If there’s a problem in Birmingham it’s too gnarled and subtle for PMQs. Easy sling-shots and grabby sloganising are all that’s required. Ed Miliband had found a simple point of entry to the issue. Buck-passing. Who, he asked, is responsible for monitoring schools that incubate extremism?
The answer is fivefold, said the PM. Head teachers, school governors, local authorities, Ofsted and ultimately Whitehall. Which is plenty. But not for Ed. He wants to recruit a whole new tranche of liberal storm-troopers, on 24-hour stand-by, ready to swoop on rogue schools and airlift extremist teachers out of the class-room. ‘A proper system of local oversight’ was how he described this task-force. Which is good news if you happen to be a teacher disillusioned with teaching. Any new inspectorate is bound to be crammed with school-averse pedagogues in search of a fresh career. That’s how Ofsted works.
Cameron wasn’t convinced by the case for yet more mullah monitors. He said Ofsted’s policy of paying visits without prior notice would offer a swift and flexible solution. Really? These ‘no notice’ visits have proved pretty hopeless so far. Ofsted visits and the school takes ‘no notice.’
Miliband moved to the happier ground of the Home Office. All winter the Labour leader has prayed for a flu epidemic and a cull of thousands of pensions. But it never materialised. Summer is here and the gods have finally delivered a proper crisis: a passport famine. Delays and hold-ups in the franking office have already caused many thousands of Brits to cancel their flights and to miss their spell of summer wanderlust.
This, of course, must make life unusually tranquil for those in tourist hotspots overseas.