Thursday, October 1, 2020
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Paul T Horgan: Labour do not oppose Conservative grammars – they fear them

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The price of Corbyn has gone up in the market.

This is because of his questioning of the PM on grammar schools.

It may sound like sour grapes from a Conservative writer, but Corbyn had the advantage of fifty years of articulation on opposition to grammars to draw on. It is not as if it is difficult to find historic arguments against them. There is a reason why the Conservatives, during their 18-year rule in the 1980s and most of the 1990s, did not reintroduce them. This was because the arguments for their virtual abolition still applied. They no longer do now. This may be due to the failure of the replacement policy, comprehensive education. Tony Blair’s spokesman admitted this when he denounced the ‘bog-standard comprehensive’. Since then, the education landscape has radically changed, despite bitter opposition from unionised teachers.

So this was an easy run for Corbyn. But not necessarily an easy win. Recycling arguments is not a way to bring down new policy. Corbyn is still stuck in the 1980s.

Also, there are far too many Labour politicians who have been privately educated or benefited from grammar schools themselves, or have had their offspring do the same, making these protests.

Corbyn is making his argument based on the historic use of grammars. It is obvious that the old system was no use as the secondary moderns languished where they should have been providing a quality technical and vocational education.

The problem is not with the grammars. It is with how children who failed the 11-plus were educated. Corbyn and Labour ignore this. His questions did not directly touch on this at all. This is his and his party’s failure.

The Government’s Education Green Paper devotes a substantial amount of its space to provision for non-grammar school pupils. Mrs May wants to ensure there is no child left behind. Our present system has 1.25 million children receiving a substandard education. The government wants to change this. Labour does not.

Labour needs voters with a grudge against society. In the past they have imported them using an open-door policy to bring in voters from the Third World to scare with the disgraceful slander of ‘racist Tories’, but this source is being turned off. The imported voters themselves do not share Labour’s social progressiveness. So Labour needs a domestic supply of poorly educated people who miss out on life chances to harvest votes. And the best way to do that is to ensure that there are poor quality schools that teach their charges entitlement instead of aspiration. Entitlement also means a whole state industry to support need. The people who work in these services that support the disadvantaged citizens created by Labour’s education systems also have an interest in voting Labour.

Education is a political battlefield. Labour owned the territory and the Conservatives have been successful in taking it. It is not too surprising that Labour is fighting for this territory with such power that its MPs have temporarily abandoned their anti-Corbyn strike.

However Labour’s motivation may be due to the fact that better educated people tend to earn more. And there is only one party that pledges to let people keep more of what they earn. Grammar education and its quality alternatives have the potential to create a high value workforce that is highly paid in an outward facing economy and will vote Conservative to keep enjoying the rewards of their efforts in a global marketplace. As the country increases in affluence, Labour will become more irrelevant.

Labour is not motivated by burning social justice. They are simply afraid that they are on their way out, just like the Liberals were one hundred years ago. This year marks the centenary of the last Liberal government giving way to a coalition. The Liberals have never in power exclusively since.

Labour does not oppose Conservative education policy. They fear it.

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Paul T Horgan
Paul T Horgan works in the IT Sector. He lives in Berkshire.

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