Monday, 14 December 2009

Those awfully nice Tories

There seems to be great rejoicing over the fact that the Tories have revealed themselves to be the friends of the home educators. Also, I observe, a good deal is being made of the petitions which have been presented in parliament and how well all this bodes. Well, yes........and no.

In the first place, it has to be borne in mind that Conservative MPs would cheerfully support the Waffen SS and their right to ethnically cleanse Poland, if they thought it would enable them to score a couple of points against the government. Any cause will do at the moment, provided that it makes the Tory party look as though they care about the rights of the ordinary person in this country. Home education fits the bill a treat. Fortunately, none of this makes a blind bit of difference to the actual outcome of the present administration's legislative programme. With the majority they currently enjoy, the Government could force anything through the House at the moment. The Conservatives know this, which is why they feel able to play these games and present themselves as the party of principle.

As far as the high level of support for opposition to the provisions of the new Children, Schools and Families Bill, how many people have actually signed these petitions so far? I know that the latest online petition has two or three thousand signatures, but what of the ones presented by the MPs? Does anybody know the total number there?

I do not wish to appear a Jeremiah, but I would not personally trust the Conservatives too much on this issue, when once they get into power. Being tough on standards of education is very popular these days and I would be very surprised if a similar proposal did not crop up under the next Tory administration. The point to remember with our democracy is that a lot of the time the laws that are brought in do actually reflect the concerns and wishes of the man in the street. Of course, the man in the street might be an idiot, but his vote does count and so governments like to pander to him whenever possible. I can remember many occasions when the opposition has denounced some government move as iniquitous, only to introduce an almost identical law as soon as the keys to ten Downing Street have changed hands. I suspect that this is what is likely to happen if the Conservatives get in before the Children, Schools and Families Bill has reached the Statute Book.


  1. I watched much of the petition presentation with interest; on one hand it was all quite amusing and there was certainly a feeling of of the Tories having fun at the expense of Labour. On the other hand, as you say, the actual figures were not encouraging; I don't think any of the petitions that had numbers attached got over 150 signatures, and a lot seemed to be much less - such as 5 and 7. Even our local group petition (which is not my area, but the area where the home ed group which is very big and active by UK standards) only managed 23 signatures and that includes the neighbours of one family who went door to door.

    Politcally the furtue? Well, there is now talk of a snap general election... if that happens the current bill will be lost and if Labour wins, presumably they will re introduce it. If (which seems a more lkely scenario) the Tories win.... I suppose that in the short term they will have other things to worry about - but I suppose that I do agree with you in that I can see some other form of change being introduced eventually. If there is no election until the summer, it may make the Statute book even if modified, in some form.

    Although I am not a great politics expert, I do think that the Tories are the natural party to support HE freedom though (so I don't necessarily agree with your SS analogy above) because they don't have quite the Nanny state mentality of Labour. However the real issue is the whole child protection thingy - when it comes to it, I don't think many MP's will vote totally against something which has a child protection angle... too likely to get pilloried by the Daily Mail!

  2. 1. The petition wasn't an attempt to maximise support from the person in the street. Its purpose was to raise awareness in parliament - and outside it. It was a memorable event and made the headlines, so achieved its purpose.

    2. Since home educators are unlikely to swing the election result in any direction, it makes sense to rally support from whatever reasonable quarter to maximise the likelihood of specific legislation being axed. What the Conservatives do if they get into power is currently irrelevant.

    3. Even if it doesn't get axed, the 'concerns' over home education have added to the 'nanny state' debate. CRB checks are all about child protection and look what's happened to them.

    4. I wasn't happy with education policy under previous Conservative regimes, but the quality of legislation was good. And they have always espoused parental choice. The CSF Bill, by contrast, is very poorly drafted, and parents and the family do not take precedence in Labour policy.

    5. We do not, and should not, have public policies derived from public opinion. Policies should be based on reliable evidence that they will work for the common good. That's why we have a parliamentary democracy and delegate decisions to government. Whether the system is working or not is another matter.

  3. Of course the presentation of petitions was a stunt! We're dealing with politics here and tactics that might otherwise be eschewed or deemed unfair and unreasonable are fair game - after all, it was the government that started-out with lies and propaganda about home educators. We all know that the Labour government's implementation of the Badman proposals will give child molesters unfettered access to children in their own homes.

    I think many home educators have a healthy degree of scepticism about all politicians and personally I don't doubt that a Tory government might try to change the current law on home education. However, I don't think they are likely to resort to the same level of intrusiveness; they still have enough of a libertarian tendency.

    I hope that they won't be subject to the same sloppiness of wording that has been a hallmark of much of the legislation by the current government, but I don't know the extent to which this has infected the civil service and not merely the government.