Election 2017: Prim Headmistress v Cool Grandad

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General elections should be all about policy rather than personalities. But what about the non political vibes that may decide how you cast your vote? And why is Jeremy Corbyn rather than Theresa May such an unlikely icon for younger voters?

Theresa May

Prim Headmistress Pic credit:BBC

The impression I get of Theresa May is that she is a retro figure who would love to turn Britain back when she was born in the 1950s – the days when the Ford Popular was the car for the aspiring masses and yes, we had lots and lots of grammar schools.

Her demeanour is everything like the prim and prissy heads of old single sex grammar schools who ruled the roost, took no prisoners, and bullied the staff as well as the pupils.

They had a very narrow vision of Britain based on God, Queen and Country and thought girls should be well mannered ( no swearing), academically bright  and get a professional job.

It is no wonder then that she has made grammar schools the centrepiece of her 21st century education policy – they reflect her own image and values. They also co-opted a very small section of  academically bright working class fellows – just to make sure the great unwashed lost any aspiring leader who  would foment dissent and acquired the right middle class values.

As a head of  a girls grammar school she would have eschewed violence- caning was for men – but anybody who was naughty would be put  in detention  and made to write lines.

I imagine as PM she would love to punish the millions of Remainers in Britain by making them stay in their homes for an hour and write ” I love Brexit” 100 times until they were forced to agree.

Her views on immigration are also very 1950s. She is not racist but she is obviously missing the almost exclusively white grammar school classroom – with just the odd aspiring West Indian and Asian to add a bit of flavour and hopefully  imbibe middle class values. Which is why we get the tens of thousands mantra rather than free movement.

I wonder what she really thinks of the internet – which allows free rein to any expression – given she wants to control  what is said – something that even China finds difficult. It reminds me of what one angry director said about me criticising his product – you ‘re quite at liberty to moan about it in the pub but you shouldn’t put your views online for everyone to see because it damages my company.

None of the above is likely to appeal to the  majority of the young who like Britain being a tolerant, open, multicultural and diverse place and don’t want to be bossed about.

Jeremy Corbyn Pic Credit BBC

Cool Grandad Pic credit:BBC

Which then brings me to Grandad Jeremy. By rights he shouldn’t be an obvious icon. Every idea and political stance he had is supposed to be old hat – like renationalisation of the railways and saying trade unions are a good thing. The youth have been told for years by the Sun and the Mail  he is an extremist and  supports dangerous terrorists and has radical policies that will destroy Britain.

But I suspect they have been surprised by what they have seen. It does not marry with what they have been told. To them he must look more like a thoughtful grandad who has retained his youthful idealism. They may not agree with everything he says but they respect him for sticking to what he believes and not being phased by strong criticism or bossy interviewers.

Also young people – being young – are normally full of idealism themselves – they are not naturally bitter and twisted and don’t hate the present Britain they live in. They might like the fact that as a politician he doesn’t do personal abuse. And they might agree that indiscriminate bombing of civilians is not the way to ensure lasting peace.

The Establishment may laugh at him having an allotment or wearing home knitted jumpers but I suspect that cuts no ice with the young – whose grandads may also have allotments and have granmas who can knit.

It is this underlying contrast that I suspect has caused a bit of a sea change in the expected outcome of the election – which on day 1 looked a slam dunk for the Tories with a majority of 150 to 200. It may still not change the ultimate result but it is no longer clear cut and there are 11 days to run.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An 11 plus failure speaks out:Theresa May wants conformity over opportunity

Theresa May

Theresa May, Prime Minister Pic Credit: conservatives.com

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Theresa May’s decision to turn the clock back five  decades by building a new generation of grammar schools makes me personally very angry. It is divisive, it will narrow opportunities for future generations and it will entrench the current Establishment by introducing a new ” gatekeeping ” role to ensure who succeeds and who fails.

Superficially it will allow a few hand picked intelligent  11 year olds from the poor to go to highly academic schools but the rest of the population can go hang.

I should know because I was one of those who would have been labelled a failure at 11. In 1958 I failed my 11 plus. Living in Streatham, South London and failing to get into Battersea Grammar meant I would be doomed to go to Dunraven Secondary Modern which then didn’t even teach enough O levels ( now GCSE’s) to get any professional job.
But I was lucky – educationalists in 1958 had this new fangled idea of  comprehensive education which was supported by Tories as well as Labour. A brand new school opened at the top of Brixton Hill called Tulse Hill – a   huge rough multi racial school that attracted idealist teachers across Britain.

Its first head came from Dulwich College, a prestigious public school (incidently where “anti establishment ” Nigel Farage later was a pupil) and teachers left cushy jobs at other elite schools to be part of the staff.

So instead of being consigned to the education scrapheap I was taught Latin by a teacher from Manchester Grammar, Spanish by a Republican fleeing Franco’s dictatorship, English by a guy who got plays on BBC radio and history by two brilliant teachers.

Even then though it took me to past 16 to really take off. As well failing my 11 plus I was a  “late developer”. I mucked  up some of my O levels but the flexibility at my school allowed me to retake some of them ( I was particularly bad at maths) while taking three A levels (one in 18 months). Even at 16 I was thought not to be university material but I was no longer thought to be a complete thickie.

I got much better A levels than people expected – though it did not surprise my history teachers- but had been rejected by every university. I used the ” clearing house” to re-apply to my first choice, Warwick University, backing it up by writing a letter.

In the meantime I was going to start my first job as a clerk with London Transport – but days before I suddenly got a place at Warwick on my chosen History and Politics course because someone dropped out. I gather the university chose me because they were heartened by my improvement at A level and thought I had more potential.

I have gone into such personal detail to illustrate why May is wrong – she may get some academically bright 11 year olds into grammars – but she will deprive thousands of other  ” late developers” like me who didn’t show their real potential until they were 16 of future opportunities available in a truly comprehensive system.

It is quite clear to me that without Tulse Hill and Warwick I would never have become a journalist. never have worked for The Times Higher Education Supplement and The Guardian. never been a lobby journalist and would not be sitting on a national independent  panel now. Neil Hamilton, Peter Mandelson. Tony Blair, Leon Brittan, Norman Fowler, Lord Ashcroft, Ed Lester and Brian Coleman to name a few, would never have been bothered by a pesky inquisitive journalist and could have slept more soundly.And talking of Tulse Hill, would Ken Livingstone, another pupil, ever had become mayor of London?

Since working at this level I have become aware of how much of a Club the Establishment is. It is dominated by public schools and old grammar school boys who share an ethos that is now miles apart from the working classes. By filtering people at 11 she will entrench this conformist view of society and help the Establishment- and that includes herself – to keep out oddballs like me – who can be a nuisance to so many people.

My view is that Theresa May’s real agenda is create a more conformist society and bolster the Establishment with a sprinkling of  academically clever working class boys and girls. Given her other main interest is pressing through a surveillance system that allows the state to keep records of every person’s digital footprint, the non conformists can easily be kept out of having a chance to shape society.