The reaction to the Trojan Horse scandal has, in my view, been as interesting – and telling – as anything in the scandal itself. It is not, of course, surprising that opposition parties, including the Liberal Democrats, should seek to make capital from the drama in Birmingham but the manner in which they do so remains valuably illuminating.
Gove-bashing plays well with the loyal remnants of the Lib Dem base and given the choice between pandering to his base or defending liberalism Nick Clegg must these days pander to his base. So be it.
The case of Tristram Hunt is more interesting. The dismal thing about Ed Miliband’s leadership of the Labour party is the manner in which he appears determined to abandon the noblest parts of his inheritance.
Despite 2008 And All That, Miliband was bequeathed a workable, even in some respects admirable, legacy. On a number of fronts including, but not limited to, playing by the EU’s rules on free movement of labour and the establishment of Academy schools Labour had a record of which it could be proud. It seems drearily typical that Miliband’s instincts are to disown the better parts of Labour’s record in government.
Hence the evident suspicion with which he views Free Schools. Labour would, perhaps will, scrap them if they think they can get away with it.
In this sense the Trojan Horse scandal reminds us that for all that we talk about narrowing differences between the warring Tory and Labour tribes there remain significant – and significantly important – philosophical differences between the two parties.
In broad terms, the Conservatives will trust you and Labour won’t. Nowhere is it written, or even thought, that every Academy or Free School will be a great success. Giving schools the freedom to succeed necessarily means granting them the freedom to fail too.