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The left will always have a selective open mind

The left will always have a selective open mind

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Published by Paul Nižinskyj
The Tories have recently announced the most progressive changes to education this century, yet the left can only pour scorn.
The Tories have recently announced the most progressive changes to education this century, yet the left can only pour scorn.

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Published by: Paul Nižinskyj on Mar 04, 2010
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03/04/2010

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Picture the scene. A Labour education minister smugly glides into a special press conference, knowing they're about to release something big. The room buzzes with a frustrated energy. Pens scratch nervously against their pads in anticipation. The minister produces his paper and with tender glee proceeds to revolutionise on the spot our whole perception of how our children should be educated.We should take a few lessons from Buddha, he says. Teaching our children to meditate would give them the power of clear, focused thoughts and inner quiet. He adds that we should utilise what we know of psychology - letting children know whythey feel the way they do gives them the opportunity to control it when needed.All this would help them become more confidant, responsible and creative adults.Surely liberals, teachers and arts folks would go mental for this wouldn't they?It's a crying shame no party has ever considered it.Except the thing is they have. Unfortunately it was proposed by Michael Gove, the Conservatives' education spokesman, meaning that the left have blindly torn itto pieces like the nest of vipers they are.Now I admit to being no regular reader of the Independent. But I was shocked andappalled by the close-mindedness of the paper's columnists last week. I had always viewed the Independent as a 'progressive' paper (for better or worse), yet here were it's chief writers ridiculing what may be the most progressive proposals for our education system in half a century. And all because they came from thewrong party. Worse still, they proposed nothing more than business as usual.The lesson from this is clear: if the Cameroons are serious about these radicalpolicies then they should stick to them and implement them with vigour. However,if these spangly education and co-operative plans are a ploy to woo left-leaning voters and institutions then they are making a mistake.Such a half-hearted commitment to what are essentially high-risk strategies would cause them to be implemented in a cackhanded way for people who never supported them in the first place. It would be a disaster.The interesting thing is that the Conservatives are taking up policies that havetraditionally been the preserve of 'libertarian socialists' of the far left. People like Noam Chomsky and the hoards of 'Black Block' marchers that gather in Trafalgar Square every May Day. For make no mistake - it is the statist Labourites and left 'liberals' that are the 'small-c' conservatives here.It is not as though this is without precedent. There was an attempt in the 1830sto forge an alliance between 'paternalist' Tories and Radicals - two diametrically opposed factions - to protect the poor from what they saw as the wholesale exploitation by the newly-enfranchised bourgeois Liberals.It was not a success primarily because the Whig government of the time - keen tokeep power after so long out of office - implemented workplace regulation of their own. But the opportunity was there. In 1975, Tony Benn and Enoch Powell shared a platform for the 'no' vote in the referendum over the Common Market.And while the Conservatives have been trying on Tony Benn's clothes, former Work& Pensions Secretary James Purnell revealed some of his own libertarian sympathies in The Times last week by criticising Labour's statism and calling on politicians to 'trust the people' - a longstanding Tory slogan.One passage was particularly striking, in which Purnell could seriously have been reading from a Cameroon pamphlet: "People can be disempowered if society discriminates against them, if the market impoverishes them and if the State bullies

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