From education to employment

Succession in the Leadership Will Not Disrupt Reform, Claims Prime Minister and Chancellor<

At the Labour Party Conference in Brighton, Prime Minister Tony Blair and Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown have turned the focus towards their intended reforms for public services.

And two cabinet colleagues, Charles Clarke MP and Peter Haine MP, have called for the Prime Minister to see out the majority of this term as Prime Minister before fulfilling his expressed wish to hand over the reigns of government to someone else. Gordon Brown has been widely tipped as the leader ““ elect and most in both the country and the party expect him to be leading Labour into the election campaign for an unprecedented fourth term in office.

The New Labour Renewal

However, the seeds for future dissent have been sewn by Mr. Brown’s comments yesterday that he has no intention of altering the course of New Labour policy. This will come as a nasty shock to elements within the Trade Union movement, who had high hopes for Gordon Brown moving the Government policy further to the Left of the political spectrum. Brown can no longer be assured of widespread union backing as he makes clear that there will be no lurch to the left.

The current Chancellor, lauded as the most successful Chancellor in decades, told the conference: “When commentators tell you that the next election will be old Labour versus new Conservatives, tell them the truth”¦ The next election must, and will, be New Labour renewed against a Conservative Party today incapable of renewal.”

Centrist Policies

Mr. Brown also expressed his strong desire to keep to the current trends of policy on a more specific basis, which clearly has implications for the Further Education sector in terms of investment and encouraging private participation. He hopes, he says, to see a “home-owning, share-owning, asset-owning, wealth owning democracy”. This comes at a time when the Gate Gourmet dispute seems set to cuase a new union proposal to pass in the Labour Conference against the wishes of the leadership ““ it is thought that Gordon Brown has not intervened in this debate, a further indication that the Chancellor is wary of making express commitments to the union movement.

It must be assumed, therefore, that the unions have little prospect for favourable reform taking the New Labour movement back to the Old Labour roots. As for the moves put in place for Further Education reform, including the Foster Review and the Leitch Review, and of course the Skills Agenda and the Youth Green Paper, it remains to be seen how effectively these will be implemented.

A recent poll has found that some 62% of voters feel that the extra spending in the public sector enacted by New Labour has failed to have any measurable impact. This in itself should be a matter of grave concern, as the indications are that the forthcoming spending review in April of 2006 is likely to paint an even bleaker picture for FE funding. If increased spending in times of economic prosperity has failed in the public’s mind, what will happen when the economic climate becomes less amicable?

Jethro Marsh

Will the Brown ““ Blair reform agenda work in FE’s favour? Tell us in the FE Blog

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