Education? Qualification? Publication? No answer from Mo Ansar

Mo Ansar“Fascinating Twitter exchange between @MoAnsar and @Adrian_Hilton on education,” tweeted the BBC’s Nicky Campbell during a rather disheartening dialogue I was having with everyone’s favourite Muslim social commentator.

And fascinating entertainment it may very well have been for the steadily-swelling Twitter crowds who were gathering to RT, ‘favourite’ and butt in on the commotion. But educationally enlightening it was not. And I wouldn’t be writing about it now but for the peculiar fact that Mo Ansar hastily deleted a whole string of his tweets when he realised that he was being monitored not only by his adoring fans, but also by the eminent historian and author Tom Holland. Continue reading

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Email

Don’t let political correctness corrode the art of acting

Published by ConservativeHome

Daniel Day Lewis My Left Foot“Able-bodied actors should not play disabled characters,” says film critic Scott Jordan Harris, writing on the website of the late Roger Ebert. “That they so often do should be a scandal,” Harris submits.

He develops his argument from the anti-discriminatory moral perspective of social equality, advancing that the modern world should no more entertain the able-bodied playing a disabled character than we would a white man playing the Moor of Venice or a chap in Ptolemaic drag prancing around the stage as Egypt’s Cleopatra. Indeed, audiences would most likely find justifiable grievance in a pale actor donning “the Thick-lips” of Othello, or having to watch “Some squeaking Cleopatra boy (her) greatness / I’ th’ posture of a whore”. Nowadays black people play black characters and women play Shakespearean heroines, so there is a certain logic in the belief that disabled roles should be reserved for disabled thespians: in Harris’s terminology, the “performance is automatically authentic”. Continue reading

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Email

Owen Jones slams Miliband’s “disastrous” EU referendum policy

Published by Breitbart

Owen JonesI like Owen Jones. Sure, he’s cocky and mouthy, and I don’t think I agree with a word he orates about economics, politics or social justice. But, just like the late insurgent Bob Crow – who also had no time for the nuances of Blairite centrism or Third-Way triangulation – Owen Jones is an unadulterated Old-Labour Socialist who does exactly what it says on his shiny militant tin. Continue reading

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Email

The looming manpower crisis in GP-land

Published by ConservativeHome

GP crisisQuestion: “What is the Government doing to ensure there will be enough GPs in the future?”

Answer: “We’ve set up a quango.”

It’s not really an adequate response, is it? But that essentially is what Earl Howe, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State in the Department of Health, told the Bishop of Norwich last week in response to a parliamentary question. The Bishop was concerned about “the age profile of current practising GPs, their increasing role as commissioners, and the impact of the introduction of revalidation for all doctors”. The Minister played a straight bat, explaining that the Government has “set up Health Education England (HEE) to deliver a better health and healthcare workforce for England”. Continue reading

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Email

Oh What A Lefty War – a revolution victoriously revisited

Published by ConservativeHome

Oh What A Lovely War, (Theatre Royal Stratford East)

Oh What A Lovely War3“And here’s a donkey!” bawls Shaun Prendergast, the magnetic Master of Ceremonies in the revived 1960s musical satire Oh What A Lovely War, now playing at the Theatre Royal Stratford East. And as we await the predictable screen projections of Sir John French or Field Marshal Douglas Haig or any of the other warmongering jackasses and dolts Joan Littlewood so clearly despised, up pops a picture of Michael Gove, to the girly sniggering and overblown applause of the audience. Continue reading

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Email

Claudio Abbado and the importance of music in education

Published by ConservativeHome

Claudio AbbadoThe world has lost one of the greatest musical virtuosos of our time. The renowned and charismatic conductor Claudio Abbado died on Monday. You only have to contemplate his Mahler 9, Bruckner 9 or his Brahms 3 to appreciate the breadth of his interpretative capacity and the profound grasp he had of musical form. Listen intently to the pulse of his sound: the silences have a cavernous depth; crescendos soar in emotional ecstasy; and his adagios creep toward heaven almost in communion with the divine. He was as serene on the podium as he was silent in life: music was his worship, and that was the gateway to freedom – spiritual and political. For him, no movement should distract and no words deflect from the sanctity of sublime orchestral harmony. Continue reading

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Email

Art tells us more about the First World War than any politician’s speech

Published by ConservativeHome

s end 3I had the fortune and great privilege when I was at school of appearing in productions of both R.C Sherriff’s Journey’s End and Joan Littlewood’s Oh, What a Lovely War!. Both, in very different ways, had a profound effect on my understanding and appreciation of the First World War, not least because my maternal grandfather (Gramps) – a veteran of both world wars – was conscripted to see me do battle in both productions. I can still remember meeting him in the school hall afterwards: I was eager for a pat on the back and words of praise, but all I got was watery eyes behind a damp hanky. There was I, the schoolboy, frolicking in the trenches of Flanders and waltzing to ‘Après la Guerre’ with Lady Haig. And there was Gramps, the veteran, for whom this was very real biography, and whose friends and colleagues were machine-gunned, gassed and buried on the Somme.

Journey’s End and Oh, What a Lovely War! are poles apart in their apprehension of the First World War. Sherriff’s 1928 play is an intimate, respectful tragedy about heroes, virtues, leadership and sacrifice. It speaks profoundly to pacifists and Just War advocates alike. Littlewood’s 1963 musical is an epic, irreverent romp through fluffy parodies and black-humoured allegory. It speaks volumes to cynics and sceptics without demeaning the memory of doomed youth. Sherriff wept with his fallen comrades, knee-deep in the muddy trenches of Passchendaele; Littlewood skipped with her pierrots, to an imagined dance of slaughter, bravura and vulgarity. Continue reading

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Email

2014 – the year for a Royal College of Teaching

Published by ConservativeHome

Royal College of TeachingTeaching is a hard job – a very hard job. In the never-ending quest to increase GDP and propagate the nation’s culture, teachers swim in a very deep ocean every day; sometimes drowning. The commentators and critics who carp from the shore have absolutely no idea what it’s like to face a class of 27 agitated minds and fidgety bodies at 8.30 in a morning and still be marking at midnight (or having to get up at 5am the next day to finish the job). They can have absolutely no idea how tough and taxing it is to have to hold an adolescent crowd’s attention for hours on end, day after day, month after month, trying to devise new strategies for engaging and inspiring them through concentric circles of enlightenment. Continue reading

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Email

Daniel Hannan: ‘How We Invented Freedom & Why It Matters’

Published by ConservativeHome

Dan Hannan 3Daniel Hannan “bestrides the Atlantic like a majestic combination of Winston Churchill and Piers Morgan,” says Boris Johnson on the dust jacket of this book. The precise form of that disquieting chimera troubled my mind as I began to read the Introduction. But because Boris is an astute appraiser, judicious classicist and discerning patron, I settled down to what he promises will be a feast of anthropological scrutiny, philosophical insight, political polemic and epigrammatic anecdote.

And that is exactly what you get – a narrative survey of a thousand years of evolving liberty expressed in page after page of clear-headed contemplation and premium prose. Hannan’s essential research question is: ‘What made the Anglosphere miracle possible?’, and the answer, in short, is to be found in the peculiarly English conception of liberty which incrementally defined an island nation, helped shape an empire and still interrogates the world. We obviously weren’t the first to free captives: that dispensation is found throughout classical antiquity. But the English and then the British were foremost in the conceptualisation of the principles of self-determination – individual rights, private property and personal liberty – which led inter alia to the common law, jury trials, religious pluralism, representative democracy, free markets, the rule of law and the abolition of slavery. Continue reading

FacebookTwitterGoogle+Email