Schooling ourselves for a smaller state?

By Alasdair Galloway
March 19, 2016

Pope John Paul II once said, "A society will be judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members". In that regard, one wonders how he would react to the performance of the UK just now, its government and in particular its Chancellor of the Exchequer.

As commentator Derek Bateman observes on Newsnet: "The treatment of those with infirmities who rely on every penny in benefit for an agreeable life is both a moral disgrace for a civilised nation and an insult to the welfare state. Many of them already struggle with mental or physical difficulties, they confront prejudice, have their lives constrained by bureaucracy and rarely earn much more than the living wage. The inexorable crushing of their lives in order to fund extra for those living on unearned income is anti-British."

The only thing I would change in that is that it is, quite simply, uncivilised. But (and mark this well) all the talk about "making ends meet", and "living within our means" is little more than a distraction from the primary aim of George Osborne and the like-minded in his party, which is to shrink the state back to its relative size before 1948. 

Bateman takes education policy -- compulsory academies for all -- to severe task, on the grounds that academies do not always work too well, and that it is an opportunity for friends of the governing party to do a bit more asset stripping (the buildings, land and other assets will be transferred for nothing). But the larger prize is a low tax, small state society, where we each look after ourselves, and any 'safety net' is for the virtually destitute. No doubt there is someone working on a more media friendly name for "the parish". 

One small note about 'going to school' in this context. In a Herald column on Wednesday 16 March 2016, conservative commentator David Torrance included the following, heart-warming wee story about George Osborne: "One of the Chancellor’s childhood memories is hearing the-then deputy SNP leader interrupt Nigel Lawson’s 1988 Budget on a portable radio while on his way to school.". 

Torrance manages to make this sound like he was on his way to the local comprehensive. The reality is that he was on his way to St Paul's School in London, where fees in the senior school are currently £7,500 per term. As in much media commentary, what is left out is often more interesting that what is included. With that sort of background, how much interest do we think Mr Osborne has with how academies operate for ordinary folks, so long as they are not a "burden" on the state?

* You can access all Ekklesia's commentary and analysis on the 2016 Budget here:


© Alastair Galloway is a former senior lecture in management at the University of the West of Scotland, with expertise in industrial organisation, organisational studies and business administration:  


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