In this week's New Statesman: The end of socialism

Education special | Lost generation of 1992

Alwyn Turner: The end of socialism

In the New Statesman Cover Story, Alwyn Turner, author of the ebook Things Can Only Get Bitter: the Lost Generation of 1992, considers that year which brought a surprise election victory for John Major and the Tories, and "when a generation finally turned its back on politics":

These were the people born a few years either side of 1960 - the biggest demographic bulge in British history - whose adult political experience was of a seemingly permanent Conservative government. Disillusioned by the unexpected victory of the Tories in the 1992 general election, this lost generation turned its attention instead to capturing the commanding heights of national culture.

After leading a brief cultural renaissance, this same age group "sowed the seeds of its own destruction", Turner says, arguing that "[their] absence from politics ceded the field to a group of homogenised professional politicians who were allowed to emerge unchallenged". The effects of this disengagement are still being felt today:

Twenty years on, as another era of mass unemployment dawns, the effects of that election can still be seen in the political world that is being bequeathed to today's school leavers and graduates.

end of socialism

Education Special: Andrew Adonis

This week's magazine also features an Education Special in which Andrew Adonis, minister for schools under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, argues that the left should be in favour of free schools because the Labour Party, in effect, created them:

They were a crucial part of our drive to promote equality of opportunity and social mobility, particularly in disadvantaged communities with low educational standards.

Labour, Adonis writes, set up dozens of "free school" academies while still in power:

The only reason why the Tories invented the term "free school" was to pretend they were doing something fundamentally different, instead of continuing one of Labour's most successful policies.

However, unlike the new free schools created under the coalition's schools agenda, Labour's academies were founded on tenets of equality and social mobility and were "located largely in areas of very high deprivation, selected with a relentless focus on overcoming disadvantage". Academies built under the Tories since 2010 owe much to Labour's legacy:

School 21, [Toby Young's West London Free School] WLFS and many other free schools are all-through, catering for children aged three to 18. Again, this builds on bold changes under Labour. Thirty of Labour's academies are all-through; before academies, there were virtually no all-through state schools.

Adonis argues that, with such claims to success, Labour must debate "credibly and constructively" with the Tories on their "wrong" and "deeply complacent" education policies, including:

. . . teacher recruitment and development, the curriculum, Sure Start and the replacement policy that will be needed for £9,000 university tuition fees . . .

Labour will get back into government by having a better plan for the future, not by opposing changes which are working well. This applies above all in education, which is one of our success stories.

Read the article here

Melissa Benn: The school wars

Also in the Education package, the journalist and campaigner for comprehensive education Melissa Benn offers a diary of the recent "school wars" she has been fighting in public.

In September 2011, Benn noted how a defence of free schools in a London Evening Standard article by the Education Secretary, Michael Gove,

. . . [described] the "principal opponents" of the policy as "Tony Benn's daughter, the Hon Melissa Benn, and Alastair Campbell's partner, Fiona Millar . . . well-connected media types from London's most privileged circles".

She takes issue with Gove's chosen description of herself and Millar:

This is a bit rich. What two middle-aged men, with years of political, journalistic and campaigning experience between them, would be described solely in relation to their mothers and wives? As for Gove, an intimate ally of Rupert Murdoch, claiming that it is his critics who are part of the privileged media establishment, well, that's laughable.

Challenges to the government's education reforms are poised to move into the mainstream of public debate, Benn writes:

Toby Young makes the absurd claim that objection to the government's policies is confined to a handful of campaigners such as myself. Discontent at coalition school policies has not reached anti-NHS reform levels but there is widespread unease at the speed of the fragmentation of state education, from a government with no overall mandate to do so. (In their 2010 election manifesto, the Lib Dems promised to scrap academies.) The most common question at the end of [parent and schools] meetings is: "What can we do?"

Elsewhere in the Education Special, Mehdi Hasan unpicks the myths and realities of academies, and in conversation with Rafael Behr, the Lib Dem children's minister, Sarah Teather, defends government cuts to Sure Start.

Elsewhere in the New Statesman

In Observations, Frank Ledwidge describes the psychology of soldiers in Afghanistan and John Ashton writes that the failure to solve the Lockerbie bombing has become, now more than ever, a gross embarrassment for the Scottish National Party. And elsewhere in the magazine, Nicholas Wapshott reports on Washington's indifference to David Cameron, David Marquand reviews two new books about John Maynard Keynes, Simon Kuper charts the decine and fall of Glasgow's "Old Firm" in the Critics, and we publish "Mind away", a new short story by the Costa shortlisted author and poet, Jackie Kay.

Alice Gribbin is a Teaching-Writing Fellow at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She was formerly the editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

Screengrab from Telegraph video
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The Telegraph’s bizarre list of 100 reasons to be happy about Brexit

“Old-fashioned light bulbs”, “crooked cucumbers”, and “new vocabulary”.

As the economy teeters on the verge of oblivion, and the Prime Minister grapples with steering the UK around a black hole of political turmoil, the Telegraph is making the best of a bad situation.

The paper has posted a video labelled “100 reasons to embrace Brexit”. Obviously the precise number is “zero”, but that didn’t stop it filling the blanks with some rather bizarre reasons, floating before the viewer to an inevitable Jerusalem soundtrack:

Cheap tennis balls

At last. Tennis balls are no longer reserved for the gilded eurocrat elite.

Keep paper licences

I can’t trust it unless I can get it wet so it disintegrates, or I can throw it in the bin by mistake, or lose it when I’m clearing out my filing cabinet. It’s only authentic that way.

New hangover cures

What?

Stronger vacuums

An end to the miserable years of desperately trying to hoover up dust by inhaling close to the carpet.

Old-fashioned light bulbs

I like my electricals filled with mercury and coated in lead paint, ideally.

No more EU elections

Because the democratic aspect of the European Union was something we never obsessed over in the run-up to the referendum.

End working time directive

At last, I don’t even have to go to the trouble of opting out of over-working! I will automatically be exploited!

Drop green targets

Most people don’t have time to worry about the future of our planet. Some don’t even know where their next tennis ball will come from.

No more wind farms

Renewable energy sources, infrastructure and investment – what a bore.

Blue passports

I like my personal identification how I like my rinse.

UK passport lane

Oh good, an unadulterated queue of British tourists. Just mind the vomit, beer spillage and flakes of sunburnt skin while you wait.

No fridge red tape

Free the fridge!

Pounds and ounces

Units of measurement are definitely top of voters’ priorities. Way above the economy, health service, and even a smidgen higher than equality of tennis ball access.

Straight bananas

Wait, what kind of bananas do Brexiteers want? Didn’t they want to protect bendy ones? Either way, this is as persistent a myth as the slapstick banana skin trope.

Crooked cucumbers

I don’t understand.

Small kiwi fruits

Fair enough. They were getting a bit above their station, weren’t they.

No EU flags in UK

They are a disgusting colour and design. An eyesore everywhere you look…in the uh zero places that fly them here.

Kent champagne

To celebrate Ukip cleaning up the east coast, right?

No olive oil bans

Finally, we can put our reliable, Mediterranean weather and multiple olive groves to proper use.

No clinical trials red tape

What is there to regulate?

No Turkey EU worries

True, we don’t have to worry. Because there is NO WAY AND NEVER WAS.

No kettle restrictions

Free the kettle! All kitchen appliances’ lives matter!

Less EU X-factor

What is this?

Ditto with BGT

I really don’t get this.

New vocabulary

Mainly racist slurs, right?

Keep our UN seat

Until that in/out UN referendum, of course.

No EU human rights laws

Yeah, got a bit fed up with my human rights tbh.

Herbal remedy boost

At last, a chance to be treated with medicine that doesn’t work.

Others will follow [picture of dominos]

Hooray! The economic collapse of countries surrounding us upon whose trade and labour we rely, one by one!

Better English team

Ah, because we can replace them with more qualified players under an Australian-style points-based system, you mean?

High-powered hairdryers

An end to the miserable years of desperately trying to dry my hair by yawning on it.

She would’ve wanted it [picture of Margaret Thatcher]

Well, I’m convinced.

I'm a mole, innit.