The barge slips across the River Styx to the Underworld. No, the barge which looks like a cargo container with the top-half sawn-off, is ferrying Syrian refugees across the Tigris to the Kurdish Autonomous Region of Iraq. Of those climbing out of the barge on the Iraqi side (one soldier tries checking them for entry, another hovers ineffectively), among the cheap shirts (men) and the women wrapped up in paisley peasant bundles, the refugee with the most unkempt hair and grizzled beard is not a wild man of the country. ‘Designer’ leather jacket, pulling airport-style luggage behind him, he could be the business man who had come back to his birthplace to retire; or perhaps the teacher from a war-torn village (one of many). Either way his old life isn’t there anymore. Assuming he reaches Baghdad 150 miles away, will he have another go….? Or burrow into his suitcase, living off leftovers for as long as he can make them last.
In the UK Tristram Hunt MP, newly appointed shadow spokesman for Education, has revealed Labour’s plans for a Teachers’ MOT. Teachers would have to apply for their licence to be renewed every few years, subject to satisfactory professional development. Hunt, himself a former lecturer, is bright-eyed and coiffed like a posh sixth-former. Strip back the mature jaw and tone down the full-square chin, and you’d take him for Head Boy, mugging something up for Speech Day on the Future of Our School. His rationale for the Teachers’ MOT is half-way between sixth-form vernacular and infantilised self-esteem-speak: ‘This is about believing that teachers have this enormous importance.’
PC Keith Wallis tried to make himself important, claiming he had witnessed Tory chief whip Andrew Mitchell slagging off police officers as plebs. Now he admits making it up. Watching Wallis on his way into court to plead guilty, you can well imagine what he hoped to gain. Thinning hair, moustache from another era, lower jaw bulging to the left – neat enough, but he looks like a man who’s still a PC at the age of 53. Then there’s the question of the way policemen wear a collar and tie and a suit with an executive overcoat on top. Somehow it always looks mutton. Perhaps the indelible stain of being plebeian.