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10 ways to Build Back Better

I’ve seen plenty of talk about ‘Building Back Better’ over the last few weeks.

Unfortunately, most of the rhetoric has come from people whose ideological and political beliefs conflict with mine, which makes me concerned that ‘Building Back Better’ is going to be used as a friendly front-end for an attack on anyone lacking privilege.

As a small way to counter that impending narrative, then, here are some suggestions on how we can make post-pandemic better than pre-pandemic for most of us.

  1. Distribute wealth by mercilessly taxing people who profit from the labour of others (and/or surveillance capitalism)
  2. Distribute power by providing worker ownership of businesses and public ownership of public goods
  3. Reform our democratic systems by introducing proportional representation to safeguard against authoritarian tendencies
  4. Take steps to integrate marginalised groups within society, and generously fund programmes to ensure this happens
  5. Reimagine education to focus on more on collaboration than competition
  6. Heavily tax organisations that make profits by exploiting scarce natural resources
  7. Ban facial recognition in all but a very narrow range of cases, and regulate it well
  8. Invest in mental health services, especially for young people and those hit hardest by the pandemic
  9. Engage in land (ownership) reform to ensure that the few do not constrain the many
  10. Ban pension funds from investing in ethically-dubious companies (e.g. conflict minerals, arms manufacturers)

It’s a mixed bag, and comes off the top of my head this morning. Nevertheless, the above is probably quite uncontroversial for the kind of people who read this blog.

What would your list look like?


This post is Day 56 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at 100daystooffload.com 

Climate ch-ch-ch-changes

I can remember as a child my mother picking blackberries while waiting to pick me up from school. They’d appear just before ‘blackberry week’ which was literally the name people gave to October half-term.

Now, 30 years later, blackberries appear around 10 weeks earlier here, ready to be picked in mid-August. That makes for tasty summer holiday desserts, but leaves me slightly concerned about the pace of climate change.

In the last week, we’ve had scorching hot weather in the UK, followed by intense thunderstorms which led to flooding that derailed a train.

Of course, things are worse on many fronts elsewhere; there are plenty of people, especially refugees, who are desperate to seek asylum in our country. Yet, instead of thinking in a joined-up way about the global climate emergency and the effect it will have on migration over the next 30 years, the inept UK government sends in the Royal Navy.

Within my lifetime, those in charge have missed so many opportunities to steer us of disaster, meaning that now we haven’t got long to avert climate catastrophe. I just hope that elections over the next few years replace the emotional toddlers we’ve got running the show with some grown-ups committed to action.


This post is Day 31 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at 100daystooffload.com

You are not Mr Gove’s audience

I’m a big fan of paying attention to what people and organisations actually do rather than what they say they’re doing.

Let’s take Michael Gove as a for instance. Last year I asked whether there was evidence he is systematically dismantling English state education. If we take the 30,000ft view, what’s changed since then? Certainly nothing in terms of the trajectory in which he’s trying (and largely succeeding) to take state education in England.

If you’re a teacher, you’re not really Mr Gove’s audience. If you’re a parent you might be – but only if you read his semi-official outlets such as the Daily Telegraph or Daily Mail. So who is Gove’s real audience? Well the Conservative Party for one (he wants to be the next leader) as well as big business. Both applaud his moves to introduce the logic of the market into state education.

The ideals of the right in politics include lower government spending and private enterprise competing in a marketplace with as little regulation as possible. This is the future for our schools in England under Michael Gove; Academy chains, already growing larger, will be allowed to make a profit as the ‘saviours’ to progressively-defunded state schools. Chomsky was right.

There’s nothing new about Gove’s approach, apart from a maybe a new kind of clinical cynicism. Schools will be forced into becoming Academies by hook or by crook. He’s already changed the Ofsted inspection regime, caused chaos via the EBacc, and suggested lower pay for teachers (under the smokescreen of ‘performance-related pay’). We can look at all of these things as separate examples of a floundering Education Secretary who doesn’t know what he’s doing, or we see them as the constituent parts of a approach by a manipulative politician who plays Realpolitik. 

Image CC BY-NC Thomas Hawk

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