Francis Beckett

Academies haven’t been much in evidence during the election, because there’s a cosy consensus between Labour and Tories.  Labour wants these privatised schools; the Conservatives want more of them.

But I’ve been talking to a parent with a definite view about who to vote for in her South Dorset constituency, if you’re against the extraordinarily Stalinist academy proposal on the Isle of Portland.

There was  a sad reason for my visit to Glasgow (see article below.) I was attending the funeral of my old friend and comrade Harry Conroy, former general secretary of the National Union of Journalists as well as a formidable journalist and author.

I was close to tears a lot of the day. 

Being a cheapskate when I'm paying my own fare, I asked for a second class sleeper to Glasgow. I was told there weren't any. I had to pay extra for a cabin to myself.

But at the station, the attendant showed me into a sharing cabin. I pointed out that they'd wrung an extra £20 from me for a single one.  Apparently they knew that - and I'd have it to myself. 

I came out of a meeting Wednesday afternoon to find four calls from broadcasters wanrting to interview me, the first I've had duiring this election campaign, and I knew at once that Gordon Brown must have egg on his face. That's the only way my Brown biography gets me airtime. 

I should be just coming back from Bahrein.  But last Tuesday night, the British Airways website carried a plea for those with seats to cancel them, so that if places were running, BA could get stranded passengers home. We cancelled ours.  But instead of giving returned seats to stranded passengers, BA is selling them at a premium (see story here.)

Joan Bakewell, crowned “The Voice of Older People” by Harriet Harman in 2004, has lent herself – unintentionally, I think – to an attempt to corral the grey vote for David Cameron.

Politicians know they need the third age vote. Not only are third agers a growing part of the population, they are also much more likely to vote than other generations.

Yesterday I saw the shiny new privatised schools which politicians of both main parties envisage for the next generation, and I wondered why we hate our children so much.

First I went to hear Tory education spokesman Michael Gove and his New Schools Network. Gove explained how wonderful the KIP – Knowledge Is Power – schools are in the USA, and how, if only we can get rid of the dead hand of local authorities, we can have private education providers doing the same terrific things here. You can tell how good KIP is, he told us, from the hours children work in their schools. It’s 7.30 in the morning until five at night, Monday to Friday, and four hours on Saturday. There’s strict discipline, teachers are on call 24/7 and all pupils have all teachers’ mobile numbers. Children must wear uniforms, and the uniform code is strict. (Neo-liberals are terribly keen on forcing children into uniforms.)

Soon after he became Labour leader, Michael Foot travelled to St Albans for an open air meeting for the agricultural workers’ trade union. I was its head of communications, and we knew there was to be a demonstration by the left against Foot’s Northern Ireland policy.