Saturday, January 28, 2006

 

Will Blair go for broke over Education?

There are quite a few theories about Tony Blair's mindset just at present. One says he is demob happy and determined, if he cannot persuade his party, to go out unbashed and guns blazing. Martin Kettle in The Guardian today, comments on how far he has moved from the days when he was dubbed a consensual focus group politician. Kettle points out how he seems almost to seek out conflict as if he is some kind of adrenaline junkie, drawn to the very 'high wire politics' he referred to in his recent press conference when describing education reform. Certainly, the Education Bill- when we finally get to see it- promises to contain elements repellent to many in his own party and has prompted remarkable degrees of opposition from former trustees, Lady (Estelle) Morris, Lord (Neil) Kinnock and... who's this here....? why, Alastair Campbell. Will Blair decide this is an occasion when it's 'better to be right and lose' as opposed as he recently said, to being wrong and win?

My feelings are that-while he does indeed seem to be drawn to reckless projects- this will not be the political route he will follow over this hugely imnportant issue. The unspoken threat of a reshuffle reported by Philip Webster in today's Times, suggests he is closely in charge of the fight to win through with his plans for a new breed of 'trust schools', independent of local government control. In the same article we learn that Brown is working very constructively with Blair over this reform and that the report of the Education Select Committee which has recommended alternative approaches might offer opportunities for skilfully calibrated concessions. To rely on Conservative votes to win through would be a disaster, summoning up Labour folk memories of the hated Ramsay MacDonald, and rendering him politically impotent during a concluding period of his premiership during which he hopes to achieve so much of what so far has not been achieved. Blair is going to play the traditional political game and not go for broke. If he needs to compromise, he will.

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