Peter Hoskin

A yellow spanner in the works

A yellow spanner in the works
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The teaching unions, it seems, haven't been wasting their time in Liverpool: the Lib Dem conference has just passed a motion opposing the coalition's free schools agenda. Even though the result throws up the bizarre image of, as Guido puts it, "Lib Dems voting against liberalism," it comes as little surprise. As Fraser reported last night, there's a tidal opinion in Lib Dem circles that these school reforms are little more than an attack on hardworking local authorities. A pity that Sarah Teather's message about the "dead hand of local government" didn't filter downwards sooner.  

The concern now is what this actually means for the free schools programme. On one level, the threat isn't overwhelming: the Academies Bill has already been voted through Parliament, and has the support of key Lib Dem ministers. But, on another, it could prove fairly awkward for the coalition. Michael Gove was always going to face a monstrous blob of opposition to his reforms – but he may not have thought that the blob would expand in the first few months of government. The prospect of Lib Dem councillors, members and parents doing their worst to upset free schools is not, in the end, a welcome one.