Today's House Points column from Liberal Democrat News. "You'll get letters," said the editor.
A Tory leader has finally worked out how to discomfort Tony Blair at prime minister’s questions. You agree with him.
For eight long years the Conservatives tried to persuade us that, deep down, Blair is a dangerous Bolshevik. Remember those Demon Eyes posters? They did not work for a simple reason. He isn’t.
Michael Gove gave the correct Tory estimation of Tony Blair when he was just a Times commentator. He wrote: “I can't fight my feelings any more: I love Tony ... as a rightwing polemicist, all I can say looking at Mr Blair now is, ‘What's not to like?’”
Which is why last Wednesday Michael Howard told Blair not to waste his time abusing those across the chamber who agree with him on education. He should worry about his own backbenches. They don’t.
The Independent’s Simon Carr has been urging this strategy on the Tory front bench for years. Praise Blair for enacting good Conservative measures and then sit back to enjoy the fun.
If they stick with it, we shall enter a new world. It won’t quite be Israel, where the prime minister is forming his own party. But Tony Blair’s education measures will probably go through with Tory support and in the teeth of much Labour opposition.
Which will leave the Liberal Democrats with some thinking to do. We shall walk through the No lobbies alongside the Labour rebels. Why not? We are not New Labour.
But we are not Old Labour either. And we should not sound like them.
A skilled and confident teaching profession must be central to our education policy. But too often the teachers’ voice, as heard through their unions, is the reverse. It is endlessly negative, opposing every government imitative – good, bad or lunatic. At its worst it is full of teenage nihilism. It’s not fair. I hate you. You’re not my dad.
This negativity has infected Old Labour with fatalism. There are good schools and bad schools, good students and bad students, and you can’t do much about it. Hence their interest in allocating school places by ballot.
We should be different. We need to talk about quality, innovation and choice, whatever the structures we favour to deliver them. In short, we need to sound more Liberal.