Blair to take 'education crusade' to the country

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Indy Politics
Tony Blair is to hold an unprecedented series of open public meetings for teachers and parents next year to secure backing for Labour's planned crackdown on bad schools and teachers.

The Labour leader announced last night that he intended to take to the road "in a crusade for standards" which party officials said was designed to prove that the adverse and highly publicised reaction of teachers' unions was not representative of the majority views of individual teachers.

Mr Blair told a CBI London Region dinner that he and David Blunkett, his education spokesman, would be holding a series of meetings for teachers and parents "of all political persuasions" next year and added: "We are mounting a crusade for standards and I want parents and teachers to feel a part of it."

The meetings - similar in concept to the campaign Mr Blair conducted among party members to secure backing for a new Clause IV - will be conducted on an "everyone welcome" basis, Mr Blair said.

At the same time he sought to rebuff Tory attacks on the 10-strong Labour Commons rebellion over income tax on Tuesday night by saying that the size of that rebellion "far from portending trouble in government, firmly underlines where the centre of gravity in our party now lies and the direction in which the party is moving ."

He added: "Not long ago there would have been a natural kneejerk desire to vote against any cut in income tax ... But no more. There is a very clear understanding that high tax should not be equated with a high success economy."

Mr Blair prefaced his remarks on the rebellion, which included former Treasury minister Denzil Davies, "by tackling head on the most common concern that is raised with me. It goes something like this. 'You're all right Mr Blair but we are not so sure about the rest of the party. We are not so sure that you can take them with you in government.' "

The rebellion - smaller than on Europe and defence estimates in the past - and the publication of Labour's new schools standards document "provided two very important indications of the extent to which the party has changed".