It may have become aparent to many of you that I do tend to take Mr. Blunkett rather personally. I shouldn’t I know, after all the poor man succumbed to love etc. etc. and he’s had to take such a lot of stress this week.
Well I’m damn glad he resigned. And I feel personally relieved.
That man has been causing stress in my life since he was in charge of Education in the first of Blairs governements.
Our personal history together started innocously enough with a PSE lesson in which some woman from local government turned up to tell us about our options for Further and Higher Education…well thats what we were told she was going to do. What she actually did was hand out little credit card sized bits of plastic. We should write our names on the back we were told. Not surprisingly (and oh what a taste of future Blunkett ideas) we were a little suspicious.
“What’s it for?” asked Blue Eyes.
We were told it was so that we could access the money available to us so that everyone could access higher education…We were a little bit puzzled. We knew there was money for people who needed it, but as far as we knew you had to fill in the relevant application forms first.
“So how do we use these?” (I think it was Briony asked)
Oh you put them in you purse and…here the lady looked a bit uncertain…you can look at them to remind yourselve about your education options. It should be noted that she hadn’t actually mentioned what these options were, luckily we’d been having PSE lessons about our options since…oh since we were about thirteen. We sat there and stared at her. We were used to boring, useless, and frankly mind-numbing PSE lessons. We were used to people coming in to talk to us and boring the fucking pants off us. This was the first time that someone had come in with actually nothing to say and tried to cover up the fact with a piece of plastic (hello Royston Vasey welcome to the twenty-first century).
Then I put up my hand, to clarify matters it should be said. “So they aren’t actually used for anything then?”
She tried, she really tried, she talked about the importance of us thinking a lot about our future options (it really wasn’t like we could get away from that with PSE once a week), she talked about the government wanting bright young people like we obviously were to…umm…well…you know…
I am ashamed of this next action of mine but it was one of the few times I was actually applauded by my entire year group. I remember I started with the immortal words “Well I don’t want to shoot the messenger but…” and proceeded to aim my bow and arrows at all but all the holes in this governement scheme she’d brought into school.
Thus I was introduced to Mr David Blunkett and how he thought that spending money on useless credit card sized plastic for every school child was more important than university grants. I wrote the first of many letters to him with Briony that night and some months later we recieved one of those generalised replies that is the speciality of the British Government (and presumably most governments).
By the time I actually met him, I and his department had had quite a correspondance. Now I should point out that I had met politicians before, a whole load of MEPs who all seem to give off a slippery air of incompetance before talking a whole load of waffle and trying to make you believe you actually got an answer to your questions, and Austin Mitchell. There is a special place in my heart for Mr. Mitchell. He’s an absolute sweetie. Now thats not to say I’d trust him any further than I could throw him (he is a politician afterall) but compared to some he’s practically plain speaking! Blunkett was very different. Blunkett was a politician who was a cabinet minister in the government not just a local representative. Oh what a kettle of a difference!
I met him on a protest. The Labour group at uni had invited him to speak and I had joined Political Rachel etc. outside to protest at his general unfairness to university students. I should mention here that I believe in free education. (I can hear the Americans in my audience going ‘What? What are you talking about? Thats idealist bollocks and it’s never going to happen!’ Please allow me to continue)
We chanted, we waved our placards and he tried to sneak in round the back. We spotted him and raced around asking some questions as the poor man tried to get in out of the cold. That is the only time I have ever, and probably will ever, felt sorry for him. Amongst the questions and shouts I suddenly found myself face to face with him. I couldn’t think of a clever question (I’d had plenty in my head before hand but somehow they vanished upon actual meeting) so I just asked ‘Don’t you think it’s unfair when you had a free university education to deny the same thing to my generation?’ and he said ‘Yes but he was guaranteeing a free education to everyone.’ Then an aide whisked him away.
Now charitably, I am fairly sure the aide whisked him mid-sentence, and I suspect the end of the sentence would have been ‘who needs it’ as in if you haven’t got money the government will (if you harrangue them enough) dole out for you to go through college, provided you have the results for it. But that was enough for Political Dan to hassle him all through the meeting where he denied everything he’d said to us outside. And very cleverly too, oh yes he handled that meeting like a pro (which of course he is), it was on some levels beautiful to watch and on others it made me sick. Political Dan never got the better of him, good orator even that he was and in the end was made to look a know-nothing fool (which he wasn’t). Oh yes Mr. Blunkett is very good at what he does.
So when he got moved in a cabinet reshuffle I was not relieved to discover he replaced Jack Straw. What give him a taste of real power? And look at the results….assylum seekers imprisoned while their status is checked and dear lords he wanted to give us identity chips? Roll on Big Brother.
It is a shame though that what it took for him to jump from cabinet was not the sudden realisation that he was wrong, no morning ‘oh my god I’ve been locking innocent people up just in case they were criminals, what was I thinking?’, he didn’t read Orwell and realise the similarities, he fell in love and bumped a bit of paperwork around somewhat too quickly…
I am happy that he has gone. I am not fool enough to think that all of New Labours ideas regarding the restrictions of civil liberties are going to vanish suddenly like morning mist though, but now that the instigator and promoter of the more extreme versions has gone, maybe, just maybe they might tone them down. God help us if the Tories get in in May, I swear that the vampire Howard has been taking notes.