It isn’t enough to remove all memorials to those involved in the slave trade. We must remove all memorials to those related to those involved in the slave trade, too. A Labour council in London is considering new names for Gladstone Park, which was originally named in honour of William Ewart Gladstone, the 19th-century prime minister. Gladstone himself wasn’t a slaver, but his father was. So naturally the name will have to go.
In the quest to find a more modern and inclusive replacement, the council invited local schoolchildren for help. Reportedly their suggestions included “BAME Park”, “Multi-Faith Park” and “Diversity Fields”. Perhaps most striking, though, was the suggestion that the park be named after a current politician: Diane Abbott, the Labour MP for Hackney North & Stoke Newington.
No doubt some people will ridicule the idea, but I for one find it touching. It would be a nice gesture to Ms Abbott, after all the negative stories that have been published about her down the years. For example, the stories about her criticising Blairite colleagues for sending their children to selective schools – before sending her own son private. Or the stories about the comments she made in mid February on Ukraine (“Claims that Russia is the aggressor here should be treated very sceptically”). Or the stories about her comments from 1984 on Northern Ireland (“Every defeat of the British state is a victory for all of us”). Or the stories about the unfortunate interview she gave in 2017, during which she appeared to suggest that Labour would recruit 10,000 new police officers on an annual salary of £30 each.
On the other hand, perhaps we should not be too hasty to cancel Gladstone. I think Ms Abbott would encourage us to take a rounded, balanced view of controversial figures from history. She’s certainly done it herself in the past.
Speaking on BBC One in 2008, she said: “I suppose some people will judge that on balance [Chairman] Mao did more good than harm… He led [China] from feudalism, he helped to defeat the Japanese and he left his country on the verge of the great economic success they are having now.”
Of course, if you wanted to quibble, you might argue that he was also responsible for tens of millions of people’s deaths. But I suppose nobody’s perfect.
Our children have grown dangerously healthy
Teachers say they need larger classrooms. But this isn’t just because class sizes are bigger than ever.
It’s because pupils themselves are, too.
Speaking at a conference of teachers on Sunday, delegates complained that many pupils nowadays are simply too tall for their desks and chairs.
“The size of pupils is increasing,” lamented one delegate. “I feel like I’ve just entered the land of the giants when I walk into some of my A-level classes. As someone who’s a standard 5’8”, I really do feel vertically challenged.”
“The students have grown,” agreed another delegate. “They are crammed into chairs and desks which are absolutely not suitable for them. And where do they put their feet? In the aisle.”
Clearly something must be done. But we can’t just order bigger desks and chairs, because there isn’t enough space for them in our poky little classrooms. And we can’t afford to knock down every school in Britain and build bigger ones on top. Thankfully, however, I have an alternative solution.
Instead of buying bigger desks, we must produce shorter children.
According to experts, the reason today’s children are so much taller than the children of 50 or 100 years ago is that their diets are more varied and nutritious. To reverse the trend, therefore, we need to stop feeding our children fresh fruit, vegetables and other dangerously healthy items, and, from their earliest years, place them all on a strict diet of worthless junk.
In 2005, Jamie Oliver presented a series called Jamie’s School Dinners, in which he urged schools not to serve their pupils unhealthy food. In light of the weekend’s teaching conference, it’s clear that his campaign was sadly misguided. So what we need now is a follow-up series, in which Mr Oliver does the opposite. He must campaign for the return of Turkey Twizzlers, urge schools to replace milk with free fizzy drinks, and call for a ban on the sale of cabbage to anyone under the age of 18. In addition, he should lobby the Chancellor to dump the sugar tax in favour of a salad tax, to encourage parents to shop less sensibly.
During the filming of Jamie’s School Dinners, some local mothers passed junk food to pupils through the school railings. Mr Oliver was appalled. Yet now we can see that they had their children’s best interests at heart. Let us hope Mr Oliver has the good grace to concede that they were right all along.