Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Jones the steam

Back in the Good Old Days (surely you remember?), steam trains ran up and down our railways, carrying people, carrying freight, carrying two dragons (surely Ivor was real?).

They took ages to get going when being started from cold - I can't find anything to tell me how long but I remember stories of the footplate guys being there hours before the train got going to nurse it into life.

Remember the Wendible promised in her speech to Labour's Aviemore conference that Rhona Brankin would set up a literacy commission to examine why 50 years of Labour rule had left a whole lot of Scots unable to read and write.

I'm told it met for the first time yesterday to sketch out the ground. Here's the members:

CBI Scotland director Iain McMillan - isn't he on another Labour Commission? What a busy chap. His employers must be very understanding.

Judith Gillespie of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council who last week put the boot into Labour policy on schools:
Judith Gillespie: PFI is an extremely strange creature. I was involved with the first Audit Scotland report on the subject, which was a wonderful learning experience. I was staggered to learn that, at the end of the day, all the money comes out of the public purse, because the money that is raised by the consortia is repaid through borrowing and the maintenance contract is largely paid for out of council funding.
I understand that there will always be profit involved in building a school, because the builder will make the profit that a contractor usually makes, but it is extraordinarily strange that we are confronted with the myth that PFI somehow brings in private money. Given that, at the end of the day, the money comes from the public purse, I have long been puzzled about why the system could not have involved normal public procurement—either way, the Government pays.
Glasgow Labour Councillor Gordon Matheson - with a wonderful and varied experience of education, having gone to school and served on Glasgow's education committee.

Professor Tommy Mackay - actually a decent shout - an educational psychologist I believe, and a chap with experience in things educational who could actually contribute to the debate - if he isn't drowned out by Labour politicians looking for petty advantage.

Big Brother winner John Loughton - he's a busy lad, eh? This is his second commission as well, he'll be getting to know Iain McMillan awfy well. When's he going to study for his degree?
So there you have it - Labour starting to think about the process of developing policies at last. Maybe in time they'll understand how to be an opposition, but I get the feeling that they've just lit the flames under the boiler, that old puffer is going to take a while to get going.

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