BOSSY is one word for the way this government conducts itself. Other words are available, some of them of the four-letter variety, but let’s stick with the informal adjective for domineering.
Looking for examples of this behaviour is like scooping through a pond in search of tadpoles: examples of officiousness will soon be wriggling across your palm, along possibly with a big fat tyrannical toad.
Junior doctors know all about being bossed around by health secretary Jeremy Hunt (“You will sign this new contract…”); schools are frequently the butt of dictatorial demands (“You will all become academies…”); now reports are circulating that culture secretary John Whittingdale intends to tell the BBC that it cannot broadcast to shows such as Strictly Come Dancing at peak times.
The doctors’ dispute seems unending and while there are two sides to every industrial argument, it is hard not to conclude that Jeremy Hunt has made a difficult matter a thousand times worse. Bullying, condescending and just plain annoying – those are the complaints for which Hunt seems to have no cure.
Over in education, the equally irksome Nicky Morgan is demanding that schools become academies without any evidence that this would be beneficial – and also insisting that six-year-olds sit difficult key stage exams that involve hours of intensive work on spelling, punctuation and grammar.
We now expect young children in primary school to understand grammatical rules that most adults would struggle to gasp.
After today’s bank holiday break, these children will tomorrow have to sit the SATs exams – although some parents intend to keep their children off school in protest at the tests.
Some of the newspapers are calling this a ‘kids’ strike’, while the Let Our Kids Be Kids campaign says up to 30,000 children could be absent tomorrow.
The organisers say on their website that they are “sick of whinging in the school yard about the state of things and think it’s time to make a stand”.
They fear their children are “over tested, over worked and in a school system that places more importance of test results and league tables than childrens’ happiness and joy of learning”.
Now this is probably true, but it is a shame the above sentence contains a misplaced apostrophe, two absent hyphens and an ‘of’ instead of an ‘in’. Now that might sound pedantic, but if you are going to make a point it is best not to leave yourself open to obvious criticism.
The Daily Mirror reports that angry parents have “told how SATs tests are leaving their children stressed, in tears and unable to sleep as they fear being branded failures at the tender age of six”. The New Day says “many parents, teachers and education specialists believe that the standard set in the test is ‘developmentally inappropriate’”.
When not harrying doctors and teachers, the government is reported to have turned into makeshift TV schedulers by telling the BBC when it can broadcast its top shows and to avoid scheduling clashes with commercial rivals.
This government is already bullying the BBC and if this were true it would be something of an outrage. That famous acronym is rarely spelt out, but it is worth remembering that those letters stand for the British Broadcasting Corporation – and not the Government Broadcasting Corporation.
Commercial broadcasters have long complained about the power of the BBC, so perhaps they have been pouring poison into Mr Whittingdale’s ear. Some reports have been saying that the culture secretary wants to ban the broadcaster from going head-to-head with commercial rivals as part of the BBC charter review.
To be fair, the government has now denied that it has any such plans, although whether you choose to swallow that is open to choice. As a believer in the free market of thinking suspicious things about this government, I’d say we should still keep a wary eye on this space.
Due so such concerns, the BBC was embarrassed into dropping The Voice, which will now be shown on ITV. I wasn’t at all upset by this as I couldn’t bear to watch that show. ITV will now screen The Voice – that’s when it isn’t showing the X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent. So it looks like I won’t be watching ITV much at all.
The odd thing is, nowadays people watch television at all sorts of times and an all sorts of devices. So saying when the BBC can broadcast a hit show is pointless. And bossy.