Skip to main content


Given the opportunity, what would you say Britain was most in need of just now? More jobs? Better schools? A general election? Another article about Hugh Grant?

You're not even warm. We are a nation of self-lacerating depressives and what we need is more self-esteem, according to the classically named Titus Alexander, who heads the Self-Esteem Network. "Self-esteem could save Britain billions of pounds," he asserts in an advert for the mysterious organisation's second international conference in Cambridge this weekend, which you can attend if you have a spare Pounds 346.63.

On Saturday, join a workshop on "working with our inner parts to develop self- esteem"; on Sunday, prepare to "love and esteem your voice" with a lady named Grethe Hooper Hansen, or "confront the six pillars of self-esteem within oneself" - a confrontation that apparently lasts five hours.

The conference has a strong educational slant and speakers will explain how "positive parenting" can prevent problems later on. Which sounds quite respectable, but the message is diluted by the insistence that lack of SE is the principal cause of problems in the NHS, failing businesses, crime, heart disease . . .

Politicians often seem to display an enviable ability to stay in touch with their inner child, and if you're really keen to develop self-esteem this week it might have been cheaper to sit in front of the TV and learn by example, watching the unfettered egos of the Conservative party locking horns on College Green.

Apropos the leadership crisis, there seem to be two schools of thought about the impact of John Redwood's precipitate departure from the Welsh Office on his erstwhile colleagues there.

On the one hand Carborundum has been officially assured that the atmosphere is serenity itself after a seamless handover to the new incumbent. This has a ring of truth given that Mr Redwood was never famous for the amount of time he spent in Wales. He was said to have spent one night there during his first six months in office, a rumour that prompted JR to ask wittily why he was the only Tory minister criticised for wanting to sleep with his wife.

However, according to one education worker, who prefers to remain obscure, an innocent call to the education section elicited a tale of woe involving administrative chaos and the impossibility of finding anybody with the legal authority to sign anything.

And, to add insult to injury, the vulcanite would-be leader departed without writing the customary thank-you letter, confining himself to a curt request to send on his desk diaries and coffee mug.

A plate of rat sandwiches for any reader who can supply the true version.

Meanwhile, Mr Redwood's successor at the Welsh Office, the blue-eyed Liverpudlian David Hunt, has a potentially embarrassing skeleton lurking deep in his political past.

Back in May 1976, he warned the Tory Reform Group about the dangers of flirting with vouchers, which, he said, would not be good for education. Let's hope he has no designs on Gillian Shephard's job.

Mrs S, incidentally, was the focus of a photo-opportunity at a nursery in the London borough of Wandsworth on Monday. This, one might reasonably assume, is to provide some heart-warming camera footage in anticipation of the imminent announcement of the details on vouchers and nursery expansion.

But the choice of a Wandsworth nursery naturally has nothing to do with the fact that the model Tory borough is straining at the leash to be the first to pilot the voucher scheme.

It was, of course, "pure coincidence", said the DFE.

It has been a bad week for poor Tony Blair. First, all discussion of his attempt to resolve Labour policy on grant-maintained schools was wiped off the news pages by the eruption of the Tory party. Then he learns that according to a survey of teenagers' career aspirations and role models, his is the least envied job of all.

The survey of 600 15 to18-year-olds carried out by MORI for City and Guilds showed that only 3 per cent wanted to be Tony Blair while 25 per cent envied Richard Branson. Even Hugh Grant earned 5 per cent of the boys' votes, though this was before news of his personal crisis. Anita Roddick (20 per cent) and Naomi Campbell (16 per cent) earned most votes from the girls.

Mr Blair's office told Carborundum that Tony had been too busy watching the Tory convulsions to notice the survey, but they did not expect that he would be unduly hurt. The survey had good news for schools, though - teaching was the most popular career choice after health care.

Watertight evidence in support of primary French has emerged from the oily lower decks of a cross-channel ferry. While loading was proceeding on the Ro- Ro at Calais docks, a bored 10-year-old boy wandered the car deck and fell into conversation with a group of men standing around a van.

The child observed that the van was stacked to capacity with crates of French lager. "Sir," asked the lad politely, "Why have you only bought alcohol-free beer?" "What's that, son?" "Look, all the cans say sans alcool - without alcohol."

Our young hero could only stand in astonishment as he watched the van's tyres burn up the car deck as its occupants made a desperate bid to reverse it off the ferry. But it was too late: the bow doors had closed on the insular entrepreneurs.

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you