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John Rentoul

John Rentoul is chief political commentator for The Independent on Sunday, and visiting fellow at Queen Mary, University of London, where he teaches contemporary history. Previously he was chief leader writer for The Independent. He has written a biography of Tony Blair, whom he admired more at the end of his time in office than he did at the beginning.

"The Independent's must-read man" - Daniel Finkelstein

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Posted by John Rentoul
  • Tuesday, 1 September 2009 at 08:55 pm
I am worried that my Blairite Ultra gold star badge is going to be taken away from me.

First Conor Ryan, the best blogger on education who worked for David Blunkett and The Man himself, has commented on my post on the success of academies in the GCSE results - to say that I have not given academies sufficient credit. I copied out of The Guardian the  5.1 percentage-point rise in the proportion of pupils gaining five A-C including English and Maths in academies, against the average 2.5 point rise for all schools. Ryan writes:

Actually, when Maths and English are included, the improvement last year for all schools was +1.3 percentage points, suggesting an even better improvement by academies.

Now a correspondent has emailed to complain about my post saying that Shirley Williams is always either wrong or banal - to say that I have been "too soft" on her:
In the course of a single appearance on Question Time, she was confronted with questions relating to Salman Rushdie's knighthood and issues of free speech. The responses she gave in each case come close to serving as self-contained case studies for everything that is rotten in a certain strand of British liberalism.

My correspondent is right, of course. It was the extraordinary programme of 22 June 2007, which featured both Hitchens brothers, Boris Johnson and Tony McNulty. She was forced to defend her previous opposition to the award of a knighthood, saying it was "not very clever" because Rushdie had "deeply offended Muslims in a very powerful way", and he had "been protected by the British police for many years at great expense to the taxpayer".

My correspondent is wrong, however, about one thing. He concludes: "Needless to say, she received extensive applause."

In fact, having just re-watched it on YouTube, she didn't. And that, from an audience that will normally clap the plague as the answer to high house prices if you get the cadence of your voice right, was some, richly deserved, humiliation.