NOTHING screams incompetence like buildings collapsing on school children.
Indeed, I can only imagine the look on Rishi Sunak’s face when he woke up to see his Premiership dragged into yet another scandal.
More than 100 schools are to be closed because of fears that the light concrete with which they are made could collapse.
The offending concrete, a lighter material that actually floats, was widely used from the 1950s to mid-1990s, and since then there have been calls to upgrade school infrastructure to avoid the kinds of collapses we are seeing today.
Clearly, the timing couldn’t be worse, with pupils due to return to school. And yesterday’s posturing from our politicians was excruciating.
TV viewers were treated to the sight of Education Secretary Gillian Keegan making it all about her. After being grilled by ITV News on the scandal she rounded off the chat complaining that she hasn’t been given enough praise for her dealing with the mess.
Others “have been sat on their a**es” and she hadn’t been thanked for doing “a f***ing good job”. Hmmm. And what exactly was that, Gillian?
Meanwhile, PM Rishi Sunak tried to paper over his own role in all of this.
He was slammed by a former education department permanent secretary for refusing to properly fund a schools rebuilding programme when he was Chancellor, despite evidence there was a “critical risk to life”.
Sunak claimed it wasn’t his fault and in fact he had “announced a new ten-year school re-building programme for 500 schools in 2020. What an unseemly mess.
But the real problem doesn’t only lie with the delusional Keegan, or what Sunak did or didn’t do in his few years as Chancellor.
Like his colleagues, the PM is only one man in a long line of politicians who have routinely kicked the can down the road.
The problem lies with successive governments who have been reluctant to spell out the dire state of Britain’s finances.
Yes, it is true that the Tories have had 13 years to fix this school collapse problem and haven’t.
It is also true that David Cameron’s government axed Gordon Brown’s schools rebuilding programme during the years of austerity. But the reality is that a nation which apparently believes the NHS and pensions funding should be without limit never has a spare billion, or £55billion to be precise, to fix buildings until they actually start crumbling. And that is the uncomfortable truth.
Adequate levels of public spending, or lack thereof, have been a problem ever since our national debt started swelling to eye-watering levels.
And the Labour Party would do well to remember that.
The last Labour government had been running up our national debt at an incredible £160billion a year before 2010. With such unsustainable levels of government spending, tough choices were always going to be made.
To capitalise on this fiasco by lambasting the Tories for incompetence only tells one side of the story.
The UK no longer has the comfort of shaving off a few quid from department budgets to finance vast public expenditure. And the economy is just not growing enough to be able to justify any extra investment.
Society will take a hit
Over the past ten years, average GDP growth has remained at around two per cent. And governments have had to make do with carving up a smaller and smaller pie.
This Catch-22 the country finds itself in is why things wouldn’t change under Labour, whatever they pretend.
Tellingly, the party could not promise to reinstate their flagship school rebuilding programme yesterday. And we all know why — there is no money!
“Britain’s disease” of living hand to mouth means that the lack of system resilience of our infrastructure will become more glaring as time goes on.
And this reality will only worsen as we come to grips with pensions, health and social care costs rising in line with an ageing demographic.
Austerity has reached its limits, and so the only wiggle room left is to raise taxes. A prospect so terrifying that Keir Starmer has made a point of ruling it out entirely.
In many ways, scandals such as this prove short-lived PM Liz Truss right.
Far be it from me to vindicate the woman whose Premiership was outlasted by a lettuce, but she highlighted an issue that our politicians have long ignored.
Such poor levels of economic growth, coupled with ever-growing public spending, have meant we live above our means and no government has had the guts to say so.
To re-chart the ship, all levels of society will need to take a hit. A prospect that is as appealing to the electorate as a bout of gonorrhoea.
Things wouldn’t change under Labour, no matter how much they say so. And the shallow opportunism of Labour solely blaming the Tories for poor public investment will only come to light when most of the country’s problems do not suddenly disappear under a Starmer-led government.
Emma is buzzing for attention
THE latest craze in Hollywood is to be incredibly boring while pretending to be interesting. And it is so pervasive that even the most unrecognisable faces will pull stunts for attention.
Cue Emma Corrin, the British actor known only for playing Princess Diana in The Crown.
Emma describes pronouns as “evolving”. Last year, they were she/they. Now it’s they/them.
Tomorrow it may be a “pizza”. Who knows? But if the shaved head, peculiar style or empty facial expressions didn’t give away that Emma is “different” and oh-so-edgy, perhaps pairing a khaki cardigan with sheer tights and tan brogues for an event held at the Venice Film Festival on Sunday, will.
Some people call it avant-garde. I call it a desperate need for attention.
Jadon is all drama
AS a lifelong Manchester United fan, watching their 3-1 defeat to Arsenal on Sunday was enough to ruin my entire week.
But why did they lose so badly? United fans came up with all sorts of elaborate theories.
Including the notable absence of Jadon Sancho, who manager Erik Ten Hag omitted from the match because of his “lacklustre” performances during training.
Almost immediately, Sancho took to social media to release a statement of his own – conflicting what Ten Hag said and claiming to be a “scapegoat”.
This is extremely bad sportsmanship.
What happens in the locker room should stay in the locker room.
Sancho’s grievances are not an opportunity to turn the Premier League into an episode of The Real Housewives.
Keir is riding fence
SIR Keir Starmer’s latest Shadow Cabinet re-shuffle is giving the public a taste of what to expect if the Labour Party win at the next general election.
His latest picks scream more “New Labour” and less “Momentum à la Corbyn” – a clear sign of which faction he believes will give him a greater chance of securing Downing Street.
Notable moderates have been placed in key positions, like Liz Kendall, who has now been made shadow work and pensions secretary. And five special advisers from the Blair/Brown era have also featured in the Shadow Cabinet.
Although Sir Keir did not radically change the top jobs, namely the Shadow Chancellor and the Shadow Home Secretary, he made a point of not side-lining Angela Rayner either.
Despite rumours of tensions between the pair, Miss Rayner has been formally lined up to become Deputy Prime Minister upon a Labour victory. Either way, it is obvious Mr Starmer is towing the centrist line to not spook moderate voters. Whether it will work? Only time will tell.
A lazy fix for obese
THE weight-loss drug Wegovy is being made available on the NHS as part of a “controlled and limited launch”.
For many, this drug could be a game-changer in the fight against obesity.
But what does it say about this country where, with over one in four adults being obese, we just prescribe a jab to shed the weight.
Shouldn’t the NHS be more proactive in tackling the root cause of such unhealthy lifestyles in the first place?
Obviously, none of us want to live in a nanny state, the likes of which brought us a proposed ban on Bogof food and drink deals. It is certainly not a few supermarket bargains that are causing this epidemic.
A one-size-fits-all drug for bingeing sins is not the answer.
It is diet, exercise and education, something the NHS seems too lazy to promote now.
U-turn a wind-up
A POTENTIAL Tory revolt has forced Rishi Sunak to overturn the effective ban on onshore wind farms.
The move comes as MPs are preparing to vote on the Government’s contentious Energy Bill, with backbenchers backing a proposed amendment to scrap the ban. In reality, though, this move will likely be a lot of hot air.
Under the planning rules, councils will be able to give the green light to proposed turbines only where there is broad public support.
And given the Nimbys’ strong lobby against them, this is nothing more than lip service.
But another U-turn is not a great look for Mr Sunak, who pledged to keep the ban in place when he took over as PM.