Thursday, 7 August 2008

Top columnists

Rupert Murdoch's Sunday Times, though still dressed up as a serious broadsheet, is actually a pale imitation of Hello!, largely concerned with celebrity gossip and the doings of the extremely rich. It has assembled a team of some of the worst columnists writing today; all of them are remarkably consistent in projecting their respective personalities, which range from the repellent to the merely dull.

Any Sunday one can marvel at the sort of thing which ST readers apparently enjoy. Most weeks, there are, for example, the cheap sneers of Rod Liddle, the banalities of India Knight, and several doses of the proudly oafish Jeremy Clarkson; a measure of the depths to which the paper has sunk is that it gives over a large part of the back page of its main section to the appalling Michael Winner.

But there is one who stands out even among this despicable bunch by his insufferable arrogance and stupidity. The former head of OFSTED, Chris Woodhead, was almost universally loathed by the profession—not only by the 15,000 teachers he described as incompetent—but survived in the post for six years until resigning to much rejoicing in 2000.

He is now chairman of a company that runs independent schools, and continues to write on educational issues. This week in the Sunday Times he had a long piece about the "reforms" he promoted; we still suffer from the effects of his ill-thought-out tinkerings but he explains that he believes that they "made basic sense" while admitting they have done more harm than good. This, he says, is because he did not fight hard enough to enforce their application.

I think it needs more than one photograph to do justice to Woodhead's qualities, and on the advice of someone familiar with the man's achievements I have selected these two, one clearly part of an expensive portrait, redolent of dignified self-satisfaction, and the other just a nasty smirk.

But perhaps he is best represented by the stunningly asinine statement he makes after asking the question "How much am I to blame...." in a feeble and disingenuous mea culpa attempting to show that he was right all the time: "With hindsight, what has happened is utterly predictable."

1 comment:

wiljaxon said...

Not only does Woodhead smirk he giggles. An appalling public appointment.