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Gesture Politics

Up to the big city today and the large amount of snow on the ground past Herne Bay towards London came as a surprise to me; as did the presence of British Transport Police on the train. Where the former was concerned this illustrated how much Thanet benefits from its micro-climate and the latter, well I've been corresponding with the Chief Constable of British Transport Police in conjunction with Thanet North MP, Roger Gale and I'm delighted to see they have a series of operations running on the trains between here and Faversham. With luck, an occasional police presence will deter the teenage element that I frequently see causing problems between Margate and Herne bay when I'm travelling.

I did notice today an initiative from Gordon Brown to put PCs into the hands of more deprived children and their families, a laudable objective. In fact, when he did this first time around at the beginning of the decade, I was still working with the present Government through the Cabinet Office and recall talking about the initiative on Sky News at the time. Subsequently, I also vaguely recall what happened to the first batch of PCs that were distributed this way. Liverpool, I seem to recollect was where the most were reportedly stolen or went missing but deprivation and loss appeared to go hand in hand, a lesson to Government at the time. While I'm sure some families benefited, overall, I think it may have been a wonderful gesture and a chronic waste of taxpayers' money.

I think, the conclusion was that if you are going to give away millions of pound technology in this way and to this particularly deprived group, then you need to take proper account of domestic and social circumstances and try and encourage the children to come to a facility or after-school club, where they can be properly taught and encouraged, rather than being left to their own devices, frequently in family circumstances which aren't conducive to the educational principle behind the gift. Simply throwing a computer and an internet connection at the problem doesn't, in my mind at least, deliver the results that Government may be seeking.
Anyway, there's a much deeper underlying problem that needs addressing here, the nature of the digital divide in the second decade of the 21 century and I'm not convinced that middle-aged politicians and policy makers are sufficiently in tune with the rapid advances in technology to grasp the social implications of failure.


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