Sir Keith's greatest miss

17th December 2004 at 00:00
Band Aid is set to be number one again this Christmas and it is heartening to know that the nation's schoolchildren are largely responsible for this.

The young are fundamentally good and caring people, as we know.

That said, the song's revival after 20 years has brought back many personal memories of how merciless they can be. December 1984 marked the grand finale of my first term as a qualified teacher, a month when my seemingly uncontrollable classes scaled new and probably unprecedented heights of slapstick lawlessness as I attempted to offer "fun" lessons in the run-up to Christmas. "Do they know it's Christmas?" was the seasonal number that several of the girls in 3BR (Year 9s in today's currency) would habitually shriek during my last few lessons of the term. I would then drive home in a miserable stew with the song playing again on the radio.

It was back to a fume-infested flat above an industrial roundabout for a dark and lonely evening of vengeful report writing and endless preparation of another day's lessons. The local commercial radio station would usually provide the background music and Bob and Midge's opus was, of course, never more than a few minutes away from being played again.

It was not all bad though. The education minister at the time was Sir Keith Joseph. Not a popular name in the staffroom (less popular were to follow) though I thought him then to be an unusually inspirational figure. It was easy to identify with the ridiculed figure who had a personal mission, but few listened and some threw eggs.

I sometimes used to imagine him taking time out from Planet Joseph to come in personally to sort out some of my classes. An awestruck silence would surely descend upon the room as the class fixed their collective gaze on that intense brow and on those crying, messianic eyes. In the unlikely event of any of them trying to break his spell by screaming another line from that song again I was sure that one of Sir Keith's involuntary north-easterly twitches of the head would soon make them think again.

In common with Sir Bob Geldof, Sir Keith was a natural figurehead and it was disappointing that Bob and Midge did not invite him to deliver one of the lines in that original recording. Consider the warbling emotion he could have put into "And there won't be snow in Africa this Christmas time".

He was the Dizzee Rascal of his day and today's gangsta rappers are but a pale shadow of the mad-eyed monetarist.

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