LABOUR Prime Minister Blair has ruled out changes to his education reform (privatisation) plans despite a challenge by more than 50 Labour MPs, among whom are five ex-ministers including an ex-education secretary.
He told MPs yesterday, while taking questions in the House of Commons, that he would not delay the introduction of trust schools or adopt any of the measures proposed by his Labour party opponents.
Blair was responding to a statement by his admirer, the new Tory leader Cameron, that he faced a choice between fighting for his education White Paper or raising the white flag to the Labour Party.
Cameron spelt out the alternatives facing Blair, saying: ‘With our support, you can have the reforms that our schools need, or you can give in to the Labour Party.’
Blair replied that he was going to stick with the White Paper, meaning that he was well aware that it could only be passed with the support of the Tory party.
The organisers of the Labour Party opposition to Blair on education yesterday put forward their own document: ‘Shaping the Education Bill – Reaching for Consensus.’
They said that as well as having the support of former Education Secretary Baroness Morris, and former ministers John Denham, Nick Raynsford, Alan Whitehead, and Angela Eagle, it was supported by over 50 Labour MPs.
Denham said he feared the government’s reforms would destabilise the system so that pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and those in underperforming schools were left behind.
He insisted that he and his colleagues were not ‘lefts’, and many of them considered themselves to be New Labour before the phrase was coined. Nevertheless they could not support the extremist White Paper.
Under the government’s education White Paper, schools will become self-governing trusts. They are to be free, outside the control of local authorities and in charge of their own finances, staff, staff wages and conditions, and which pupils they will choose to admit.
They will be free to form partnerships with the banks, big business and the private schools, and to provide the sort of education that their big business partners want their future managers to have.
The stampede in the middle class to get their children into the schools with the biggest financial backers and the greatest prospects will be elemental and uncontrollable, leaving the working class to get on with what is left, a series of sink schools.
Blair is absolutely determined to push forward with this proposal and the Tories are determined to see it become law. Both are aware that an anti-working class education policy carried out with the support of the Tory Party will split the Labour Party and the trade unions.
The only way that the government will be able to continue under these conditions will be for its leaders to cross the floor of the House of Commons and make common cause with the Tories and the Liberals in a national government.
This government will then go to the country with a full blooded anti-working class programme for saving British capitalism.
It is the trade unions who have got the biggest role in preventing such a situation developing.
They must make the defence of state education, the NHS and the Welfare State their mission.
They must spell out to Blair that since he will not retreat from any of his right wing policies they will call a general strike to bring his government down, and go forward to a workers government that will carry out socialist policies. This is the only way forward for the working class and the only way to prevent a return of the Tories.