Friday, 6 February 2015

Nun shall pass

Labour's Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt found himself in a spot of bother over some comments he made on last night's Question Time, in relation to fellow panellist Cristina Odone's Catholic Schooling.

The remarks have been interpreted as disparaging nuns, or Catholic schools in general – which has, in turn, resulted in the tediously inevitable calls for Hunt to resign.  Times columnist Hugo Rifkind presents a good case for construing Hunt's remarks as actually being deferential to nuns, not critical – but this is not the point.
I'm no fan of the Shadow Education Secretary.  He seems to think 'unqualified teachers' is synonymous with 'bad teachers', and he managed to conflate QTS* and safeguarding protocol quite alarmingly during yesterday's programme.  However, I don't think he should be forced to resign over this.

I think it is a bit rich to complain (as so many people often do) that politicians are 'all the same', and 'out-of-touch', when every time a politician says anything which isn't strictly prescribed orthodoxy we are clamouring for him or her to be sacked.

And as politics becomes less about the frank exchange of ideas, and more about watching what you say, ever fearful that somebody may take offence – or that somebody may take offence on someone else's behalf – we open the door ever wider for parties like UKIP (whose education policy is actually shocking sensible, by the way – but of course that's not enough to make up for the rest of their poisonous, divisive nuttiness), who thrive on distinguishing themselves from a perception of mainstream 'professional politicians' who daren't speak their mind and can't 'connect' with 'ordinary people'.

It is small wonder that people are increasingly turned off the 'traditional' mainstream political parties when they seem to care more about maintaining a squeaky-clean image than about actual policies – and when they are so quick to expunge anyone who actually expresses an opinion, and apologise 'for any offence caused'.  But we have created that culture for ourselves, by demanding the head of any politician who says something we don't agree with.  When we complain that political parties are 'all the same', maybe we should consider what we have done to make them that way.

* Qualified Teacher Status

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