Ok – so who’s Nadhim Zahawi? He is the UK Secretary of State (Minister) for Education. Recently he was the minister in charge of the vaccination programme. There, he was rudely successful – I say ‘rudely’ because he was a figure of rare competence in a Cabinet of unusually incompetent Ministers. His reward was a major spending Ministry – Education.
Purging the country of a pesky virus, enjoying a limitless credit card for buying vaccines and persuading a more than willing workforce to put in the hours to deliver it seems to have given him a model for action which he has carried with him to his oversight of the school system. Here’s the story. He found himself in a school in Nottingham (mid-England) where young kids had been invited to write letters to their local MP in response to a a children’s news programme which was critical of Prime Minister ‘Boris’ Johnson. Letters were written, and some were hugely critical of a Prime Minister who openly lies and dissimulates.
Zahawi condemned the school for politicising young children, and said that no school should encourage condemnation of political leaders. Nottingham has a Labour-led Council and the right-wing press (ie. most of the newspapers) gleefully made the connection and painted Zahawi as purging the education system of the pesky virus of left-leaning ideas. The school says….well, the school defends itself and is defended by many – not least by James O’Brien on LBC Radio here:
There’s a lot more more to the story – but this is sufficient. What do we make of it?
In a pure liberal democracy Zahawi might have a point about schools encouraging students into cynical views of government – might have. Depends on the context. But we no longer live in anything resembling a ‘pure, liberal democracy’, if we ever did. We live in a shell of a democracy in which a Queen celebrates 70 years as unelected Head of State; in which Ministers plunder public funds on behalf of friends and associates; where constitutional rules are broken by government in Parliament with impunity; where the Prime Minister advocates breaking international law and unlawfully closes Parliament for not agreeing with him; and where the government sees to impose Texas-type voter restrictions – all of these abuses of democracy having no sanction and only ineffectual checks and balances.
Now Zahawi, himself, is familiar with such government systems. His family were refugees from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Would he not have approved of criticism of Saddam in Iraq’s schools – encouraged it, perhaps, so long as children were protected from consequences?
But how can we compare Britain with a brutally repressive regime like that? Well, not so difficult, it turns out. This British government has eroded legal defence systems; attacked judges and lawyers; is about to ask the police to stop people in the street and search them without any suspicion and as they please; is proposing laws that will suppress public protests. Repressive regimes do not exist in a world of their own. They are part of our world and exist on a single spectrum which goes from liberal at one end to repressive at the other. Britain is rapidly moving in the direction of a repressive regime in which corrupt politicians enjoy immunity.
So – would we want to live in Zahawi’s world in which ministers are free to suppress critique by the younger generation of the corrupted democracy they are to inherit? Or would he, back in Saddam’s Iraq, simply sit in dumb expectation that the younger generation somehow resists socialisation into that same lamentable state of political decadence?