9th December 2011 at 00:00

New challenges and new chances for a slight delay

At Conservative campaign headquarters, spinners were keen to downplay the effect of last week's strikes in accordance with their confusing policy of denouncing the industrial action as an appalling burden on ordinary working families, while simultaneously claiming that it was so insignificant that it had no effect.

But even as the @toryeducation Twitter account kept up a running commentary about schools and colleges that refused to close, under the hashtag #stayingopen, one part of the education public sector was paralysed by left-wing agitators.

FErret refers, of course, to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills: our man with the fingerless gloves and brazier at Victoria Street tells us that the Government's new plan for FE - a response to its New Challenges, New Chances consultation - was due to be published last Wednesday, but the strikes forced a one-day delay.

In a famous essay, Writing by Candlelight, the historian EP Thompson paid tribute to the "flaring up of the British spirit" in adversity, taking his cue from a Times letter writer during the power workers' strike of 1970, who wrote, "Sir: may I, writing by candlelight, express my full support for the Government ..."

Alas, there was no such defiance at the People's Republic for Business, Innovation and Skills, which has fallen into the hands of communists and rabble-rousers, and where no one could so much as upload a PDF, much less work by candlelight. #stayingclosed

Excellent opportunities to train in buck passing

With deputy prime minister Nick Clegg choosing Leeds College of Building to announce almost #163;1 billion for a "youth contract" to save youngsters from the dole, FErret was keen to learn how much would be spent on training.

Alas, only just over #163;400 million was accounted for in the chancellor's autumn statement, in subsidies for companies taking on new workers or apprentices. What about the rest? The Department for Work and Pensions said ask the Treasury. The Treasury said only the DWP knew. Joined-up Government means that the buck need never stop.

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