I finished Bite The Hand That Feeds You by Henry Fairlie, and also the late, great Frank Johnson's Best Seat In The House.
Fairlie - he coined the term 'The Establishment' in the 1950s - is pricey at £25, but is an interesting look at the politics of the period. The Johnson book is a collection of some of his best Spectator pieces and is, as you'd imagine if you ever read him, very funny indeed.
I started David Willetts' The Pinch, which suggests that the Baby Boom generation has royally screwed this country. As a post-Baby Boomer, I naturally agree.
We've just signed contracts with a teacher who will reveal what it's like in some of Britain's worst schools. Frank Chalk did this way back when we started, but the new book is based on a wider experience of more schools throughout the UK - the author left his cosy job in a decent comprehensive and spent a year working as a supply in some very challenging places. Unlike Chalk, he'll be writing under his own name, so we expect some good publicity and (I hope) decent sales when it comes out later this year.
I think the state of the education system is the single most important issue facing the country, and am very interested in Toby Young's ongoing efforts and also in the Tory proposals to introduce 'Swedish-style' schools here. I do worry slightly about Michael Gove. In a discussion between him and Chris Woodhead in the latest Standpoint, there is the following exchange:
Chris Woodhead: Cogita is a profit-making organisation. Our schools by and large are oversubscribed so in terms of the challenge of persuading people that it is a good idea to send their children to them, we've met that challenge. In terms of the taxpayer, my view is that the money that you Secretaries of State for Schools spend is given to you by parents and I don't see why you should not give the parents who want it the money back. Say you don't have to cash it just in a state school, but you can cash it also in a private school, and top it up.
Michael Gove: That's another area where I disagree.
CW: I don't know why philosophically, as a Conservative, you think that it is wrong for parents who wish to forgo their holiday or new car, to spend their money on their child's education.
MG: This is probably the area where I don't know what I am. Am I shockingly left-wing or am I being infected by the spirit of John Rawls?
Three months out from an election, if he doesn't know what he is we're in trouble!
Finally, we still have a small number of tickets available for our Theodore Dalrymple evening in Chelsea on Tuesday February 23. Call on 01455 221752 to order or for more info.