22nd April 2011 at 01:00

Pay up, or else

Did the education maintenance allowance (EMA) lead to a fall in the crime rate? FErret is not going to get all Freakonomics - he hardly knows one end of a spreadsheet from the other - but that's the claim being made by supporters.

EMA campaigners have pointed to a 35 per cent drop in juvenile burglary since it was introduced, as students presumably no longer needed to steal your Xbox to pay for the bus to college.

They acknowledge that the Home Office's Reducing Burglary Initiative may have been another factor - although the fact that one item of research in it is titled "Pretend It Works" may be a reason to dismiss it.

FErret yields to no one in support of the EMA, but he wonders if "pay up, or we'll rob you" is really the right tactic. It's like getting a visit from some East End enforcer looking for his protection money: "Lovely house, sir, be a shame if anything happened to it."

Smooth operator

Political commentators sifted through the reasons why business secretary Vince Cable might have launched his biggest confrontation yet with the prime minister last week, when he called David Cameron's remarks on immigration and language "very unwise".

They wondered if he was still resentful about being stripped of the decision over Rupert Murdoch's buyout of BSkyB and said he felt strongly about the issue because he defied his family to marry his Goan first wife.

Well, here's another idea: if the first thing everyone in FE thought about Mr Cameron's speech was the hypocrisy of the Coalition cutting English language courses, you can bet that Mr Cable saw that coming, too.

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