Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Back to reality

And the struggle continues. Will Woodward reports,

The Conservatives hope to create friction today between ministers and backbench Labour MPs by calling on the Commons to condemn plans to cut funds for adult learners with degrees.

I couldn't help reading this with a sinking feeling, and not just about the misreporting of the proposals. In power, the Tories had an appalling record on Adult Education. I cannot see them as allies. This is overwhelmingly a Labour issue and to try and make party capital out of it will certainly make the Government dig its heels in. In my meeting with Rammell there was the expected blanket defence of a terrible policy, but there were also moments of dialogue, partially as a result of a shared anti-elitism.

The BBC puts a more hopeful spin on it.

By adopting the same language as an early day motion that received support from dozens of Labour MPs, the Conservatives will seek to create cross-party support for a bid to overturn the government's funding changes.

There certainly is an overwhelming consensus in opposition to the proposals, stretching from trade unions to the CBI, and I am hopeful of some further concessions.
However, there is little sign that the Government has any intention of backing down on the policy itself, which is thoroughly misguided and strikes at a central pillar of a social democratic polity, that access to public services is on the basis of need and not limited by personal circumstance.

My friend, Daniel Vulliamy, writes in the coming edition of the Times Higher Education Supplement that, "Making mistakes is human; good leaders admit errors and rethink". Sadly we live in a political culture that sees the "U turn" as a sign of weakness and an admission of failure, rather than an act of wisdom. This is doubly so when issues of principle become instruments of party conflict.

You can read the transcript of the debate here. Looks like my fears were confirmed. I don't want to be on the same side as Boris Johnson.

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