Although the week’s news was dominated by the minute-by- minute updates of alleged Northumbrian murderer, Raoul Moat, the coalition government haven’t escaped the headlines entirely. Michael Gove remained in the spotlight after he failed to shake off the furore following his decision to cancel school building projects.
His announcement that some 700 school redevelopments would be scrapped in an effort to cut the deficit sparked outrage among members on all sides of the House.
Worse still, an almighty mix up followed with the Department of Education saying that some schools would be saved from the cuts, only to find out later this was a mistake and Gove was forced to apologise, again.
Even Conservative MPs are angered by this. Tory MP Philip Davies tabled a question asking why the projects in his constituency will be cut, and two dozen MPs have signed a motion condemning the ‘cavalier attitude towards pupils, parents and teachers.’
I don’t think I’ll have a chance to watch education questions tomorrow when Gove will be asked to offer a plan B for those schools hit by the controversial cuts, but I certainly hope he’s at home right now planning something to reinstate those education projects so badly needed across the country.
Gove isn’t the only minister currently facing the heat. Health Secretary Andrew Lansley is also planning a £1bn attack on ‘bureaucracy’. He plans to reduce the number of health quangos There are disturbing rumours that the Food Standards Agency (FSA), which employs 2000 staff, will also be abolished.
It’s become terribly fashionable to bash the quangos, but they do a job and my concern is who will take on their role if they are abolished?
Many of the campaigns these organisations have been involved in have had a huge impact on our lives, in some cases proving to be life saving. Take the FSA campaign to reduce our salt intake or the saturated fat campaign, both of which have had a significant impact on how we as a nation think about food and our own personal health.
Other health quangos in the firing line are the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and the NHS Blood and Transplant. Both these organisations provide an essential service and they must not simply be done away with.
Both Lansley and Gove will face a huge backlash against their proposals. Is this an early warning of the tornados facing the government? Andrew Rawnsley asks just that in today’s Observer, which you can read here.
Meanwhile, on our side, Vincent Moss in today’s Sunday Mirror reveals that Peter Mandelson’s memoirs say Brown never got over losing his battle with Blair to become Labour leader in 1994. I hope there is something more compelling in Mandelson’s books than going over old stories that we have all heard time and time again. If I decide to read it, I will want to know that there will be something a bit more insightful. The full Sunday Mirror piece is here.
Of course we still have Blair’s memoirs ‘The Journey’ to come out – due in September. Watch this space (and many others no doubt)…