Thursday, 31 May 2007
Wednesday, 30 May 2007
Peter Hain was trying to be too cool for school, John Cruddas wants to return Labour to the 1980's, Harriet Harman couldn't answer a simple yes or no question with a yes or a no.
Of all the candidates I though Hilary Benn probably performed best on the night. Alan Johnson doesn't usually fair to well in such competitive situations with people vying for attention but did enough to suggest that he would be the best choice. He is a measured performer and gives an impression of honesty and openness in his thinking which is refreshing after the spin of the Blair years.
Whilst Harman was her usual dour and dreary self, it was left to the barely visible Hazel Blears to make possible the lamest argument of the night. When asked how she would tackle inequality the 4ft 9 chairwoman of the party said 'I and the majority of people just want to get on'.
Well said Hazel with that sort of reason and thought its a wonder you didn't run for the leadership.
Thursday, 24 May 2007
Tuesday, 22 May 2007
This play has been adopted by the Cameron camp, who many believe are copying their moves from the Blair play book. Hence it is no surprise that at a time of attempted renewal within the Labour party Cameron chose education as his policy of choice to try to grab back the attention. Whether it is a smart move or not only time will tell.
With all the attention focusing on a smiling Gordon Brown crawling across the country kissing babies, smiling inanely DC knows that for the press to come calling at his door he has to come forward with something controversial or ‘beefy’.
This he did last week with the announcement by shadow education secretary David Willetts that the Conservatives will not build any more grammar schools, and more controversially that they will entrench advantage rather than widening it. It was the second part of this announcement which caught the right wingers of the party on the hop, leaving many fuming. Ex grammar school boy and Tory leader Michael Howard was said to be deeply unhappy at the announcement and others were baying for a showdown with Cameron at the weekly 1922 committee meeting of backbench MP’s.
DC is playing a bold hand here. He is right to say that education should focus on the opportunity of the many and not the few and that by having a debate on increasing grammar schools which account for such a small percentage of children in secondary education (there are only 164 in the country) that a great many children are excluded.
Cameron instead wants to use the academy framework (independently run schools in the state system) to move forward the Tory ideas of aspiration to a broader base (The Tories would push for greater streaming and selection in City academies). He has learnt that just by appealing to the core Tory vote he is not going to get elected to Westminster and that being attacked by the right on a policy initiative of this kind may well play straight into his hands as a modernising centrist.
The blowback could be deep fissures within the party and greater distrust of his leadership. As with Blair and the Labour party accusations that DC is not a real Tory but an impostor taking the party in a dangerous direction away from core beliefs could well increase and could lead to uncomfortable moments when he needs to rally his party to support legislation in the House in the coming weeks.
DC will also have to deal with a difficult position, namely that grammar schools are good schools which are massively oversubscribed, so why not support them? (this was something John Humphreys failed to ask him on the Today programme earlier today) And also what is to become of the one’s in existence. If you support academies so much why not abolish grammars altogether and turn them into model academies? In short DC may be accused of trying to have his cake and eat it all at the same time.
DC also has problems given his own privileged background in abolishing new grammars (Humphreys made a great deal of this earlier). With so many Old Etonians around him in the Shadow Cabinet the idea of restricting grammar schools which are very popular with aspirational middle class voters could turn them off and leave them at home in key marginals.
As for the academies themselves they have had encouraging results, in that the numbers getting better GCSE’s have improved and that the facilities are new and impressive. Although there are concerns that given the amount of money pumped in the benefits have so far not been fully maximised (particularly when the past results were so abysmal with many new academies replacing failing inner city schools with GCSE pass rates under 20%). They have also been controversial given their role in the cash for honours investigation.
In picking this fight DC is treading dangerous ground but he knows that buy positioning himself as the champion of the great and not the few he steadily changing the traditional Tory party image.
Monday, 21 May 2007
Sunday, 20 May 2007
Friday, 18 May 2007
By most accounts the hustings were pretty tame fare.
Surely to take over from a man of Prescott's stature, class, political poise and rhetoric the process for selection should be more exciting and run as follows:
Round 1 - A Royal Rumble (first two candidates over the top rope, eliminated, odds are on Peter 'perma tanned' Hain and Harriet 'im all woman' Harman falling by the wayside here.)
Round 2 - Rhyme the following words twenty times in under a minute without swearing: 'fuzzy duck' (2 more candidates eliminated, most likely Hilary Benn and Alan Johnson (both too slow)
Final Round - Being given a Government Department to run for a year. The objective is to waste money indefinitely on gimmicks and naff schemes and then blame it all on the Tory 'bastards' opposite (John Cruddas would be eliminated here. With no experience of running a government department incompetently under Blair it would not be a fair fight with Blears.)
That leaves the current Labour Party chairwoman Hazel Blears as the surviving candidate.
Could Blears win the real thing? Well amazingly yes, despite the fact that she is incredibly annoying, with one journalist this week describing her as the sort of woman who enters the office every morning with an innate smile and who spends the whole day constantly telling everyone to cheer up asserting that things aren't really as bad as they seem.
Blears won the hustings earlier in the week with 26% of the vote, could she win the whole thing? Now that would be funny!