The New Worker
The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 28th October 2005
Blair messes up the school system yet again!
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by Daphne Liddle
DEPUTY Prime Minister John
Prescott last week surprised many by joining the ranks of critics of
Tony Blair’s gallop to privatise everything he can lay his hands on
before he loses his job.
Prescott voiced concerns that the proposals in the new White Paper on
education are likely to discriminate against the poor and favour the
Prescott also cast doubt on whether the new semi-privatised city
academies, that Blair wants to see multiplied around the country,
really do raise academic standards.
The DPM’s new stance is the latest in a series of divisions and
retreats to emerge from within the Cabinet.
A week ago pressure from the unions forced Trade and Industry
Secretary Alan Johnson to retreat on Government plans to raise the
retirement of public sector workers to 65.
We have seen the Cabinet so divided over the extent of a ban on
smoking in public places that the announcement of the policy was
delayed by days of wrangling.
Then health sector unions and left Labour MPs forced the Health
Secretary to drop plans to transfer hundreds of thousands of health
service jobs into the private sector.
This would have left primary care trusts reduced to mere
administrative bodies, arranging contracts with various private
companies to provide all non-hospital healthcare.
The education White Paper, published last Tuesday, seeks to do
much the same with education. It proposes the abolition of all local
education authorities and giving schools the freedom to decide their
own teaching and admissions policies.
There will be many more schools run on the city academy principle
– a private sector company, charity or religious group will put up a
small proportion of the funding for the school and in exchange will
gain control over the school’s teaching and admission policies. Parents
will be encouraged to take an active role in managing their children’s
school – and if they don’t like any of the local schools they are told
they can club together and start their own.
Education Secretary Ruth Kelly says this will result in a greater
variety of schools and give parents wider choice. It will not, of
course. The choice will go to the schools – they will choose which
pupils they want and pupils with rich parents will be the most
attractive, followed by those who might raise academic standards and
exam league table performances.
Pupils with learning difficulties from poor homes will be
relegated to the under-funded sink schools that will have them. The
result will be worse that the split between grammar and secondary
modern schools introduced by the 1944 Education Act. That did at least
give a handful of working class children access to higher education.
The Government claims that by encouraging secondary schools to
specialise they create further choice but in practice this is
illogical. In theory children would have to decide at the age of 11
which areas they would like to specialise in.
Even then, if they choose to specialise in engineering but the local
schools are specialising in ballet and business studies, they will have
no choice at all.
The National Union of Teachers has strongly criticised the White Paper.
NUT general secretary Steve Sinnott said: “This is an extraordinarily
wrong-headed White Paper. The Education Secretary’s picture of legions
of parents knocking on the door to control schools is not based in
“Parents do not want to control schools. They want to know they
can turn to their head teacher or teacher if they have questions about
their children’s education. They want to know their child is happy,
safe and learning. Above all they want a good local school for their
“The vision of so-called academy-style freedoms with a new,
confused role for local authorities is hardly a recipe for stability
and confidence amongst both teachers and parents.
“Instead of democratic accountability through education
authorities we have a confusing mishmash of trusts and parents’
councils, all with a say in the running of our schools. This is a
tangled web of responsibility rather than clear lines.”
But there is hope that all this will not necessarily come to
pass. Blair it seems is at last feeling the constraints of his smaller
majority in Parliament. And there is growing opposition to his policies
– both on privatisation and warmongering.
Cracks are developing even in the hitherto slavishly loyal
Cabinet and Ministers now seem more concerned with Blair’s successor.
And that does not necessarily have to be Brown. There is obviously much
jostling and wheeler-dealing going on behind the scenes.
It is unlikely to result in anything we could describe as
socialist but it should at least, and at last, get rid of Blair.
An injury to one is an injury to all
LAST weekend’s reports
of rioting and clashes between young Blacks and young Asians in the
Lozells Road area of Birmingham, resulting in two deaths, was provoked
by rumours that a Black girl had been raped by a number of Asian
youths. Police say no rape has been reported to them but the alleged
rape victim is said to have questionable immigration status and to be
afraid that if she goes to the police, she will be deported.
This is a tragedy on many levels and a product of the increasing
climate of fear that is being fostered by the ruling class.
Representatives of all the communities involved have been quick to
dissociate themselves from the violence and point out that only a small
minority of angry youths are involved. Police statements have backed
Some middle-class columnists and social pundits seem surprised at
violence breaking out between Blacks and Asians – who are both
traditionally seen in the role of victims of white racism. But
prejudice, stupidity and racism are not the prerogative of any one
particular skin colour – it would be racist to think that they were.
These traits flourish in a climate of fear and suspicion which
encourages ordinary working people not to trust each other, to see
people from different backgrounds as a potential threat and to be ready
to see the worst in each other.
In America this climate of fear and suspicion has been developed
much further and it undermines any kind of spontaneous friendliness.
Now, in some states, you can shoot someone and enter a plea of not
guilty on the grounds that you thought they were about to draw a gun
and shoot you – even if you were mistaken in that thought.
It mirror’s Bush’s claim to the right to bomb or invade other
countries because of what he thinks they might be about to do –
regardless of any evidence.
In Britain now Scotland Yard has widened its own shoot-to-kill
policy to include domestic violence and stalking cases.
Most of all, this climate of fear and suspicion undermines
working class solidarity. The ruling class want us all to be like
frightened rabbits, hiding in our hutches – not talking, or sharing
experiences. We might find out that it is not each other we have to
fear but the growing powers of the bourgeois state.
Divide and rule is a very old ploy but it still works well. It
was used in the former Yugoslavia to set Bosnian against Serb, Serb
against Croat and so on until the once proud socialist country was
shattered into pieces. Even those who realised what was happening were
drawn in, helplessly. When the hot-headed son of your former friendly
neighbour gets a gun, and you and your family are the likely target, it
is hard to remain neutral.
Britain has used this ploy many times in its colonial history:
setting Protestant against Catholic in Ireland, Muslim against Hindu in
India, Turk against Greek in Cyprus and Masai against Kikuyu in Kenya.
The mass media in Britain last week have even been trying to
revive the oldest divide of all – between the sexes. There has been a
rash of stories of celebrity chefs, advertising executives and
so-called scientists claiming that women are useless at just about
anything. And it has pressed all the right buttons, with indignant
middle class women writers retaliating with equally silly insults about
But for the working class these old battles between men and
women, between ethnic and religious groups are endless and sterile
diversions from the real battle – the class war against exploitation,
against bigotry and injustice.
Workers, whatever our gender or race, are being cheated. Our
living standards are under attack, our hard-won state welfare is being
dismantled and our civil liberties are melting away faster than the
We must stand together, shoulder to shoulder and protect each
other from racism, sexism or any other form of discrimination. We must
educate our hot-headed young people to recognise the real enemy and to
fight for freedom from capitalism – in other words for socialism.
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