May 10

The closure of Becta

The majority of people who are pleased at the closure of Becta are most likely so because they disagreed in some way or another with their leanings on various issues, for example their take on open source software in schools. These people can safely be ignored, along with those who decry “waste of taxpayer’s money!” when really they mean “it doesn’t benefit me, so I reserve the right to think it’s a waste of money”.

That said, Becta is really no different from any other government quango in the sense that you can argue for and against with the following argument:

  • centralised decision-making can bring efficiencies, savings, continuity to the education system vs. centralised efficiencies prohibit independent thought, local buying, and prevent the school from making its own decisions about systems.

I fall into the latter camp: as an independent, self-employed provider of IT services to schools I believe that schools are simply better-off governed on their own.

Yes, there’s a dearth of IT management talent in schools, and I’m already hearing people saying that many local authorities and schools simply don’t have the know-how to hire talent, manage their procurement, advise senior management on strategy, and otherwise fill that vacuum.

But I am making one prediction: we are soon to realise that there was only ever one reason for this dearth of IT talent in schools in the past: Becta itself.

When you centralise, you may be benefiting those schools who already lack this talent – especially those schools in special measures, under-performing schools, and smaller schools – but you are closing another door: the door that allows local business to get involved. The door that allows schools to make mistakes, learn from them, decide to hire better IT talent, and develop their own corporate character in the long term. And you are closing a door that prevents the individual  interests of a top-end school to flourish, form partnerships with local business, or share best practice themselves rather than send their staff on a course. As for the middle- and lower-end schools, centralisation can stifle growth by prohibiting the more modest developments they may need at the time.

Most critically, however, centralisation of this kind has an adverse effect on school’s desire to hire in-house talent.

And when schools don’t have good in-house IT talent, they don’t get good grades in ICT subjects. They may get big money for the use of ICT as a ‘facility’ but they don’t get known as a technologically advanced school.

The one thing I won’t be glad to see the back of is this pervasive view that dealing with local businesses can be a bit dodgy.

Quangos: like them or not, I believe they prohibit independent thought.

Disclaimer: the writer of this blog is not a Tory!

May 10

Hung Parliament, 5 days in

So – you voted for a hung parliament!

Well, you may not have personally voted for such a thing, but you have to accept that the British people as a whole did so, and that’s what we have got.

Here’s what I am hearing from the British public right now:

  • “Don’t do it Nick!”
  • “Do it Nick!”
  • “The whole thing is a shambles!”
  • “Clegg is holding xyz to ransom!”
  • “The failing Labour government has no mandate to govern”

Electorate, pipe down! This is what happens in a hung parliament.

Nobody won the election. That means the party with more seats has no more mandate to govern than the party with fewer, at this point.

Our electoral system, whether we like it or not, has already accounted for this potential outcome. The process is clear, and it has been for decades.

Today on Radio 4 I heard one caller actually blame BBC for not educating people enough about the process. How dare!

If you don’t like this process, stop your impotent whinging and stand for election yourself. Or take to the streets in protest of our electoral system. Or write to an MP about the electoral system. In fact, why didn’t you do this a long time before the election? Stop spreading your bile on websites and radio phone-ins. It’s terribly un-British of you.

Nothing is unexpected. In fact, we pretty much knew it would be a hung parliament weeks before the election even took place.

What’s with all the hurrying, the cries of, “I’ll never vote Lib Dem again if…” or “Gordon doesn’t have the right to this or that”?


I voted with my heart and my head, and I’ll always vote for my party as long as I can, because I believe in what they stand for.

This may just be the election where the leading politicians turn out to be far less fickle and outrageous than the voices of the public! Who would have thought?

The electorate has spoken. And now they should shut right up, and let the politicians get on with what they have to do. In their own time.

If you don’t like it, my guess is that you probably didn’t even vote with your head and/or heart in the first place.

May 10

How I will vote

This is a response to the excellent writings of Stephen Fry on the same subject. His is a long piece but well worth the read: http://www.stephenfry.com/2010/05/04/how-i-will-vote/

In the same way I know that writing this blog post (adapted from a message left on the blog of Stephen Fry) has no bearing on anyone’s views, indeed may not even be read by a single person, I believe that my vote this Thursday will have absolutely zero* effect on the outcome of this election.

It is, as one might say, eleven types of invisible. Four shades of pointless.

My vote is, however, a personal expression of great belief and passion in the democratic process. It is a cathartic exercise, one that gives me immense value as a human being and citizen of this country, and I shall cherish it dearly. I shall feel a warm feeling close to how I imagine a religious person might feel. I shall drink Champagne.

(For the above reason, especially at this decisive time for Britons, I believe tactical voting to be both useless and irrelevant.)

Regarding my vote. In this election, I have previously been wavering between voting Labour and Liberal Democrat, and shunning the Conservative party.

Brown attracts me not because of his long-term vision but because of his boring detail-driven policy making; the country needs this. I do not believe that Brown for one minute ‘got us into this mess’; one has to look a little further than our borders. I believe when he says that global problems require global solutions, and that the solution lies in the bigger picture of the direction of global trade rather than the smaller picture of the regulation of our own financial industry.

Clegg attracts me because he leads a party I have great idealogical respect for. I shall say no more at this point, other than the following words: Iraq, the Digital Economy Bill, ID cards, expensive centralised IT systems for the NHS.

Cameron repels me not because of his character per-se, but because of the unchallenged, ingrained nature of his beliefs and loyalties, which I feel will not adequately challenge the status quo.

Deep down I would love for a Conservative party that was led by a philosopher, a champion of human rights, and social idealist. Alas such a party leader does not exist.

Despite my past wavering, my gut, my heart, and my head tell me I must cast my vote for the Liberal Democrat party.

* This is of course not true. My point is that it may as well be, due to statistics.