Back to the Eighties as Kinnock Leads Plotters; COMMENTARY

Article excerpt

Byline: ANNE MCELVOY

THIS was a week widely billed as Ruth Kelly's fight for her career.

It could well turn out to be a turning point for New Labour as a whole. As Ms Kelly hosed down the bushfire revelations of the mysterious ranks of sex offenders teaching in schools, another and far more dangerous row was brewing.

It has the potential to cost more careers than that of Ms Kelly - this is a fight directed at Tony Blair and it is deeply personal.

The Labour Party is now a family openly at war over education. Lord Kinnock, former Downing Street aide Fiona Millar and erstwhile education secretary Estelle Morris were there to spread the Old Religion - that Mr Blair's attempts to reform the schools system were an abomination.

There were a lot of believers. In committee room 14, it was Eighties night all over again.

Lord Kinnock, who is startlingly unchanging in looks and manner, started out by saying: "Let me be brief."

But we all knew that is something of which the former leader is genetically incapable. A good 20 minutes later, he was still perorating - although he failed to address the small matter of how his assault on a serving PM fits with his oft-repeated observation that disloyalty is the way parties pave the way to defeat.

The turbulent peer wished a "merciful death" on Mr Blair's schools reforms; "an assembly of prejudice, injustice and disparity in state education".

As opposed to the marvellous comprehensive school system which drives many parents - a lot of them Labour ones - to despair, elaborate house moves, and the private sector if they can afford it. …