James Forsyth

Newsnight education debate shows the potency of parent power

Newsnight education debate shows the potency of parent power
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The winner of the education debate on Newsnight was a woman called Lesley from Yorkshire. Her local school is being closed and so she, along with other parents, want to set one up themselves. Her case for why she should be allowed to do this left Ed Balls floundering, wittering on about he sympathised but she needed to get agreement from various bureaucracies. If parents like Lesley get more time on TV, people will begin to understand how transformative the Tory policy of letting parents and teachers set up their own state funded schools will be.

Newsnight’s format for the debate wasn’t great, there was an awful lot of people talking over one another and Paxman is too much of a performer to be an effective chair. But there were a few noteworthy moments. First of all, David Laws seemed to rather rewrite Lib Dem spending policy. Nick Clegg told Fraser and I when we interviewed him that the Tory policy to ringfence NHS spending was “totally implausible” because it would make the cuts required to other public services so much larger but David Laws signed up to ringfencing NHS spending tonight under pressure from Michael Gove.

Gove versus Balls was, predictably, the main clash with Balls sticking doggedly to his investment versus cuts dividing line. Gove, though, did well to point out that only half of the DCSF budget is actually spent on schools and that Balls himself is planning cuts to part of his budget. I also thought Balls made a mistake at the beginning of the debate by refusing to apologise to Michael Gove for having accused him in the Commons of using a misleading and incorrect statistic when Gove was actually right. Amongst the politicians, I'd score tonight as a points victory for Gove.

 

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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