Fraser Nelson

Set the people free

Set the people free
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Amidst this Black Tuesday excitement, we’ve missed the real intellectual headway the Tories are making in education – as Iain Martin says in the Telegraph today. The Gove v Balls debate yesterday was brilliant: in these days of faux theatricality it’s a pleasure to see two guys who genuinely hate each other go at it. What strikes me is how Cameron and Gove are using the language of the left to sell this - in my view, the only way to get this flying. And not just by calling these “co-operative schools”. At the end of Cameron’s video on schools (here on PlayPolitical) he has this to say:

“Why should the private sector have all the new schools, all the innovation, the new ideas. I want to see them in the public sector, the state sector, for free available to all our children.” 

That’s how to do it. As John Reid argued about hospitals: why should choice be just for the rich? It should be for everyone. This was how to sell Blair’s pro-market reforms to Labour (Reid discovered this too late, though).

Reid’s predecessor as Health Secretary – Alan Milburn - put it thus.

“Traditionally, the left turned its back on choice as the preserve of the right. In a consumer society where the consumer is king, vacating this political terrain is not a feasible strategy for progressive politics.”

Milburn was right. Brown is wrong. And this is why Cameron (a late but enthusiastic convert to this agenda) will probably win the next election. Brown says “trust me” – and the last few days have shown how the public wouldn’t trust any politician (wearing any colour of rosette). They want control for themselves and, I suspect, will elect the party who most plausibly offers it.

Written byFraser Nelson

Fraser Nelson is the editor of The Spectator. He is also a columnist with The Daily Telegraph, a member of the advisory board of the Centre for Social Justice and the Centre for Policy Studies.

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