There is an unforgettable moment in the third Harry Palmer film Billion Dollar Brain, where the paranoid General Midwinter (Ed Begley) is ranting about Communists, and Palmer (Michael Caine) is trying to make the point that there may not be much point to the outburst. “Who’re you fighting, General?” he asks, quietly but firmly. The same could be asked of flannelled fool Henry Cole.
I don't need to spell properly, cos I'm on telly!
Master Cole, left in sole charge of the Guido Fawkes blog while the perpetually thirsty Paul Staines piles off to another of his four houses for the kind of holiday he would readily deny rotten lefties like the Guardian’s Polly Toynbee, has gone off on a rantfest that would satisfy the most discerning rant connoisseur, on a subject on which he is automatically an expert, that being Trades Unions.
Cole’s expertise extends, of course, to knowing that these bodies are A Very Bad Thing Indeed, although his study of them extends to very little more than the proverbial diddly squat. This mirrors his knowledge of rail travel: he sneers at enthusiasts but then fails to turn up at the right station for his train, even when only presented with a choice of one (and it cost him serious money as a result).
What's wrong is you, matey, not them
But what Cole cannot get into his head is that ignorance is not a merit badge: if you don’t know the first thing about a subject, it is advisable to learn the basics before claiming to be an authority on it. Instead, he assumes that because others of a similar persuasion view Trades Unions as something to be attacked at every turn, he must do the same, and thus has formed an irrational hatred of them.
More trouble smelling his worms
So, as with General Midwinter, he doesn’t really know who he’s fighting, but he’s going to fight them anyway. A typical example is his assertion “Unions taking £2.5m from MOD while troops are being slashed”. Unions are not taking anything from [the] MOD, as I’ve pointed out previously. But Cole does not want to concern himself with learning, as he knows all about it already.
And he's got the survey results ... or maybe not
And the kind of learning he knows all about is what happens in schools: “Had many inspiring teachers who were not formally trained. They outshone the deadwood union types who are impossible to sack” he froths. Maybe things were different when Master Cole was undergoing his suitably expensive private education, but when I was at school I wouldn’t have known whether my teachers were unionised or not.
Spot the agitator? What the hell, rant anyway
But he knows that unions mean “agitators”. Oh yes, because “Poisonous teaching unions are kicking off again. A cornered vested interest group who are a hinderence to the improvement of education”. That’s “which is” and “hindrance”, Hen. Clearly your private primary school English teachers didn’t manage to instil the confidence in the language in you that my state school ones did.
What untrained teaching leads to
For Cole’s own good, he needs to do some learning before he goes badly wrong.