Blair puts education at heart of his agenda

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The Independent Online
TONY BLAIR yesterday made investment in education the centrepiece of a programme of 'change and national renewal' under a future Labour government.

However, he made it clear that the 'new left' agenda would not necessarily mean tearing up all the Conservative education changes. The implication of greater spending on education came in his leadership election statement, which said: 'The more we put into education, the more we shall get back - as skill, achievement, opportunity and community . . . Education is at the heart of our project for national renewal.'

Questioned at a London news conference over whether he would reverse Tory changes, Mr Blair - the shadow Home Secretary and favourite to win the race for the Labour leadership - replied: 'The most important thing is to be clear about the objectives that we want to see for our children. What I want for my children is that they go to a school where there is discipline, where they're getting taught to high standards by professional and highly-motivated staff . . .'

When questioned over whether he was opposed to testing and league tables, he replied: 'Everybody wants to know how their children are doing at school and have them properly assessed. The debate is as to what the best means of assessment is.'

The statement, Change and National Renewal, was a 'new left-of-centre agenda for Britain', Mr Blair said. Alongside the emphasis on education and the goal of a mass-membership party, pledges - but not new policy commitments - include 'fair' taxation, help for industry to adapt to change, a quest for greater competitiveness, a Bill of Rights and a crusade against crime. These, and a declaration that the 'dynamic market economy which we seek must enhance individual and common welfare through a revolution of opportunities', arguably put him closer to Paddy Ashdown, the Liberal Democrat leader, than his two leadership rivals, Margaret Beckett, the acting leader, and John Prescott, the employment spokesman.

Unlike Mrs Beckett, who has spoken of 'sweeping away' Tory union legislation and a 'sensible approach' to secondary picketing, Mr Blair insisted yesterday: 'It is important we fight this campaign on the basis of Labour party policy.'

Blair's vision, page 6

Leading article, page 17

A bitter harvest, page 19