Blair gambles all to defy backbench opponents over academy schools

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Indy Politics

Tony Blair this week faces a rebellion that could fatally weaken his authority as Prime Minister after signalling his determination to press ahead with controversial reforms of public services.

Tony Blair this week faces a rebellion that could fatally weaken his authority as Prime Minister after signalling his determination to press ahead with controversial reforms of public services.

In a high-risk strategy aimed at stamping his power on Parliament, the Prime Minister will announce plans on Tuesday to drive through a raft of new measures, including a move to open more business-run state schools.

To the fury of Labour backbenchers opposed to private industry controlling schools, Mr Blair has told Lord Adonis, an unelected life peer who is a junior minister at the Department for Education and Skills, to spearhead the drive for more than 200 new academies funded by donations from businesses.

As well as prompting rebellion from within Labour's ranks, the move is likely to strain relations between Lord Adonis and Ruth Kelly, the Secretary of State for Education, who was reportedly deeply unhappy with attempts to weaken her grip on the key education portfolio.

Mr Blair's proposals, to be unveiled in the Queen's Speech, last night prompted warnings that he risks alienating Labour MPs already resentful over his determination to press ahead with controversial polices.

Sir Bill Morris, the former Transport Union leader who is regarded as being close to Gordon Brown, warned in an interview for today's GMTV Sunday programme that "marketisation" in education and health were "slippery slopes which I think could derail the next government".

George Mudie, a former education minister who led last year's revolt against student tuition fees, also criticised the plans. He said last night: "We are past the stage where what Tony says is holy writ. We will all be interested in what he has to say about education reform, but he cannot speed up what he sees as reforms without being sensitive to the problems they can cause in the Labour Party. And if he doesn't understand that, there will definitely be problems."

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