Monday, 17th August, 2020

[Day 154]

Today was one of those days when you wonder what the day is going to bring if anything, as a certain amount of political pressure has been building upon the Education Secretary throughout the course of the weekend and there are mutterings on the Conservative backbenches. We collected our newspapers and ate our elevenses in an almost deserted park this morning and apart from being inspected by the occasional dog (quite common on a park bench as they are often anticipating a nibble of food!). The rain came down quite softly and had it intensified we could have made for the shelter of a nearby weeping willow, but instead, we braved it out and the shower soon past. We can often judge the intensity of the rain by the pattern the droplets make on the water in the pond but after living in Lancashire for some of our life, the rain down here always seems mild in the extreme.

Meg and I read an intriguing story in today’s Times which has really set us thinking and wondering. More and more families are deciding in these lockdown conditions that now might be an ideal time to acquire and train a puppy as they now have time on their hands and the opportunity to train a puppy which was difficult for them whilst at work. Consequently, sales of, and prices of, puppy dogs have soared and many dogs are in fact being stolen, with reports of dog theft up 65% since the start of the lockdown. According to the charity Doglost, some buyers are paying as much as four times the normal price and the price is often in the £1.000’s. According to research by the insurance company, Direct Line, as many as 360.000 adults believe that a cat was stolen from their care in the past 12 months and some other research indicates that up to a quarter of the cats that go missing are actually stolen – but this is notoriously difficult to prove in the absence of chipping (which is voluntary) and/or a collar. Now we come to the case of Miggles, the cat who had adopted us and has now gone missing. As a previous blog indicated, her true owners were aware that she had gone missing unexpectedly and were repeatedly calling for her. As she was such an exceptionally good looking cat, the thought has crossed our mind whether she has actually been stolen rather than met an accidental death. After all, some new ‘owners’ could acquire a cat at no cost to themselves and the crime would be untraceable (and the police really do not want to know) So the thought in our minds that it is difficult to dispel is that Miggles has actually been abducted rather than meeting an untimely end. Of course, we shall never know!

This afternoon, we were holding ourselves in readiness for the 4.0 pm news bulletin because it was becoming increasingly evident that the government would have to execute the most tremendous ‘U-turn’ over the A-level marking debacle. As first the Welsh and then the Northern Irish devolved administration followed the Scots in allowing teachers’ assessments to constitute the final mark (even at the price of some grade inflation) then surely the English would have to follow suit – which, of course, they did. I correctly predicted that Gavin Williamson would be very slow in making a public apology and, sure enough, the first apology had to come from the Head of OfQual whilst the second came from a junior education minister that nobody has ever heard of (It did remind me of the public schoolboy trick where everybody blames ‘Jones Minor’ who is the little squirt in the system least able to defend themselves in the case of malfeasance – the Tories seem well versed in this particular piece of skulduggery. Compare Nicola Sturgeon, for example, who fronted up and apologised whilst Boris is off playing ‘Monarch of the Glen’ somewhere in Scotland). In terms of public administration, then the creation of executive and regulatory agencies (of which the education regulator OfQual is one) blurs the lines of accountability such that if there are problems, the head of the agency can be blamed (and not the politicians) whereas if there are successes, the politicians can claim the credit. And, interestingly enough, as I wrote I read in tomorrow’s Guardian that the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, according to the lead headline is seeking to blame Ofqual for exams debacle…Well, it is quite evident that he will be got rid off at the earliest opportunity and BBC NewsNight had on it a policy analyst who had advised Michael Gove whilst he was Education Secretary and was amazed that Williamson was still in a job (as are we all)