Labour May Use Tories to Win Vote on Schools

The Evening Standard (London, England), February 23, 2006 | Go to article overview

Labour May Use Tories to Win Vote on Schools


Byline: JOE MURPHY

THE Prime Minister risked Labour anger this afternoon by twice hinting he could use Tory votes to beat a revolt on his education reforms.

At his monthly press conference at No10, Tony Blair announced an intensive drive to persuade his backbenchers that his package of school freedoms would help disadvantaged children and prevent a "two tier system".

But asked if he was prepared to rely on Conservative backing to overcome up to 96 Labour rebels, he said: "In the end, the most important thing is what's right for the country."

In a further hint, he scorned suggestions he could be forced to step down in such circumstances.

"What? You mean I should get the legislation through and then quit?" he demanded when asked about the warnings from senior MPs including ex- minister Stephen Byers that he could be damaged if he flattened critics with Tory help.

The Education Bill is due out on Tuesday and a key vote in mid-March is being seen as a test of whether Mr Blair's personal authority is waning.

With speculation about his future at a new intensity, he dismissed newspaper claims of a "dual premiership" with Gordon Brown saying: "There's a lot less in that story than would appear."

An intensive drive to persuade MPs that the schools reforms are fair by showing concrete examples of how disadvantaged pupils could be helped will be launched. …

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