Schools out

Jesse Norman must be sick of being compared to a large and remarkable American mezzo-soprano. Sadly he is not a great mezzo, he is a Boris Johnson soundalike, ‘gosh’, and the new Tory MP for Hereford having, in the spirit of coalition, nicked it off the Lib Dems this month. He had the fun of chairing a heated debate on the shape of schools in Powys (not his patch but close enough to sympathise). There he was in the front line with the councillor responsible, the local headmaster, a couple of campaigners (including a former professor of geology from my parish) and Kirsty Williams, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats who was chic in cerise and alternately freezing and seething in equal measure – the seething at the platitudes of education officials.

All were trounced, however, by David Jones, a 14 year-old from Gwernyfed High School up the road from Hay, who put the case for saving his school with astonishing lucidity and aplomb. He’s clearly heading for great things. ‘Thank God,’ said Norman, ‘there’s not another election till 2015.’ Well not in theory, but if the coalition falls in two years and they manage to lower the voting age to 16 as part of the Great New Reform Bill in the meantime, Mr. Norman could be in trouble.

Am I alone in finding the abstract noun the bane of politics and bureaucracy? Almost any presentation trundles out ‘entitlement, partnership, quality, efficiency, effectiveness, learning environment.’ They save the manager from having to talk about inconvenient actual cases and the politician from admitting that the mess may be too hard to fix. Only the muttered riposte – bollocks – has the smack of reality.