Blair relishes ‘radical’ image on reforms

Almost ten years since Tony Blair uttered his memorable soundbite – ‘education, education, education’ – the PM is still struggling to make much impact on schools, as evidenced by the latest shake-up, promoted so heavily this week.

As usual with Blair, it's not as simple as coming up with a 'radical' policy and getting parliament to vote it through. He must be seen to battle with the forces of reaction: the unions, Labour backbenchers and lily-livered cabinet members. 

To prove a point, consider the Labour Party conference. Here Blair responded to Gordon Brown's speech by telling us that every time he had done something radical he wished in retrospect he had gone even further. Just in case we hadn't got the message, loyal Blairites were sent out to brief the media that what he really meant was Brown may have blocked things in the past, but no more.

That same weekend, Blairites were telling friendly hacks that education was to be an important battleground and that Number 10 was looking at the Swedish education system. Schools are funded by the state but can be run privately – a system so far to the right that even some Tories rejected it.

So where is this radical new education policy?  Not surprisingly the Swedish idea has been dumped and you can't blame Brown for that. Even the faithful Ruth Kelly couldn't back a policy so far removed from Labour's traditional support of state-funded and run education.

Inevitably though, John Prescott – or that 'useful idiot' as Number 10 privately calls him – came to Blair's rescue. It is well documented that the Deputy PM failed his 11-plus and hates with a passion any education policy that reverts to selection. 

It emerges that Prescott spoke out against the proposed bill in
cabinet. So who leaked this row to the media? Number 10, of course. And what great headlines they made, too. Now we have our brave leader fighting for his 'radical education policies' with old Labour. The unions will do their job and be followed by some backbenchers. Blair triumphs again.

This time, though, the Prime Minister has the Tories' shadow education spokesman, a certain David Cameron, to contend with. Blair, who went to public school himself, can't simply dismiss Cameron as an old Etonian. No, he will need to attack Cameron's alternative policies.  But that could be a little difficult. because the likely next Tory leader has followed Blair's own example of not having any. In fact, if it's possible, Cameron seems to be even more Blairite than Blair.

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Latest Articles

John Lewis to tell brand story with "tasteful" 150th anniversary celebrations

John Lewis to tell brand story with "tasteful" 150th anniversary celebrations

Department store John Lewis is to use its 150th anniversary this year to talk about its history, which "not enough people know about", according to director of communications Peter Cross.

Labour hires Obama election strategist David Axelrod to fight General Election

Labour hires Obama election strategist David Axelrod to fight General Election

The man who helped Barack Obama win the 2008 and 2012 US presidential elections is to work for Labour along with members of his team.

Sky adds Fever PR to its roster after splitting with Cake

Sky adds Fever PR to its roster after splitting with Cake

Pay-TV giant Sky has added Fever PR to its agency line-up for a wide-ranging brief covering products and services.

Max Clifford trial jury to continue deliberations after Easter break

Max Clifford trial jury to continue deliberations after Easter break

The jury in the trial of celebrity publicist Max Clifford has been sent home for Easter and will reconvene on Tuesday for further deliberations about its verdicts on 11 charges of indecent assault.

Home Office brings in Munro & Forster to campaign against FGM

Home Office brings in Munro & Forster to campaign against FGM

The Home Office has tasked Munro & Forster (M&F) with supporting its campaign to eradicate female genital mutilation (FGM) as part of a wider retained brief.