In our latest podcast, James Delingpole and I discuss the scandal of the British ambassador and the blond, as well as Big Little Lies and Stranger Things, and pay tribute to Christopher Booker and Norman Stone. Click here to listen.
I’ve contributed a chapter to an education book published this week by the Institute of Economic Affairs. I was asked by the editors, Pauline Dixon and Steve Humble, to assess the impact of Britain’s education reforms, beginning with the introduction of the National Curriculum in 1988, extending through the creation of league tables in 1992 and culminating with the opening of academies and free schools from 2002.
The first challenge was finding a reliable way to measure the effect of these initiatives. The introduction of the National Curriculum coincided with the replacement of O-levels and CSEs with GCSEs, making it difficult to compare before and after. In addition, the steady, year-on-year improvement in GCSE grades between 1988 and 2012 has to be taken with a large dose of salt, with most of it due to grade inflation. The positive spin New Labour put on its own record in education was belied by a 2009 Sheffield University study which found that 22 per cent of school leavers were functionally innumerate and 17 per cent functionally illiterate. (To read more, click here.)
Dr Noah Carl, the young conservative academic who was fired from his Cambridge college after being targeted by a left-wing outrage mob, has decided to fight back. He is launching a campaign to crowdfund a legal action against St Edmund’s College, not just to restore his own reputation but to protect the rights of other scholars who find themselves being persecuted for challenging the prevailing orthodoxy.
‘This isn’t about whether you agree with my research or my political views,’ he says. ‘This is about protecting freedom of speech, and standing up to the activists who are trying to control our universities. Hardly a week goes by without another case of someone being fired, or disinvited, or deplatformed, just for holding a certain viewpoint. It needs to stop. Let’s show St Edmund’s College that they can’t get away with this.’
Noah Carl’s difficulties began last November after he was awarded the prestigious Toby Jackman Newton Trust Research Fellowship. A group of hard left academics circulated an ‘open letter’ condemning the appointment and accusing him of ‘racist pseudoscience’, although they were unable to produce any evidence to back up that charge. (To read more, click here.)
You have to admire the Sutton Trust’s PR skills. For those who don’t know, the Sutton Trust is a social mobility thinktank that is constantly drawing attention to just how unmeritocratic contemporary Britain is. Every time it produces a report about the dominance of the privately educated Oxbridge elite, the media slavishly regurgitates it, even though the Trust has been churning out essentially the same report every year since it was founded in 1993, and even though, according to the Trust, 40 per cent of people in the media went to independent schools and 39 per cent to Oxbridge. You’d think the stubborn survival of the English class system wouldn’t come as a shock to them, but apparently it does, judging from their breathless, scandalised reaction each time the Sutton Trust points it out.
In the latest report, released on Tuesday, we’re told that two-fifths of Britain’s ‘elite’ attended private schools, including 43 per cent of the England cricket team, 48 per cent of FTSE 350 CEOs and 59 per cent of permanent secretaries. This in spite of the fact that only 7 per cent of British adults were educated privately. For Oxbridge, the discrepancy is worse. A measly 1 per cent of the population went to one of those two universities, yet their alumni account for 44 per cent of newspaper columnists, 57 per cent of the cabinet and an eye–watering 71 per cent of senior judges.
Cue howls of outrage from the usual suspects. ‘Our top professions are a closed club, dominated by a wealthy and privileged elite who attended the same private schools,’ thundered Jeremy Corbyn. ‘Labour will give every child the chance to flourish and radically transform society — to break the cycle of entrenched privilege.’ Needless to say, Corbyn did not add that, as a privately educated person himself, he would be stepping aside in favour of Angela Rayner, and there was no mention of John McDonnell, who went to a private Catholic boys’ school. (To read more, click here.)
This week, James and I discuss the ongoing saga of the Tory Leadership race and whether or not Boris Johnson has been doomed because of a minor row with his girlfriend. We also touch on the third anniversary of the Brexit referendum, the new paranoid style in British politics led by the looney conspiracy-mongering Left and the unusual interjection of abortion into a British leadership election. To listen click here.
I have spent the weekend arguing with people on social media about Boris Johnson’s ear-wigging neighbours and the reaction of his opponents – including Nicola Sturgeon – has been staggering.
I have made it crystal clear, over and over again, that I don’t think the neighbours did anything wrong right up until the point they contacted a Left-wing newspaper. If they sincerely believed that Carrie Symonds was in danger – and I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt, even though Carrie herself is not – then calling the police was the responsible thing to do.
According to the Office for National Statistics, an estimated two million adults in England and Wales experienced domestic abuse in the last year (1.3 million women and 685,000 men). No one is suggesting we should turn a blind eye to that.
I even think it was acceptable for the neighbours to have recorded the episode on a mobile phone if they sincerely believed a crime was being committed – although a sound expert I’ve spoken to thinks it highly unlikely they could have made a phone recording of a high enough quality for a newspaper to make out everything Boris and Carrie were saying.
But the neighbours crossed the line when they contacted the Guardian, told a reporter what they’d heard and then sent him the recording. What possible justification is there for such a flagrant invasion of privacy? Had the police arrested Boris or Carrie, that would have been one thing. (To read more, click here.)
Something rather wonderful happened last week for those of us who have been the victims of a public shaming — as I was at the beginning of 2018 when some people dug up some sophomoric tweets I’d sent ten years earlier. The jury delivered its verdict in a lawsuit that a bakery in Oberlin, Ohio had brought against the neighbouring liberal arts college for defamation, infliction of emotional distress and tortious interference. In brief, students and staff at Oberlin College engaged in a long campaign to brand the local business as ‘racist’, inflicting a terrible toll on its reputation, and the jury sided with the plaintiffs.
The story begins on 9 November 2016 when three students entered Gibson’s Bakery, a shop that’s been serving the town since 1885, and tried to purchase two bottles of wine using a fake ID. When the clerk refused to sell to them, they tried to leave with the wine but he ran after them and ended up being assaulted until the police arrived and arrested them. Nothing particularly unusual about that, unfortunately. Between 2011 and 2016, 40 people were arrested for shoplifting from Gibson’s Bakery. But the three perpetrators on this occasion were black and the following day hundreds of students protested outside. The Dean of Students and other college officials brought the protesters pizza and helped them hand out leaflets saying, ‘Don’t Buy. This is a racist establishment with a long account of racial profiling and discrimination’.
That wasn’t true. Of the 40 shoplifters arrested in the previous five years, 32 were white. A black employee of Gibson’s told a local newspaper that racial profiling had nothing to do with it. ‘If you’re caught shoplifting, you’re going to end up getting arrested,’ he said. ‘When you steal from the store, it doesn’t matter what colour you are. You can be purple, blue, green; if you steal, you get caught, you get arrested.’ Even the three students agreed. When they eventually pleaded guilty a year later, they each signed a statement saying they believed the actions ‘were not racially motivated’. (To read more, click here.)
I switched on the radio last week and caught the tail end of a discussion about the Conservative leadership election. The presenter, who seemed to be in a highly agitated state, was talking about one of the contenders: ‘A man who’s lied to both of his wives, all of his mistresses, every constituent, every employer, every party leader, every colleague, every interviewer, every journalist he’s ever encountered, he’s not just lied to them, he’s actively agitated to deceive them…’ On it went. Even by left-wing shock jock standards, it was unhinged. He could only have been talking about Boris Johnson.
In the US, Trump Derangement Syndrome, or TDS, is a well-established phenomenon. The journalist Fareed Zakaria defined it as ‘hatred of President Trump so intense that it impairs people’s judgment’ and it has led to well-respected columnists describing him as a ‘fascist’, a ‘white supremacist’ and a ‘Nazi’. ‘Just how similar is Trump to Hitler?’ asked an opinion piece in Time magazine after his election. Some people were so badly affected by Trump’s victory it made them psychologically ill. Students at Kansas University were offered ‘therapy dogs’ on election night, while at Vanderbilt they were encouraged ‘to take advantage of the outstanding mental health support the university offers’.
So far, Boris Derangement Syndrome, or BDS, hasn’t reached those heights, but we’re not far off. In a New York Times article last July entitled ‘Boris Johnson has ruined Britain’, a prominent, left-of-centre British journalist took issue with his decision to resign as foreign secretary. ‘It is a desperate move by a man who has lost almost all the credibility he had three years ago,’ she wrote. ‘As one of his allies told me last month: “He knows that the verdict of history is about to come down on him — and bury him.”’
Could the eagerness with which other journalists write Boris off, convinced he is destined to fail in politics, be prompted by a jealous contempt for anyone who ceases to be a spectator and steps into the arena? (To read more, click here.)