Our shortage of well-trained workers — and how to fix it
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If a drunken woman and a drunken man have sex, our legal system treats the man as a rapist. That’s wrong — and patronisingImagine, for a moment, that you’ve had a few sherries. Perhaps, even, more than a few; perhaps you have enjoyed that most pernicious of doses: the one that leaves you on the right side of consciousness but the wrong side of common sense. In which demonically stupid state, you do things that you would never do when sober: you prang a car, smash a window, break a nose, bare a backside, betray a confidence, dish an insult or, more generally, just bore for England.
It’s strange how quickly a revolution becomes ordinary. For decades, Egypt was the quintessential Middle East police state, but now the sight of freshly sprayed ‘Fuck you Mubarak’ graffiti seems normal. Cairo’s famous traffic gridlock is long gone; the shops are shuttered. Amid the protestors in Tahrir Square, dozens of young and middle-aged men are picking up rubbish and piling it into the scorched carcass of a police truck.
Make no mistake: the Muslim Brothers’ vision for Egypt is a frightening oneHosni Mubarak should be given credit for at least one achievement in his three decades in power: his deft exploitation of Washington’s fears about the Muslim Brotherhood. There is, in fact, no evidence that the Brotherhood has ever been able to count on the support of more than a small minority. For its part, the Brotherhood has used Mubarak’s persecution of its rank-and-file membership with equal cleverness to elevate its status within Egypt and, perhaps more importantly, among the champions of ‘moderate Islam’ in the West.
First Tunisia, then Egypt. Whatever next? The laws of the Arab world are supposed to prohibit any domino effect: the military is supposed to be too strong, the governments too unresponsive. But these laws no longer hold now that two of North Africa’s most deeply entrenched leaders have been unsettled by popular protests. The ‘Arab street’ has suddenly become aware of the power it can wield. When President Ben Ali fled Tunisia with his wife (and perhaps some of the country’s gold reserves) alarm bells rang in palaces across the region.
Experts debate what happens next in Egypt and the countries around it
In his retirement, Dwight Eisenhower admitted that the biggest foreign policy mistake of his presidency had been not supporting Anthony Eden over the Suez crisis. How right he was. If Arab nationalism had been strangled in its cradle in 1956 by the vigorous action that Eden, and also initially Hugh Gaitskell, prescribed, then the oil-price hikes of the early 1970s and all the economic woes that flowed from them would never have happened.
Critics have been predicting the death of the public lecture ever since Johannes Gutenberg got his printing press going in 1450. Why bother negotiating the market-day crowds in downtown Mainz to hear someone read from the Bible, when you can sit by the fire in your parlour and read your own copy? The same argument was made ad nauseum about the internet when it first kicked off: who on earth will bother trotting off to an expensive talk when you can see and hear the best lecturers in the world on your computer for free? TED, an American website, offers you hours of fun from David Cameron, Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the internet, and the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
Sunday was a fairly dismal time for me, as a kid — and indeed for our dog, Skipper.Sunday was a fairly dismal time for me, as a kid — and indeed for our dog, Skipper. Church I could just about put up with, but Sunday school was an embarrassment too far: I would scurry home from it in fear that my friends might see me, wracked with shame, like a Tory MP on his way home from a visit to the rent boy. Attending Sunday school did not do much for you with your mates, in the way of kudos.
Stand-up comedians: is there anything they can’t do? Not only do they make up a huge proportion of chat-show guests — and of chat-show hosts — they also present Horizon, give us guides to the night sky, utterly dominate panel shows and regularly pop up on Question Time. Recently, they even set up their own news discussion programme in the as yet formless shape of Ten O’Clock Live. And that’s just television.
I have a confession to make. In 18 years in government, I have never come up with a policy that was instantly popular. Today, as Justice Secretary, my job is to mend Britain’s broken prison system and make it less expensive. My proposals have prompted widespread criticism, not least from The Spectator, which said recently on its leader page that decreasing the number of prisoners in Britain will lead to more crime.
Few of us understand what is going on at the dusty end of the Med. There may be a few chinstrokers who cup, in their wizened palms, a concise comprehension of the Cairo crisis — see pages 14 to 18 — but the rest of us struggle for something to say.Vivid reporting has been sparse. The Today programme produced an English-speaking dentist in Cairo but he let the side down by saying, before Thought for the Day, how ‘pissed off’ the protesters were.