Politics poked in the eye

1st September 2006 at 01:00
An irreverent book about the corridors of power is aiming to rekindle young people's interest, reports Jenny Legg

"Politicians are lying wankers with bad hair, even worse suits and a strange habit of using five words when one would be enough."

These lines from a new book on British politics should be enough to make any class sit up and pay attention.

Bali Rai's Politics - Cutting Through the Crap aims to re-engage young people with the political system, and teachers are cautiously optimistic that the controversial text littered with expletives will succeed in gaining pupils' interest.

Dr Bill Jones, the former chairman of the Politics Association, said:

"There's a huge need to engage young people in the political process as they seem to be totally alienated. It's horrifying for the future of democracy.

"Unfortunately, kids who don't give a fig about politics are not likely to read any book on politics. But there is always the power of word of mouth.

If it has a buzz about it and gets mentioned by other kids as a good read, it will catch on."

Matthew Burfield, who leads citizenship education at The Charter school in south-east London, said: "Anything that interests kids in politics is a good thing but I am not sure a book with such strong opinions and words is appropriate.

"Politics textbooks could be better aimed at young people, but I think we want our kids to be more articulate than this."

Mr Rai, 34, a politics graduate and children's writer who lives in Leicester, has sworn to pulp the book if politicians such as Tony Blair or David Cameron like it.

He said: "It's not for politicians or people with vast political knowledge.

It's not meant as a balanced textbook. It is simply a guide to the way things work the way I see it.

"It's ridiculous that we are given the vote at 18 and told to treasure it when most young people don't understand what the parties stand for or how the system works."

Mr Rai surveyed more than 1,200 pupils at Burntwood school in Tooting, Djanogly city academy in Nottingham, Loxford school of science and technology in Ilford, and Pilton community college in Barnstaple to find out what they knew about politics.

Mr Rai said: "The common belief is that young people are apathetic about politics, but that isn't the case.

"About 90 per cent said they would vote in the next election, but the same amount said they did not trust what politicians said."

In the book, which is published this month, he lambasts the Conservative party for being "old, white, posh" except for leader David Cameron, whose most salient feature is his youth.

He nicknames the Prime Minister Tony Blair "Tory Blur" and the "jug-eared Judas of Number 10" and reminds readers that the former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy lost his job because he "admitted to being a pisshead".

Mr Rai said: "A lot of it is a rant on my part, but I hope people will get something out of it."

* jenny.legg@tes.co.uk

Politics - Cutting through the Crap is published by Walker Books this month, priced pound;5.99


What Mr Rai says:

Faith schools

"Real, single-faith institutions make me want to puke. What a great way to encourage harmony among our children. Keep them separated... yep, that'll work. A particular favourite of the Reverend Tony Blair, these. And a sure-fire way to create even more divided communities."

City academies

"Brilliant teachers, brilliant kids; stupid, useless managers and a useless building. Welcome to the school of the future..."

Top-up fees

"Every expert on higher education knows that charging for university will lead to a fall in the number of poorer students."


"Eventually, they'll be giving those to babies in the womb... When I was at junior school we used to paint fishes and stick tacks into fat kids'

bottoms. Now they're all full of angst and stressing about sodding SATs."

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