How has Britain suddenly found itself so short of schools? At least a fifth of schools are full. More primary school classes being taught with more than 30 pupils. The National Audit Office says we’ll need an extra quarter of a million places built within two years. And one noxious, racist lie of an explanation is worming its way into the media coverage. Apparently Britain’s birth rate is surging—thanks to immigrants coming here to have their foreign babies.
The Daily Mail said nearly half the shortfall could be put down to migrants. It warns it will get worse when the dreaded Romanians and Bulgarians get here. This explanation is very convenient for the Tories. A little too convenient. Politicians love to blame migrants for putting strain on public services—when the real issue is the cuts.
Schools were shut down at a rate of 100 a year under the last Labour government to save money from councils. And the strain began to show straight away, especially in the poorer areas. The Tories are cutting back even further. Schools continue to close, particularly in small villages.
The Tories point to the “free schools” they’ve allowed to be set up by private firms on behalf of posh parents. But almost half of these are not even in areas with a shortfall. It’s a scandal that in 21st century Britain there aren’t enough schools for our children. But who took them away? Hint—it wasn’t the migrants.
Tory Education secretary Michael Gove thinks that sending ex-soldiers into schools will stop pupils fighting. But researchers have found that men who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan became more likely to commit violent crimes. The brutalising effect of war showed up even after correcting for the fact that violent men are more likely to join the army in the first place. lpeople in Madrid were worried that hospital privatisation would make it harder to access healthcare. But one of the city’s supermarkets has started selling private surgical operations. With enough points, you can even use your loyalty card. It’s near the privatised Princesa hospital. Thousands marched against cuts that came with the selloff.
Energy firm still not quite hated enough
Energy giant EDF has dropped its lawsuit against 21 environmental activists who occupied its West Burton gas plant. It says their action cost it £5 million in damages. And how much did the bonus for boss Vincent de Rivaz cost? EDF refuses to say. But we know its profits surged by 7.5 percent, thanks to price hikes that pushed 300,000 households into fuel poverty. EDF was already Britain’s most complained about energy firm. But clearly 4,800 complaints a day wasn’t enough. More than 60,000 people signed a petition against the lawsuit in just two weeks.
Judges have told cops to stop spying John Gatt. At 88, he’s probably the oldest person they’ve ever put on the National Extremism Database. He’s never been convicted of any crime. But he had been seen on demonstrations.
Hypocrisy on menu for Lords who lunch
Catering staff at the House of Lords are getting their wages slashed—to protect peers’ food subsidy. Peers tuck into luxury grub with prices knocked down with our money. Their fishcake is served in a lobster and caviar sauce. The subsidy works out as £83.90 a week each, on top of a £1,500 allowance. But when bosses were told to make cuts, they decided to cut overtime in half for staff on an average of £8.55 an hour. That’s got to leave a foul taste in the mouth.
Lord Vestey is Master of the Horse in more ways than one. He’s in charge of horses that pull the queen’s carriages. And he’s chair of Vestey Foods—which supplied beef tainted with horse to catering giant Sodexo.
BONUS OF THE WEEK
£4 million for Google guzzler Eric Schmidt
Google bosses have good reason to be feeling lucky. The firm paid just £6 million tax in Britain last year on more than £33 billion of revenue, thanks to a legal tax avoidance scheme
Police racism ordeal opens TV star’s eyes
Black TV presenter Ben Douglas used to think police racism was a myth—until now. This month he was stopped on his way back from the theatre by a cop who wouldn’t believe he owned his £36,000 Audi. Ben said the officer yelled at him and said “It’s a very nice car for a bloke like you to be driving, isn’t it?” Stop and search figures show cops are 30 times more likely to stop black people than whites. Ben felt “bitter frustration, shock and an overwhelming sense of foolishness” for his earlier trust in the police.