Welcome to the Age of Distorted Accountability

23rd April 2010 at 01:00

"Vote and Win!" This packet of biscuits wants to know whether I think "the nation should dunk or not". Here we are, weeks away from the closest election since the 1970s and these biscuits want me to take sides in their Dunking Wars. If you're a biscuit, dunking is like Sats. It divides the profession.

You can waste your life voting for things: your favourite mouse mat, a cow, even for the best humming noise. We ought to be fired up for the big one, but the turnout for this election could be less than 59 per cent, the lowest of modern times.

"A plague o' both your duck houses!" is the attitude of many who refuse to vote. The abuse of power is perhaps most resented by those in a micromanaged profession such as teaching. Welcome to ADA: the Age of Distorted Accountability. Teachers must spend their weekend ticking boxes, but can't even dance in the streets at the end of it.

By contrast, if you are an MP under investigation, relax - your voters may not even know about it. If you are a banker with a large bonus, just mutter something about public-sector pensions. And if you are the Pope, say that customers should know what to expect by now. Actually, if you are the Pope, you can say what you like because you have what the Vatican is pleased to call "nonresponsibility".

Can you imagine a headmaster letting a known sex offender continue teaching "for the good of the universal education system"? Would a deputy head do what the Vatican's secretary of state did last week, and blame paedophilia on homosexuals? The demon who is running the Vatican press office could say that spaniels are good in pies and the Pope would just glide away on his nonresponsible wheels. He should remember Matthew 18:6: "But who so shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea." Or stay in the job. Whatever.

Meanwhile, under Labour's vetting and barring scheme, up to nine million adults in the UK are seen as potentially guilty until proven innocent. Registration is voluntary for the self-employed, such as private tutors, and costs pound;64. In a recent poll for thetutorpages.com website, nearly three-quarters of tutors say they will not register. Seventy per cent think the scheme will not protect children from paedophiles. I agree. It's like buying a hat with "I Am Not A Spy" on it.

Distorted accountability makes people angry and cynical. And yet, as Mahatma Gandhi said, "If you do nothing there will be no result."

Good luck, then, to Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, who want to have the Pope arrested for "crimes against humanity" when he visits Britain in September. And good luck to the man in his Flipper the dolphin costume who will not let voters in Buckingham forget that John Bercow "flipped" his second home.

Today is St George's Day, and there are still too many powerful dragons sneaking about getting their own way. Yet the spirit of St George is abroad in all those who vote, campaign or work for justice. Those dragons aren't going to slay themselves.

Catherine Paver, Writer and part-time English teacher.


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