queuing at Heathrow should qualify.
Incidentally, I saw Theresa May waved through border controls recently; she must be wondering what all the fuss is about.
We have been told that the public sector had to be cut because there were too many public-sector workers and they didn't do anything. Oops! Now we find at Heathrow airport that they do actually did do something and now there are not enough of them. What a surprise.
The experience of arriving in England hasn't changed for centuries, it seems. Tobias Smollett (1721-1771) wrote: "The road from Dover to London was the worst in England and must certainly impress foreigners with an unfavourable opinion of the nation in general. The chambers are generally cold and comfortless, the beds paltry, the cooking execrable, the wine poison, the attendance bad, the publicans insolent, and the bills extortionate. Kent St [Old Kent Road] is a most disgraceful entrance to such an opulent city."
Ukip: good cause, wrong party
Although I am grateful to The Independent Diary (12 April) for quoting from my letter to the Receiver General of Westminster Abbey giving the litany of political disgrace which characterised Edward Heath's life (and therefore the unsuitability of a plaque to his memory in the Abbey) I have in fact not been a member of Ukip since I resigned in 2000. I had been appalled at the shenanigans and manipulations of the party by its leadership and could see no credible party emerging so long as that leadership was in place.
Ukip has represented a worthy cause but is not a worthy party. The rise of a good body of younger braver eurosceptic Tory MPs actually in Parliament is already proving a better bet for those who seek a way out of the labyrinthine constitutional and economic disaster that is the EU.
Two centuries of philosophy
I am writing, as President of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society, in response to Nicholas Gough's letter (5 May), to say that the Leeds society was founded in 1819 and is still going strong, as are a number of other such societies formed in the 19th century, such as those in Manchester and Newcastle.
The scientific collections of its Victorian members formed the nucleus of the exhibits in the Leeds City Museum and, as a registered charity, the society continues to support science, literature and the arts in the Leeds area by a programme of events and by the award of grants.
Congratulations to the Swindon society for their forthcoming 50th anniversary – only seven years now to our 200th!
No progress on the building site
Fiona Dunlop (2 May) comments that the Bauhaus buildings on the Torten estate were put up in six hours in the 1920s.
Almost a century later, we are still building walls by laying brick upon brick, as in the 18th century, while roofs are still being built by laying tile upon tile, as in the 19th century, and hot water is still being produced by electricity or gas, as in the 20th century.
Completion time: months. Why?
William Robert Haines
John Walsh, (Radar, 5 May), said thank goodness for Ken Loach and Mike Leigh, adding that without them British film would "lack almost all intellectual ability" and "boast no auteurs worthy of the name".
What about Lynne Ramsay, of Ratcatcher, and Sally Potter, director of Orlando? Yes, Ken Loach and Mike Leigh are great, but they're not alone. I can't imagine how John Walsh could forget Lynne Ramsay and Sally Potter.
Inexplicable French election
So a warm welcome awaits President Hollande in the UK, but who is going to explain to David Cameron what a Socialist is? Certainly no one currently in the Palace of Westminster.
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