8th July 2016 at 00:00
U-turn in the Nick of time

Bolesing it up

The political drama that has unfolded since the European Union referendum has yielded enough treachery, plot twists and blood-letting to fill a Shakespearean tragedy.

The attempted coup by Labour MPs to overthrow Jeremy Corbyn was just the warm-up act. Before long, former education secretary Michael Gove found himself in a familiar position as the centre of attention. Yes, after knifing his old ally – the outgoing, pro-remain prime minister David Cameron – in the back by supporting the Brexit campaign, he then finished off heir apparent Boris Johnson by refusing to support him and publicly proclaiming that “Boris cannot provide the leadership or build the team for the task ahead”. Ouch.

It may have been less dramatic, but just as much of a U-turn was performed by skills minister Nick Boles. On Monday, he wrote a passionate article explaining why “in the national interest, we must elect Johnson”. Many would “struggle with the choice I am recommending”, he conceded, but he insisted that Johnson would “lead the country with the same humanity and sense of fairness that he brought to the leadership of our capital city”.

Fair play to ardent remainer Bolesy for making a difficult decision and sticking with it. For all of three days.

On Thursday, Gove threw his hat into the ring. Within minutes, the news emerged that Boles would be leading Gove’s campaign.

FErret finds it hard not to conclude that Boles – along with a growing number of MPs – is looking for the most likely winner, with a view to furthering his own political career. A quick recap may explain why.

Only elected as an MP in 2010, the founder of the Policy Exchange thinktank was tipped as a rising star. When he was appointed skills minister in 2014, many assumed the highly rated politician would soon be progressing to bigger and better things.

When after the general election it was announced that he was staying in the FE beat, by all accounts he was as shocked as anyone. Now, it seems, at a make-or-break point in his political career, Boles has been willing to switch sides to give himself the best possible chance of landing a more high-profile job.

FErret will be keeping a close, yet sceptical, eye on this one.

Blended earning

Another major consequence of the EU referendum has been the number of appalling puns on the already-appalling compound word that it spawned: Brexit.

FErret is sad to report that even the FE sector has indulged in this crass new pastime – and is looking sternly in the direction of Peter Kilcoyne, information and learning technology director at Heart of Worcestershire College.

Credit where credit’s due, the college has done some sterling work in setting up the Blended Learning Consortium to spread best practice in digital learning across the sector. Some 66 colleges have now signed up, visitors at its conference about the project heard last week.

After stumping up a membership fee of £5,000 plus VAT, Kilcoyne reckons colleges get access to blended learning content worth £330,000 – equating to efficiency savings of more than £20 million across the member colleges.

All laudable stuff. But Kilcoyne just couldn’t help himself, telling the conference that, as all the consortium’s members had decided to continue their membership, there had been no…drum roll…“Blexit”. Groan.

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