Picture of a judge's wigThe Judge RANTS!Picture of a judge's wig

Date: 17/03/05

Chopping The Wood(craft) or Work For Peace, Lose Your Funding

Tyranny comes in many forms, and doesn't need to be obvious or overt in the way in which it develops. Indeed, the lower-key and the more insidious its growth, the better (from the point of view of those instituting it). That way you can lull the dear populace with emollient statements until that Great Day is reached when you no longer need to, as there's nothing they could do anymore to stop you.

Wedges can have very thin ends indeed.

Which is why I don't think it's paranoia which causes me to worry about what is happening to The Woodcraft Folk.

This is an educational organisation for young people which aims to help build, as their website puts it, "a world based on equality, friendship, peace and co-operation".

Noble ideals. So noble, in fact, that the UK government has given it annual grants for its activities every year since the mid-1960s.

Every year, that is, except this one.

In late February, in the early weeks of The Year Of The Volunteer, Woodcraft in England received a tersely-worded letter from the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) saying that, in the Department's view, the organisation did not "represent good value for money", and so would not be receiving any funding from the Department for the next three years.

Well, so what? It's public money, isn't it? You have to be careful how you spend it, don't you?

Well, aside from the fact that we're talking about a little over £50 000 a year for three years (a piddling amount in state budgetary terms), why have Woodcraft been deemed to be so seriously lacking now after all this time? And why is that estimation of lack of value not, it seems, shared by the devolved Scottish Parliament or National Assembly of Wales which have either maintained or increased their grants to the organisation?

Well, perhaps a small clue to the real reason behind the decision is that Woodcraft, like many organisations, affiliated to the Stop The War Coalition, a movement set up to oppose the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. One of the chief architects and pushers of those crimes against humanity is one Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, currently Prime Minister of the UK (under license from BushCo Inc., Crawford, Tx.).

Blair doesn't like talking about the war, insisting that it is time we all 'move on', and anyway the war's over, isn't it? (Heads in Fallujah and Abu Ghraib - at least those still attached to living bodies - nod sagely in agreement at this point).

Blair also doesn't like his views being challenged. There was a piece in The Guardian today, by a Labour insider, describing the lengths to which the party machine will now go to ensure that new candidates for Parliament and local councils are compliant to the will of the Dear Leader.

Combine these two strands, and it explains why for the first time in forty years an organisation dedicated to getting children to think for themselves, and to realising the importance of coming to your own conclusions without being pushed and propagandised by the powerful, has lost all of its central government funding.

I think I've remarked before about how you can tell someone's mindset by the way they use language. In this case, we find, in the letter Woodcraft received from DfES, the following excuse for withdrawal of funding:

The organisation, said the Ministry, "does not have sufficiently robust outcome indicators".

(Quoted in this article in The Guardian)

What in the name of George Orwell does that mean? What is an 'outcome indicator'? How does one judge the robustness of the beast? Trot it round a paddock to see if it runs out of wind? Fire pea-shooters at it? Get Chris Evans to host it? See how it reacts to a brief glimpse of Janet Jackson's nipple?

What sort of language is this to be used by a Department for Education?

Anyway, if you live in England (or even if you don't), and are worried by yet another example of the Revenge of the Powerful on those who have the temerity to try to evade their bounden duty to conform to the will of the self-important, please consider making a donation to the Woodcraft Folk.

Better still, write to the Secretary of State herself:

(Address and e-mail address now removed as no longer relevant)

(As ever, be firm but polite; ranting never got anyone anywhere - I should know...)

Ask her to explain her Department's action - preferably in plain language.

Your input may be valuable - after all, there's one of them there elections thingies coming up soon, and Ruth Kelly's majority in Bolton West is far from unassailable. An arrow to click on to take you to a follow-up item