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Identifying the logical fallacy in Stephen Twigg’s criticism of Michael Gove

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Education Secretary Michael Gove’s plan to replace some GCSE subjects by an English Baccalaureate Certificate are set to be abandoned by the government.  This has been hailed as a “humiliating climbdown” by Stephen Twigg, his Labour opposite number.  If Gove had pressed ahead without modifying his plans, Twigg would have charged him, as he was doing, with “not listening to reason,” and “ignoring expert advice.”  Now that he has apparently listened it is a “humiliating climbdown” instead.

In my book “How to Win Every Argument” (I did not choose the title) I dealt with logical fallacies, identifying and describing some 79 of them.  One of them consists in apportioning blame no matter what outcome ensues.  I dubbed it “Thatcher’s Blame” because it was used so extensively against the good lady.  She was first blamed for poverty and unemployment, and this switched seamlessly to blaming her for the culture of shameless affluence as yuppies emerged to flaunt their new-found wealth.  The fallacy is committed because the evidence is irrelevant when guilt is ascribed no matter what happens.  In the book I pointed out that if a policy is introduced first in Scotland, the charge will be made of “using Scotland as a guinea pig.”  If it is done later in Scotland, the claim will be that “the Scots are being left out again.”  And if it is introduced in England and Scotland at the same time, the cry will be that “government is failing once again to appreciate the essential differences between England and Scotland.”  Heads you lose, tails you lose, and if the coin lands on its edge you also lose.

Thank you, Mr Twigg, for so excellent a demonstration of the fallacy.

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