The Wilted Rose

Charting Labour meltdown 2007-2010

No, Brown, it was Labour’s abolition of grammar schools that caused social immobility

An article in the Telegraph today reports Brown’s forthcoming speech to “education leaders” alleging that Maggie caused the UK’s chronic social immobility.  I would be one of the last people to defend the ‘means to the end’ of restructuring the economy in the 1980s, given that my father was made redundant from his manufacturing job in 1985 – never to work again – but I think Brown’s argument is ludicrous.

As Ordovicius rightly points out:

Is this the best Brown can come up with after one year at number 10 and ten years as Chancellor? Will David Cameron respond by blaming Callaghan for the UK’s woes? Me thinks not.

And Glyn Davies notes that:

After 11 years of Labour Government in which Gordon Brown has controlled the public finances, British people born poor stay poor. Even in the area where his rhetoric is strongest, the Prime Minister’s performance is failure. And what is he proposing to reverse this. Some quite small scale pilot projects, the one being given prominence by the BBC being to give public money to families who join schemes which include health checks and nutritional advice to improve social development. I’m not going to disagree with this until I see what evidence the proposal is based on – but it does smack of Gordon Brown’s belief that just throwing public money at every problem is the answer. But by trying to throw all the blame on a woman, who was ten times the man he is, Gordon Brown has diminished himself in the eyes of the British people today.

Beautifully put, Glyn.

Apart from the fact that Brown seems to unwilling for his party or himself to take any responsibility for their 11 years in government, the article highlights a few other reasons why Tories will feel justified in branding him a hypocrite…

There were winners and losers from the Thatcherite economic policies, but those policies have continued unabated – under Labour, hundreds of thousands (if not millions?) of manufacturing jobs have been lost, as the economy continues to become ever more dependent upon services and outsources (and imports) from the developing world.  Developing countries, such as China and India, have benefited from their ability to manufacture cheaply, though they have replaced the manufacturing workforce of the UK.  However, you will be shocked if you watch tonight’s Panorama exposé on child labour in a Primark subcontractor in India.

Back to the point, does living in a workless household preclude social mobility?  It didn’t for me.  I went to university – tens of thousands of working-class kids (even when the parents’ jobs had gone) in Northern Ireland go to good schools, and then often on to university.

And what happens if you’re a bright working-class kid in most parts of England?  Tough luck is the official policy, unless you happen to live in Trafford (3 cheers to Graham Brady!), Kent, Buckinghamshire (3 cheers to Dominic Grieve!).  You can go to a grammar school, that’s what.  If you don’t live in such an area, tough luck, that’s what Ed Balls is basically saying.

Shirley Williams lost her Hertford & Stevenage seat in the 1979 general election not without good reason.  She was the Labour Secretary of State for Education Minister who pushed through the closure of many grammar schools.

I’m not a Thatcherite (Reason: Anglo-Irish Agreement) and I’m not going to defend Maggie under whose watch as Tory Secretary of State for Education many grammar schools were closed too.  But this was in the Heath administration, 1970-1974, which has to rate as one of the worst Conservative Governments – Heath took the UK into the then EEC, after all.

But Brown can’t blame Maggie for social immobility.  It was Labour’s abolition of grammar schools that has caused social immobility – that, for example, means that many bright black Caribbean kids in the tower-blocks in London can’t get a decent education and a chance in life.  And if they do work hard, like Damilola Taylor they get murdered when coming back from the library for being too ‘clever’, or like Stephen Lawrence simply for being black?

I’ve said before that the Tories have annoyed me lately, but better they than Labour, the grammar school abolishers: and Michael Gove has restored at least some confidence.  Melanie Phillips highlights that there may be ‘some hope’ for bright working-class kids (including children from workless households),

On a visit last week to Trafford, which maintains both selective and comprehensive schools, the Tory schools spokesman Michael Gove declared robustly that grammar schools must be ‘absolutely defended’. …

… All Mr Gove needs to do is move his geographical pointer a bit farther along the map to the Netherlands to find a progressive country where selective schools are part of an education system driven, as it should be, by parental choice rather than state control.

Academic selection lies at the very heart of intellectual achievement, social justice and individual aspiration. They are impossible without it. That’s why it is a totemic issue by which any party aspiring to government must be judged.

I wouldn’t have got to university had it not been for Foyle & Londonderry College, my grammar school, but Brown ‘n’ Balls would have denied me this opportunity had they the chance.  It is Labour that is the true enemy of social mobility.

UPDATE TUESDAY, 12.06PM: There’s an excellent article in today’s Times by Stephen Pollard on the same theme as this post..

23 June, 2008 Posted by | education, Gordon Brown, Labour Party, politics | , , , | Leave a comment