WHAT the papers say has always interested me, even if it is an inky old start to the day. From today’s pages I offer you revolting Tories and a reminder that good satire has punch and prescience. Oh, and a cautionary word about school governors.
George Osborne’s budget on Wednesday already seems to have run into trouble. A consensus is growing that cutting benefits for the disabled while enriching the richest ten per cent is cruel and unfair.
Now Osborne is said to be a master of the political game, the supreme tactician who is always one move a head – so how come he didn’t see that one coming?
Much of the opposition is coming from Tory backbenchers – and good on them. The balls they bowl at the chancellor hurt, while those thrown by Labour MPs too often miss their target.
The leader of the Tory uprising is Andrew Percy, the MP for Brigg and Goole. He reports that unease among his colleagues is greater even than during last autumn’s successful revolt over Osborne’s plans to cut tax credits.
Percy gets it right when he accuses the chancellor of hitting “exactly the wrong people” by proposing to cut personal independence payments for those who need aids to help them dress and use the toilet. And he adds some everyday wisdom to that: “These people have these needs. These needs are not going away and therefore the payments should not go away.”
Hitting the weakest is a low blow from a chancellor who often aims in that direction. Many of those affected by the meanness of the bedroom tax are said to be disabled people – and now the chancellor has an even nastier way to make their lives more difficult.
An agency picture in today’s papers shows George Osborne watching netball at a school in Garforth, Leeds, on the day after his budget. He is clapping and grinning like an automaton gone on the blink, and a pink ball hovers in the air. A good picture – capturing the man’s weirdness while also offering hope that the ball might hit him on the head.
Keeping up the oddness quotient for female Tory MPs is the ever-reliable Nicky Morgan, education secretary and a woman who always brings to mind George Osborne in drag (apologies for putting that picture in your head).
Speaking on Question Time, Morgan said the disability cuts were “just a suggestion” – a bit of chutzpah so outrageous that it almost qualifies as satire.
For true satire, a story on the front of The Guardian reminds us that all the way back in 2000 the super-smart creators of The Simpsons foresaw the possibility of President Trump, in a flash-forward episode in which Bart has become a hopeless bum and Lisa is President of the US – having to clean up the mess left by President Trump. They even invented a great slogan for Trump: “America you can be my ex-wife!”
The writer of the episode, Dan Greaney, tells the paper that this was intended as a warning, and that it “just seemed like the logical last stop before hitting bottom. It was pitched because it was consistent with the vision of America going insane.”
How brilliant is that – for America going insane is just what I see every time the crowds cheer Trump as he makes outrageous play with racism, nastiness and xenophobia, while also bragging about his virility and saying he wants to punch someone.
Well, yes, Donald – we all share in that feeling sometimes.
After announcing in the budget that all schools would become academies, the government yesterday slipped out the news that parent governors would be scrapped in favour of professionals with the “right skills”.
The two things are not unconnected.
David Cameron pledged that creating academies would take schools away from the control of local authorities – proclaiming that as a benefit. But instead schools will be owned by sometimes distant academy chains and controlled remotely by the government, instead of locally by the council. And this is an advancement why?
Now the local voices of parents will be stifled in favour of people with the “right skills” – and you don’t have to be a complete cynic to wonder if those talents might include not causing trouble and doing as the academy chains wish.
Now I am not saying that academies are bad – but neither are they automatically good. And there are worrying implications here that publicly owned and run schools will fall into private hands. Is this a way of privatising schools by the back door? If so you might not want parent governors asking awkward questions.