Trying to understand why nothing bloody works

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Rogue Mail: a demo by the Communication Workers Union against Royal Mail privatisation, October 2013
The Royal Mail underselling shows this was privatisation through ideology not pragmatism
By Jonn Elledge - 01 April 18:19

If ministers had held out for a better price, they could have raised an extra £750m.

Julie Bailey, of campaign group Cure the NHS. Photo: Getty
If the NHS is to improve, we have to realise sometimes things have to close
By Jonn Elledge - 12 March 10:39

Closing important services for financial reasons is stupid. But closing expensive things we don’t need so that we can spend the money on new things that we do isn’t.

Michael Gove. Photo: Getty
Why was the government’s academies programme so rushed?
By Jonn Elledge - 01 March 11:13

It’s unfair to equate the failure of providers such as E-Act with the failure of the whole academies programme. But if academies had been introduced more slowly, could this have been avoided?

Why don't we care that the further education budget has just been cut by 20 per cent?
By Jonn Elledge - 14 February 11:52

The Adult Skills Budget, which funds all non-academic education for those 19 or over, is being cut by a fifth between now and 2015-16. The least we can do is pay attention.

Does Michael Gove think he can extend school hours through sheer force of personality?
By Jonn Elledge - 04 February 15:17

There are a lot of different factors to consider before the school day can be extended – the type of activities on offer, how you're staffing them, whether more affluent parents should pay – but the education secretary hasn't been clear on any of the deta

Where are Britain's selfless billionaires?
By Jonn Elledge - 28 January 14:50

Rich people in other countries demand they be required to pay higher taxes more often than you might think. So why doesn't Britain have a Warren Buffett or a Bill Gates, willing to pay a little bit more tax for everybody's benefit?

The beginner's guide to how to influence government policy
By Jonn Elledge - 17 January 12:29

Contrary to popular belief, relatively few people in government are actually stupid. But if you work for an industry body that wants something changed, there are still things you can do.

The hard part of George Osborne's job is keeping a straight face
By Jonn Elledge - 07 January 15:21

As the "year of hard truths" gets under way, remember that politicians mean something entirely different when they speak of "hard choices".

Oxbridge may be exclusive, but getting in is more about luck than anything else
By Jonn Elledge - 19 December 11:49

The media is fascinated with the UK's two oldest universities and the demographics of its students, without acknowledging the randomness of its interview process.

How to drain the poison from the MPs' pay debate
By Jonn Elledge - 10 December 12:26

Let's talk sensibly about this problem: here are two ways we could demystify the debate about how much we pay our elected representatives.

If art really imitated life, no one in Eastenders could afford to live in Albert Square
By Jonn Elledge - 28 November 13:45

The exact location of the fictitious Walford is kept deliberately vague, but on the tube map it's somewhere near Bow, where you won't find a three-bed Victorian house for less than £700,000.

Rich people are not over-taxed - they just have all the money
By Jonn Elledge - 20 November 14:52

The tax burden on high-earning individuals has gone up not because politicians have been taking them for all that they’ve got, but because they’re the ones earning all the money in the first place.

Michael Gove's mistake: Why you can't take politics out of public spending
By Jonn Elledge - 14 November 15:21

All such decisions are inherently political. Politicians can come up with a formula based on an objective set of numbers – but which numbers they choose, and what they do with them, will always be a matter of judgement.

We need a campaign to build homes across the Home Counties
By Jonn Elledge - 07 November 11:37

The solution to London's housing crisis lies in building on the Home Counties, and we need a pressure group to make that happen. Anyone want to chuck the Campaign for the Promotion of Residential England a few quid?

Why innovative teaching is unlikely to come from the UK
By Jonn Elledge - 01 November 11:52

The World Innovation Summit for Education awards $500,000 to the most innovative teacher - but British attitudes toward education mean that it's unlikely to ever be awarded to a teacher from the UK.

Coalition in good policy shock: Getting empty homes back on the market
By Jonn Elledge - 25 October 13:30

Last year, there were more than 700,000 homes in England standing empty. Finally, something is being done about it.

Time to put a name to the anonymous spokesperson
By Jonn Elledge - 18 October 9:47

The "a spokesman said" formulation serves mostly to allow institutions to issue statements that no actual human would make.

New Statesman
The mystery services you pay for and aren't allowed to know about
By Jonn Elledge - 04 October 10:20

There is a vast range of stuff involving taxpayers’ money that taxpayers aren’t actually allowed to know. Why?

New Statesman
Why J K Rowling needs to buy her own national newspaper
By Jonn Elledge - 24 September 11:49

If the Potter series author owned her own news outlet, she could change the mood music of British politics.

New Statesman
Transport for London's decision to ban cash fares hits the vulnerable hardest
By Jonn Elledge - 18 September 18:35

Those most likely to be affected will be the very young, the very poor and the very recently arrived – those, in other words, who are least likely to have alternative options.

If inflation is a bad thing, why is government policy designed to make us want more of it?
By Jonn Elledge - 12 September 7:59

Britain is awash with debt, while government policy encourages inflation. But theoretical inflation sorts a lot of stuff out, while actual inflation will hurt.

School's not out anymore: will raising the school leaving age change anything?
By Jonn Elledge - 05 September 15:52

The increase in the leaving age this year will be hard to deliver. The next one, due in 2015, will be damned near impossible. And what are politicians doing about it? Very little, says Jonn Elledge.

Why you haven't heard of the five most important (only) pro-European movements
By Jonn Elledge - 29 May 10:21

They punch… well, they pretty much punch their weight.

Not everyone who disagrees with Gove is a "wrecker" or an "enemy of promise"
By Jonn Elledge - 25 March 13:28

The Education Secretary’s combative methods are going to result in bad policy. His them-and-us style is alienating the middle ground and polarising the debate.

 Inspector Walter Pepper of British Rail with a roomful of parcels
Missing presents and parcels in bins: why are private delivery firms so terrible?
By Jonn Elledge - 17 January 16:36

Maybe we just get the service we’re willing to pay for.