YESTERDAY saw the Prime Minister seeking to reinvent himself as the champion of the people and a supporter of ‘social justice’. Speaking in his working class constituency of Sedgefield he tried to convince a national audience that he was privatising the education system and creating an ‘education market’ for the benefit of the deprived and the working class.
He answered his own question over why ‘we are so passionate and so insistent about public service reform,’ and it was not to provide big profits for big business. It was because ‘we are still not doing enough for our least well-off citizens. The demands of justice – that we provide opportunities for all – and the requirements of a prosperous modern economy are symbiotic. This has been the central insight of New Labour economic policy – that, far from social justice being a drag on economic good health, the two require each other.’
It must be this sense of social justice that has seen Blair refusing to back the struggle of the Gate Gourmet workers to get their jobs back, after they were victimised and sacked by an extremely ruthless employer. Asked to support them, he declared that no Labour government would legalise secondary trade union action. Yet this is required to curb such a ruthless employer. Injustice rules after all.
Justice is clearly a class issue that does not extend itself as far as the working class – unless government policy is in danger of being defeated, then the actor Blair goes into overdrive.
Blair was sincerity itself when he explained why he was ‘so restless for change’. It was definitely not to provide massive profits for big business by handing it chunks of the health and education budget. It was because ‘40,000 children leave school every year without any qualifications at all’. Still posturing in his most caring mode, he added: ‘I cannot rest; I will not; until we do all in our power to change that failure.’ This amateur theatrical went down with his working class audience like a lead balloon.
In fact his ideal schools are modelled on the independent schools. They are to be ‘free’.
He declared: ‘They aren’t “run” by anyone, local or central. They have an independent sense of mission. . .
‘There are more such schools today than there were eight years ago. Many more. But not enough. Yet the opportunities to develop them are all around us. There are business foundations, charities and voluntary organisations with the energy, resources and commitment to partner schools in transformation. . .
‘Trust schools can forge links with universities and business sponsors. They can be connected to other schools and educational trusts. They will share curriculum expertise, work together on developing effective teaching and learning practice. . . ’
Further ‘Providers will be either from the existing state sector, as good schools grow or federate to meet local demand, or from the voluntary and charitable sectors.. . ‘The White Paper does not destroy the role of local government. It gives dynamic local authorities a great opportunity to reinvent themselves . . .’ It is to be reinvent yourself or die!
He continued, getting closer to the truth – no doubt by accident: ‘There are great opportunities here, for government and for business. It was not long ago that government and business operated in largely separate spheres. Now the three sectors – public, private and voluntary – overlap to the extent that at times it is hard to see the join between them.’
Again: ‘There is a lot more business involvement in services that were once the monopoly domain of the public sector. We want to encourage more, such as in the Academies programme which is bringing business expertise and new money into the education system. Some services, like the emerging childcare market, are mixed economies. Indeed, virtually all the extra free nursery places created since 1997 are in the private and voluntary sectors.’
Big business is taking over education. The education market is not for the benefit of the working class and the poor, it is to make profits for big business through the sale of education as a commodity. There will be a stampede for the most favoured schools, with schools like the London Oratory, and its business partners, selecting which middle class parents and pupils it wants to associate with.
For the poor and the working class there will be the left- overs. This is why the trade unions have to drive big business out of health and education by bringing the Blair government down to go forward to a workers’ government that will carry out socialist policies, fully restore free state education and gain the resources for developing the education system by nationalising the banks.