So what did you make of the leaders’ debate?

For what it’s worth this is my verdict on last night’s ‘debate.’
The first thing that struck me was how ill-at-ease and unconvincing Cameron was. You could see immediately why he was desperate to avoid a face-to-face discussion. On this evidence, he would have been the big loser. After four years as Prime Minister, albeit a PM who had not won an election and did not have a mandate to push through the measures he has, you would imagine he would have been more assured, but PMQs have always given Flashman a built-in advantage with the final word. Instead of delivering a slick performance he had a torrid time, unable to put across the narrative he wanted, that the economy was ‘safe in our hands.’ Paxman skewered Cameron when, astonishingly as it is the big issue for the Tories, he did not know his government had added £572 billion to the national debt. For a man who has spent all his life perfecting the art of being a spin doctor, this was surprising. Cameron looked gauche and patronising in the audience section and got very little applause for his points.
Contrary to a Guardian/ICM poll, I thought Miliband did slightly better, particularly with the studio audience. He won applause for his points. In the less comfortable interview section, he at least retaliated when Paxman put him under pressure. He was over-eager to please and delivered the bacon joke a little too often, but, by audience response alone, he clearly came off the better of the two politicians. Paxman’s comment at the end: “Are you all right?” seemed bizarre in the circumstance, perhaps indicative of the man’s One Nation Tory leanings. Miliband fielded it reasonably well with: “Yes, are you?”
As to the role of the two presenters, my Twitter feed was alive with observations about the contrast between Burley and Paxman. Murdoch’s pet Kay Burley fawned over David Cameron and interrupted Miliband more. It was a partial performance. Paxman was a more professional Tory, savaging both party leaders. He came out as a journalist doing a professional job, something many of us thought he was no longer able to do on the evidence of the notorious Tommy Robinson interview when he floundered. Burley came across as a biased Murdoch hatchet woman. There was a marked contrast in her attitude to Cameron and Miliband.
So what did we learn about the two party leaders when it came to leading the country after the General Election? The main thing that struck me, whatever the carefully packaged ‘story’ they wanted to spin, was that they were arguing over scraps. Both men see no alternative to continuing austerity. That Cameron is boasting about the slowest recovery since 1830 shows how rotten the public discourse has become. Neither of the microphones in suits was able to set out a vision for the next five years. Their economic policies are similar and rooted in an already failed economic strategy. There may be vestiges of a Labour Party still attached to the NHS and the Welfare State in Ed Miliband, but it is thin gruel and any echo of the party’s reforming past, largely reliant on memories of the 1945-51 government, grows quieter by the day. In practice, it is hard to see him being much better than Cameron.
In the forthcoming popular vote, many will be voting for the lesser evil rather than for a party they feel encapsulates their hopes. That was the story of the last election too and hardly makes us race to the ballot box. No wonder many of us are looking to vote for one of the minor parties as we search for a principled anti-austerity alternative.

New questions over the academy programme

So now we know. Fewer than half of academy chains are producing above average GCSE results. The government has insisted on an almost weekly basis that academies and Free Schools are superior to schools under local authority supervision. Only this week Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has dismissed calls for independent supervision of the curriculum. Schools are to be run as separate business, funded by the taxpayer and free of local democratic control and guess what, there is no evidence whatsoever that this flagship policy results in an improvement in the quality of children’s learning.

 

http://www.theguardian.com/education/2015/mar/24/less-than-half-academy-chains-producing-above-average-gsce-results

 

Round up

 

THE BOOKSELLER : 26th March

Shropshire to make 16 libraries volunteer-run

http://www.thebookseller.com/news/shropshire-make-16-libraries-volunteer-run

 

 

BBC News : 27th March

Why local government matters in this election

2 refs to libraries

?http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2015-31536478 …

 

 

Birmingham Mail : 27th March

Council’s 39 under-threat community libraries could be saved by deal

“It is now looking very likely that we will go down the staff cooperative route …”

http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/councils-39-under-threat-community-libraries-8934089

THE BOOKSELLER : 26th March

Shropshire to make 16 libraries volunteer-run

http://www.thebookseller.com/news/shropshire-make-16-libraries-volunteer-run

 

 

BBC News : 27th March

Why local government matters in this election

2 refs to libraries

?http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2015-31536478 …

 

 

Birmingham Mail : 27th March

Council’s 39 under-threat community libraries could be saved by deal

“It is now looking very likely that we will go down the staff cooperative route …”

http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/councils-39-under-threat-community-libraries-8934089

THE BOOKSELLER : 23rd March

Desmond Clarke | Blog: The public side of public libraries

?http://www.thebookseller.com/blogs/public-side-public-libraries

 

 

Leon’s Library Blog : 22nd March

Damned if we do…

?http://leonslibraryblog.com/2015/03/22/damned-if-we-do/

 

 

Bristol Post : 23rd March

Letter | Take on young as trainees in libraries

http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/young-trainees-libraries/story-26213251-detail/story.html

 

 

Lincolnshire Echo : 23rd March

Internal Audit of the Libraries Project to be discussed by county council

http://www.lincolnshireecho.co.uk/d/story-26216218-detail/story.html

 

 

Daily Echo : 23rd March

Council decision to spend £99,000 on heating system at Cobbett Road Library branded ‘shambolic’ http://www.dailyecho.co.uk/news/11872424.Council_decision_to_spend___99_000_on_heating_system_at_axe_threatened_library_branded__shambolic_/

 

 

Coventry Telegraph : 23rd March

Leaked private letter from Coventry council boss casts doubt on future of Finham Library

http://www.coventrytelegraph.net/news/coventry-news/leaked-private-letter-coventry-council-8900888

The Cambridge Student : 21st March

Controversy over future of Cambridge Central Library

http://www.tcs.cam.ac.uk/news/0034077-controversy-over-future-of-cambridge-library.html

 

Cambridge News : 21st March

Why there’s furore at Cambridge Central Library

?http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/8217-s-furore-Cambridge-Central-Library-anger/story-26208253-detail/story.html

 

 

London SE1 : 20th March

Lambeth | Waterloo Library: little enthusiasm for volunteer-run service

http://www.london-se1.co.uk/news/view/8148

 

 

TheJournal.ie : 20th March

Council libraries are using JobBridge for ‘free labour’, says Sinn Féin

Interns told “no chance of employment at the end of the program”

https://uk.news.yahoo.com/sinn-f-claims-council-libraries-using-jobbridge-free-205418995.html

 

 

Harrow Times : 20th March

Harrow Council pledge to work with community over Bob Lawrence, North Harrow,

Rayners Lane and Hatch End library options

http://www.harrowtimes.co.uk/news/11870884.Council_pledge_to_work_with_community_over_library_options/

 

 

Kingsbridge Today : 20th March

Devonshire | Library shake-up

?http://www.kingsbridge-today.co.uk/news.cfm?id=28360&headline=Library%20shake-up …

 

 

Bristol Post : 20th March

Letter | Library consultation must be transparent

“evidence” demanded

http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/Reader-s-letter-Library-consultation-transparent/story-26202335-detail/story.html

Kelvin MacKenzie is beneath contempt

Just when you think vile former S*n editor Kelvin MacKenzie can’t crawl any lower into the grotesque swamp of his own self-serving mendacity, he manages to burrow even deeper. In this tissue of lies, he paints himself as if he was is as much a victim of the Hillsborough disaster in which 96 people died because of the catastrophic actions of the police. MacKenzie says he was given an incorrect story and is ready to go to court over it. In fact, fellow journalists have revealed that he ignored deep unease in his newsroom to provocatively label a highly controversial story, later proved to be a tissue of lies, The Truth. Not only that, while the Daily Star realised the story was a flimsy collection of unsubstantiated falsehoods and distanced itself, MacKenzie clung to it. It took years for him to apologise and, even then, he did it in the most wounded, snivelling manner.

MacKenzie finally tried to exonerate himself in 1993. Talking to a House of Commons Select Committee, he said: “I regret Hillsborough. It was a fundamental mistake. The mistake was I believed what an MP said. It was a Tory MP. If he had not said it and the Chief Superintendent (David Duckenfield) had not agreed with it, we would not have gone with it.”

MacKenzie withdrew the apology in November 2006, saying he had only apologised because the newspaper’s owner, Rupert Murdoch, had ordered him to, stating: “I was not sorry then and I’m not sorry now”.[163] MacKenzie refused once more to apologise when appearing on the BBC’s topical Question Time on 11 January 2007.[164]

The man is beneath contempt.

 

https://twitter.com/peterjukes/status/578533019759325184?utm_source=fb&utm_medium=fb&utm_campaign=petewylie&utm_content=578685796946984960

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0apMXZ3v5dY&feature=youtu.be

 

 

It’s the final countdown

I am having a breather in my hotel room before my final talk of the Hong Kong Young Readers Festival at Po Leung Kuk Ho Yuk Ching College in the New Territories.
I ran a writing workshop this morning at the Chinese International School on Braemar Hill. See below:

Writing ghost stories at the Chinese International School.

Writing ghost stories at the Chinese International School.