Let us take the man at his word. ‘We should start saying what we do mean,’ Tony Blair told his party in 1994. New Labour should promise only what it was sure it could deliver. And at the heart of those promises was education, education, education. ‘I would like,’ he said six months before his election, ‘to be able to look back and recognise that in the late 1990s my Labour government began the process of establishing the creative, vibrant, successful education service our country desperately needs.
I’d been in Park City less than 24 hours when I spotted the man himself. I was standing on Main Street talking to one of American television’s most distinguished comedy directors when Mr Sundance happened to walk past.‘Would you like to meet him?’ asked the director.‘You’re kidding, right?’‘Follow me.’Unfortunately, as soon as we’d taken a step towards this Hollywood legend, his mobile phone rang.
With its move into 22 Old Queen Street, The Spectator will occupy a house full of friendly ghosts and memories of grand occasions in the world of the arts in the first quarter of the 20th century. For this elegant mansion in Westminster was for over 30 years the London home of Leo Frank Schuster, known to all his circle as Frankie, a patron of the arts and friend of the composers Edward Elgar and Gabriel Fauré and of the conductor Adrian Boult and the poet Siegfried Sassoon.
Scandals have anniversaries, too, and another has just passed. In January 2006, it emerged that the Education Department (DfES) had authorised Paul Reeve — a man who had a police caution for viewing child pornography and was on the Sex Offenders Register — to be employed as a PE teacher in a school in Norwich. In May 2005, civil servants advised Kim Howells, an education minister at the time, that the man should be given only a warning, was not a risk to children, had not been convicted of an offence and that no child had been harmed.
I find it hard to overstate the importance of the BBC in ensuring a sense of continuity and cohesion in our national life. As an institution it is far from perfect, but it does continue to offer the possibility of an eventual victory for sanity over nihilism in the evolution of the nation’s media output. That may sound a little ‘over the top’, but having lived through a couple of weeks of Big Brother media excess it doesn’t feel all that much of an overstatement.