Old Labour Is Fighting the Wrong Class War

The Evening Standard (London, England), January 20, 2006 | Go to article overview

Old Labour Is Fighting the Wrong Class War


Byline: A.N. WILSON

BEHIND the row over sex offenders in schools is the much bigger dispute about the education reforms.

Last night, Neil Kinnock, flanked by former No 10 aide Fiona Millar, led the attack against them.

Rising to the nation's nostrils will come the stench of old Labour's most repellent corpse beneath the floorboards - namely the party's ruination of a workable, though harsh educational system in the Sixties.

The Labour Party is hellishly in denial about its greatest single failure, its embrace of a whole package of poor educational ideas that took a grip of teacher-training establishments 30 and 40 years ago. The result has been the precise opposite of what any decent socialist would have wanted.

It is now harder than ever for a clever person from an economically deprived background to get a decent education. Fiona and Neil and their 90 idiotic friends will make it harder yet.

Behind this row, there lurks yet another demon, namely the slither of Britain into philistinism. Pushy parents might say they want their children to have a good education, but they really mean well-paid jobs.

Meet the real intellectual elite today. They are an embattled group. Some of them work at the BBC, some are in the civil service, some work for English Heritage.

The heroes of the group are still teaching in schools. They keep their heads down during the moronic staff meetings, they smile wryly at the ridiculous management-speak of the head and they try to use their lessons as an opportunity to open young minds to science, music, great literature and language.

The point of education, you might think? But, no - look at our world. Look at Waterstone's bookshops, selling higher and higher piles of Jamie Oliver's cook books and fewer and fewer real books. Look at broadsheet newspapers, transforming themselves into magazines to be read under the hairdryer. In this dumbed-down world, the educated elite are increasingly strangers. They would never - one of the great sorrows of modern life - enter politics.

Fiona Millar and Neil Kinnock may think they are fighting some stupid old class war by blocking the Government reforms.

In fact, they are simply lining up with the philistines, the dumbers-down of broadcasting and journalism, the Rupert Murdochs and Margaret Thatchers who wrecked England and who laughed out of court the grammar-schooleducated generation for liking decent books and music or having standards of literacy and probity in public utterance. …

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