The LSE was the venue for the recent Guardian-Fabian Society-Nexus conference on “The Future of the Centre Left.” Normally on leaving such unashamedly revisionist events one would expect, and deserve, to be confronted by a choir of highly vocal comrade newspaper sellers, balefully and atonally shouting things such as “Neither Major nor Blair-Build the Non-Hegemonic Inclusivist Reconstruction of the Revolutionary Left in Britain.” Often, in among these Bolshie vendors, there would be a bearded hippy or two in donkey jackets, waving plastic buckets in the air with pieces of paper sellotaped on, bearing some scribble indicating they were collecting on behalf of the Defence Committee of the Exeter 53, the Barnsley nine, the Linlithgow 5,000, or all of them. Listening to all this is a sort of penance we pay for not being as left-wing as we once were. On this occasion, however, of paper sellers and money collectors there were none. Instead there was a solitary and ambitious young chap. I could tell he was ambitious because he was wearing a tie and it was Saturday morning. Waving his plastic bucket in the air he was shouting, balefully and atonally, “E-mail addresses! Please leave your e-mail addresses in this box. E-mail addresses! Please leave your e-mail addresses in this box.”
it will come as no surprise to learn that the president of Harvard University is a nethead. But to discover just how head over heels in love he is with the net, and its role in university teaching, you must read an exuberant piece in the US’s Chronicle of Higher Education. Neil Rudenstine declares: “On many campuses it is already having an impact more pervasive than that of any previous breakthrough in information technology this century. And the transformation process is only beginning to unfold.” Go for it Neil. He brushes aside doubters thus: “It is worth recalling that, in an earlier age, the spectre of huge libraries filled with countless books raised anxieties not unlike those we today associate with the internet-concerns about how to cope with overabundant information of mixed quality and how to avoid encouraging anti-social behaviour.” And why is the net so marvellous for higher education? “The internet can provide access to unlimited sources of information not conveniently obtainable through other means; the internet allows for the creation of unusually rich course materials; the internet enhances the vital process of ‘conversational’ learning; the internet reinforces the conception of students as active agents in the process of learning, not as passive recipients of knowledge from teachers and texts.”
how am i to explain this? While searching for information about trade unions and the internet I found a reference to the Transport and General Workers’ Union in which the only claim made on its behalf was that it boasted “both the Queen Mother and Tony Blair as members.” Such toadying to royalty is pathetic. And I’m sure the House of Windsor won’t be taken in either. Britain’s unions have been slow to follow the TUC’s lead on to the internet, although that may be changing. In particular I expect great things from Unison. Bickerstaffe’s boys and girls have been tearing up the textbooks and virtually starting all over again. Watch this space.
with the general election upon us, many of you will want to drop in at www.ge97.com, elegantly and informatively put together by young Alex Balfour, whose famous great grandfather would have been impressed. A neat feature of this site is its ability to accept any UK postcode and tell you which parliamentary constituency it is in, who the sitting member and competing candidates are, and so on. I punched in AL7 3LL and, rather infuriatingly, it kept coming back with the name of David Evans. Still, not for much longer. Uniquely, I think, the ge97 site also has a clickable map of the UK which allows you to find out the name of the seat in any part of the country. Www.keele.ac.uk/ depts/po/table/brit/brit.htm takes you to the mother of all political sites in the UK, put up by Julian White. It is a cornucopia of political information and it has a special section on the election which lists nearly 50 political web sites. You will also be able to compare the 1997 election manifestos with those of 1945 or 1951. The Guardian also has an excellent site, complete with copies of newspaper coverage of previous general elections (http://election. guardian. co.uk). The site also has a trivia contest which reeks of Michael White’s encyclopaedic obsessions. Finally, if you have ever wondered what John Major looks like with revolving eye balls and an extending Pinnochio-type nose, go to a site which calls itself the “Dog’s Bollix,” whatever that means (www. ftech.net/ ~gaudd/politics. htm.). n