Francis Beckett

The baby boomer generation - my generation - exercised its political muscle last week.  We have a Chancellor of the Exchequer who was not even born in 1968, but the one group he felt he had to appease was the now elderly children of the sixties.

I wake up today rather pleased that my new book is to be published by Iain Dale's firm, Biteback Publishing.  His courage in publishing a book about Wayne Rooney that Random House, which commissioned it, ran from in fear when threatened by Rooney's lawyers, makes him something like a champion of free speech.

I understand the Independent is to stop publishing its Thursday education pages.  Their last appearance will be on July 1.

Education - real education, that is, not training in the skills required for work - is in greater danger than it's been in my lifetime.  Education journalists, who a decade ago would have been sounding the alarm, don't have access to their platforms any more. 

Another call this morning from Sian Thomas-Cutts, the South Dorset parent who is fighting the extraordinarily Stalinist academy proposal on the Isle of Portland.

As usual with academies, it’s all hustle, hustle, so no one has time to think. 

Press trips are a trap for a freelance. You get to go to nice or interesting places, and it costs you nothing, but if you can’t write about them, or you don’t want to, you’ve wasted precious working hours, and your hosts think you’re just another freeloader.

So I turn them down unless there’s something a bit different about them.  What this weekend’s trip to Somerset had to offer was a hotel with a “history concierge.”


I like Diane Abbott. She’s clever, and fun, and I think she actually believes something.  But what she’s just done is to allow David Milliband to step in from on high and select which candidate the left should put up for Labour leader.

Like most of the things Michael Gove wants to do, abolishing the General Teaching Council for England is something New Labour thought of first.  All New Labour’s instincts were to abolish it, even though they had invented it.  And like most of the things New Labour thought of first, it misses the point. 

There are wasteful quangoes in education – I’ll come to that in a moment, and name names – but the GTC isn’t one of them.

It was my son Peter who alerted me to the ghastly truth.  After a BBC radio debate with John Pienaar, he told me: “Matthew Taylor was right, and you were wrong.”

I boarded a Norfolk Line ferry for Dunkirk to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the evacuation.  Spitfires flew low alongside us and looped the loop, a great fleet of the original small boats which scooped the men off the beeches escorted us into the harbour, the bagpipes played the Last Post, and the band of the Parachute Regiment played Tipperary, and Run Rabbit Run, and We’ll Meet Again, and The White Cliffs of Dover, and all the other songs you’d expect.

And I joined the rest of the media pack, selecting for interview the best of the Dunkirk veterans lined up for our inspection, recognisable at once by their age, their crisp and clean suits, and their chestfuls of medals.  And I ended the day only with questions.


I ought to have smelled a rat when I went to see Lib Dem education spokesman David Laws before the election, and he wriggled like a fish on a hook.


Privatising education was a Conservative idea, but at least when Education Secretary Kenneth Baker proposed handing education to companies, the state school had the Labour Party on its side.