The Plastic Hippo

July 28, 2010

Parental guidance advised

Filed under: Education,Politics,Rights — theplastichippo @ 9:02 pm

It may not be apparent, but this humble blog operates under certain unwritten rules of decency, accuracy and truth. There will be no profanity, defamation, lies or unwarranted personal attacks here, thank you very much. That was until today…

Secretary of State for Education, Micheal Gove, is a f***ing spawny-eyed imbecile who deserves to be boiled alive in a vat of his own bullsh**. A plague on both his brain cells. Right, that`s done, let us move on.

Gove`s Acacemies Bill became law today after being rushed through parliament at a rate of knots usually associated with legislation required to respond to the prospect of the Mujahideen scaling the white cliffs of Dover with rucksacks full of plutonium. The justification for this unseemly haste, according to Gove, is because “rich, thick kids do better than poor, clever children before they go to school”. So, this entrenched inequality is the fault of parents either cursed with wealth or cursed with poverty. Sadly, their “kids” are now cursed with him, a “thick rich kid”.

His new law will allow countless schools to hoist the jolly roger and sail off on an uncharted course to God – or not God – knows where. If a majority of parents wish to exercise their new right to form a “free school” as the law now allows, then we may see further examples of Christian Evangelical creationist teaching, Madrassas, Talmud Torah, Guru Nanak and Krishna schools being established across the country in areas wherever a minority is the majority. To be fair, most of the existing faith schools are reasonable and fulfil their statutory duty even under the eagle-eye of the now discredited Ofsted, but Gove has opened the door that will allow darker elements to dictate curriculum and selection.

In an attempt to quell these fears, Gove mentions that Richard Dawkins, the rather shrill and very rich God denialist, has expressed an interest in establishing an atheist Academy. Oh God! – or – Oh not God! as the case may be.

Make no mistake, this is likely to be the most divisive development in education since a Pharaoh misplaced Moses and will force children into an isolationist system that will make apartheid look like a rainbow nation and turn bigoted ghettos into pleasure domes for the misguided interpreters of some very, very old religious texts. It is true that education under the control of local authorities is poor, but at least it is consistently and equally poor for every child. Individual schools, however, work around this lack of support to provide the best possible education to a diversity of children where each child is valued, respected and nurtured regardless of received antipathy. The new law allows any crack-pot with enough clout to control a school to peddle whatever dogmatic claptrap they choose.

Gove claims that he wants to widen parental choice as to which schools are available for children. Great, tell the chauffeur to bring around the Bentley, Cordelia is off to Roedean. In 20 years time, we may find that young adults embarking on what one hopes will be a long, successful and happy life will be able to deny the Holocaust, Gaza, the Enlightenment, 9/11 or Darwinism depending upon which school they attended. Already experts at X-Box shoot-em-ups, they may develop a taste for real weapons, on real streets, secure in the knowledge that they are “right” because it said so in school.

That will be the legacy of Micheal Gove. He may, or may not, rot in Hell, or not Hell as the case may be. It might be best to ask the Chairs of Governors of his new Academies what their imaginary friend has in store for him.


July 27, 2010

British Pensioners

Filed under: Environment,Politics — theplastichippo @ 1:52 pm

Until very recently, British Petroleum chief executive Tony Hayward could hardly be described as “outgoing”. Candour and transparency were unfortunately absent when he was dragged by the smart lapel to appear before a US congressional hearing trying to bottom out the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Now, however, he is definitely “outgoing” as the back of his immaculate BP hard hat heads for the door with an annual pension of £600,000, a years salary of £1million and a package of benefits and share options worth an estimated £11million secured in the back pocket of his gleaming boiler suit.

Having lost the main candidate for blame, the congressional committee need to find another scapegoat to appease their oil industry masters. Step forward one Kenny MacAskill, MSP. Quite how the Scottish National Party cabinet secretary for justice in the Scottish Parliament is implicated in the nasty stuff currently coating Louisiana pelicans is a fishy tale that will be a mystery to most marine wildlife. However, it gives an insight into the way that multi-national oil companies, and others, manipulate national governments and, of course, the other way round. Someone, anyone, must take the blame.

In 1988, MacAskill was an Edinburgh lawyer harbouring an interest in Scottish independence and Tony Hayward was working for BP as a geologist on an oil rig somewhere off Aberdeen. At that time, those occupying the corridors of power in Whitehall and Westminster referred to Scotland as Disneyland because: “It dis nae work, it dis nae vote Tory and it dis nae f*****g matter”.

The events of the night of 21 December 1988, when the bits, pieces and contents of Pan Am flight 103 fell from the skies over Lockerbie, changed all that.

Years and years and years went by until the world decided that Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi, head of security for Libyan Arab Airlines, was the guy who planted the bomb. Tried and convicted in the Netherlands under Scottish law, Al Megrahi was and, more importantly, is, something of a genius to concoct such an elaborate and complex plot to kill 270 people on his own. Twelve years after the Clipper Maid of the Seas became forever a part of Dumfries and Galloway, Al Magrahi was packed off to Barlinnie prison for a life sentence.

Fast forward to 2007 when “Oor Kenny” is now in the Scottish Parliament dealing with a “home-grown” terrorist attack on Glasgow airport and Tony Hayward, now CEO at BP is looking at some lucrative deep-water off-shore oil deposits in the Gulf of Sirte which is, err, in Libyan territorial waters. A year later Al Megrahi is given weeks to live after being diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer and is released on compassionate grounds after serving eight and a half years. A prisoner transfer agreement was considered inappropriate. He received a heroes welcome when he arrived back in Tripoli where hundreds of delighted locals waved The Saltire in recognition of Scottish largess.

The congressional committee, denied the scalp of Haywood, now want to give MacAskill a good talking too because the release of the convicted bomber has been linked to suggestions that his freedom was a condition of the deal between Libya and BP. Kenny and the Scottish Parliament have, quite rightly, declined the invitation stating that a democratically elected sovereign government is not answerable to a panel of American congressmen. David Cameron, new to power, wasted no time in distancing the Westminster government from any involvement and basically slagged off the Scottish executive for the benefit of the US media. Strange that the committee have not requested the attendance of Colonel “Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution” Muammar al-Gaddafi or his charming son regarding the alleged oil deal.

Libya accepted “responsibility for the actions of it officials” regarding the Lockerbie bombing two years after Al Megrahi was convicted and paid about US$10million to each of the families of the 270 victims.

BP have announced losses of £11billion partly as a result of the Deepwater Horizon clean-up and Hayward, clutching his £11million Sterling pension pot, has been symbolically sent to Siberia as a non-executive director of TNK-BP, a joint venture between Russia and BP. Tony needs to be careful though. A few tough questions from the hawks in Congress is nothing compared for what might be in store if he gets on the wrong side of a Russian oil oligarch.

Scotland needs to have a care as well. The US has something of a track record when dealing with small countries who have the temerity to wish to control their destinies and oil reserves. Upset the oil companies and you may find the 7th Cavalry turning up in landing craft on Gourock beach and the 101st Airborne abseiling down from helicopters onto the 18th green at Carnoustie.

The record loss incurred by BP is likely to impact upon the fortunes of Hayward as the latest and richest British pensioner but not as much as those who belong to pension funds that have invested heavily in BP and will soon experience the raising of retirement age to 67. At the age of 53 and after three years as CEO, Hayward steps down as Greenpeace blockade BP petrol stations in London as a protest against the dreadful environmental and safety record of the company. BP have described the protest as “an irresponsible and childish act which is interfering with safety systems”.

After Deepwater Horizon, that seems a bit rich.

July 23, 2010

School`s out

Filed under: Education — theplastichippo @ 12:22 pm

There has been a lot of hot air expelled recently regarding “edukashun” by ridiculous comic characters who do not know of what they speak. Michael Gove, Ed Balls and, indeed, the plastic hippo, huff and puff and blow down houses not yet built. On this final day of the summer term, perhaps we should turn our ears toward the voices of the people that know more about education than we so-called grown-ups could ever hope to comprehend.

Countless cohorts of children and young people will today progress to a new year group, key stage, school, tertiary establishment or employment market and this week has seen a plethora of special assemblies, graduation ceremonies and, that most insidious of American imports, the senior prom. Stretch limos and hummers seem slightly incongruous in Walsall.

Many of these people will not have achieved the arbitrary targets set for them by grown-ups detached from the real world but for them, simply surviving the botched system is a major achievement in itself. These children and young people deserve to be congratulated for their successes and for putting up with the mess we have created. The transition from being a big kid in year 6 to being a little adult in year 7 is as daunting as entering a job market that has no jobs and rather than demonising “youth”, we should celebrate with them and wish them luck. After all, they will inherit this failing system we have created.

As inadequate as the system may be, our young people could be considered as being lucky. Recent performances by David Cameron and Nick Clegg on the world stage indicate that a privileged, expensive and private education does not equip the student with a basic grasp of history, economics or logic. One can only speculate if, aged five and six, Clegg and Cameron sang along to the 1972 Alice Cooper hit single but five and six year old children today are perfectly entitled to join in with the line:
“My school`s been blown to pieces.”

The demographic profile of the readership of these musings is unlikely to include anyone young and fortunate enough to enjoy the challenges of the education system. But, if you know anyone who has progressed today, please tell them how well they have done and give them a hug. They deserve it, we don`t.

July 22, 2010


Filed under: Sport — theplastichippo @ 9:36 pm

Targets, records, statistics and key performance indicators are, by their very nature, arbitrary, ephemeral and meaningless unless they apply to our summer game. For those who are not passionate about cricket, look away now.

Muttiah Muralitharan, veteran Sri Lankan off-spinner has taken his 800th test wicket and has become the most successful test bowler of all time. Some may find this fact of little interest, but a quick look at the circumstances of his achievement may shed some light on the beauty of cricket.

Murali is an ethnic Tamil, a group that has been, and continues to be, persecuted by the Sinhalese majority in Sri Lanka. The hippo recalls attending a test match in Colombo where Tamils were refused entry as the security guards and soldiers assumed them to be Tamil Tiger terrorists. Fortunately for Sri Lanka, Murali was allowed in and has been more deadly with the leg-break rather than the Kalashnikov.

Suffering from a birth deformity, the legality of his odd, bent-arm bowling action has been repeatedly questioned and Australian Prime Minister John Howard actually accused him of throwing the ball. It should be pointed out that Australian Prime Ministers only comment on cricket when Australia are loosing wickets.

But it is the very nature of this latest test match against India that makes his achievement all the more remarkable. Murali announced that this was to be his final test match and, at the age of 38, was 8 wickets short of the magical 800. The match took place in Galle, on the southern coast of that serendipitous island, a community all but destroyed by the terrible tsunami that occurred on Boxing Day 2004. On his final day and with his total on 799, in his final over and with his final delivery, the batsman was caught in the slips. Tonight I shall be raising a glass and looking for my old Roy Harper albums:

“When an old cricketer leaves the crease, well you never know whether he’s gone
If sometimes you’re catching a fleeting glimpse of a twelfth man at silly mid-on
And it could be Geoff and it could be John, with a new ball sting in his tail
And it could be me and it could be thee, and it could be the sting in the ale…the sting in the ale.”

For the record, Sri Lanka beat India by 10 wickets. Well done Murali.

July 21, 2010

Pay and display

Filed under: Politics,Walsall — theplastichippo @ 6:09 pm

Walsall councillors do a wonderful job, of that there can be no question. As they give their time and expertise for the general good of the borough, their philanthropy knows no bounds when it comes to telling us what is good for us. The elected members who serve as cabinet portfolio holders are particularly charitable and are clearly in it only for love. Having announced further cuts of £7.7million resulting in a record breaking £22million worth of reductions to vital services, their reward will obviously be in heaven. Or will it…?

The local rag is kicking up a fuss about “allowances” awarded to councillors and has published the figures. It seems that our leader, Mike Bird trousered £29,390 and 37 pence last year. This is obviously small beer when compared to the massive budget deficit and such benign and sagacious leadership is worth every penny. Indeed, Iron Mike has come out fighting and said that he is worth more than that figure. It is worth considering the words he is alleged to have used in defending his “allowance”.

“I am worth twice that. If anyone in private industry was working the hours I do overseeing a budget of £750million they would be earning in the region of £100,000 per year.”

Well, anyone working in private industry who was responsible for colossal waste, woeful accountancy, overspends, mismanagement and huge payouts to wrongly dismissed employees would, in the real world, be sacked. Instead of asking for a pay rise, Councillor Bird may be better advised to consult with the Job Centre, a venue popular with many of his former employees.

Bird is not alone on the gravy train. Former mayor John O`Hare took home £31,919 for his mainly ceremonial role. That’s a lot of booze and fags but he did a lot for charity. Current mayor Gary Clarke will need to open a lot of garden fêtes if he hopes to match the generous allowance awarded when he was chairman of Centro. Husband and wife team Adrian and Rachel Andrew, the Richard and Judy of the council chamber, received £18,680-40 each. That is not enough to take care of the babysitter during the long hours they spend in meetings to decide the closure of schools because they have both only managed to attend 75% of cabinet meetings. Between them, the three councillors for Pheasey Park Farm, Bird, Adrian Andrew and Christopher Towe were awarded a grand total of nearly £67,000 and the total for all councillor allowances came to almost £850,000.

Cabinet members, opposition group leaders and the chairs of various committees are all rewarded with allowances over and above the basic £10,377 paid to all councillors because of the additional responsibility their position brings and Walsall can boast of one the highest paid Chief Executives in the country. It seems odd that our brightest and best did not spot the black hole of deficit approaching and curious too that the only solution to insolvency is to close things and set “targets” for income from parking tickets. They display their nobility and we pay through the nose.

As the coalition government makes even deeper cuts, the silence coming from cabinet is deafening, particularly over the BSF shambles. Still, the 18 grand will do nicely for taking the family on holiday as the rest of us form a queue at the soup kitchen. Our council clearly understands the concept of value for money, especially when motivated by self-interest and there are some that would happily pay Mike Bird £100,000, but only if he promised to go away.

Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at