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No, prime minister

Tony Blair's defence of the nationalisation of education is based on a false reading of our recent past

By Robert Skidelsky   March 2000

We must confront our past, not continue it,” Tony Blair announced in his Romanes lecture on education (Prospect, February). His history of education is one of state neglect with occasional exceptions (Balfour’s 1902 Act, Butler’s 1944 Act) until Jim Callaghan’s Ruskin speech in 1976. There was then a little progress under the Tories, but basically Labour “inherited a situation too little changed from Callaghan’s day.” The moral is clear: neglect must be succeeded by “national leadership.” Central government must take responsibility for investment in education, raising standards and promoting life-long learning. Then follows the catalogue of “starts” since 1997: more…

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