Leading article: Only one party is capturing the mood of the public

Share
Related Topics

If the Government's political antennas have broken down, the Conservatives' seem to be operating with an impressive acuity. Yesterday's speech to the Institute for Public Policy Research by Michael Gove, the Conservative schools spokesman, was another piece of shrewd political positioning from the Tories.

Mr Gove sought to frame Conservative domestic policy as a continuation of Tony Blair's public service reform agenda. The objective is to paint Gordon Brown as an impediment to improving schools and hospitals. Given that a majority of the public believe that, despite the vast sums of money that have been ploughed into them in recent years, these services still leave a lot to be desired, Mr Brown should be fighting desperately against being characterised in this way. The fact that he is failing to do so is another indication of how woefully he continues to misunderstand the Conservative challenge.

But Mr Gove went further yesterday, arguing that the Conservatives are the party that truly cares about the fate of poorer children. This is another audacious raid into territory that Labour (and Mr Brown in particular) has traditionally regarded as its own. And in the wake of the 10p tax debacle, this approach from the Tories has some real traction. Again, Mr Brown ought to have headed off this attack by mounting a strong defence of Labour's record on poverty. The fact that he has failed to do so explains why some in the Labour Party are wondering whether they have the right captain at the helm.

So much for the politics, what of the substance? The programme Mr Gove is proposing for reforming schools is broadly right. Allowing public money to follow each child and permitting newly-established schools to apply for funding should help break the stifling grip of the teaching unions and conservative local councils. Granting head teachers more freedom to innovate and permitting good schools to expand should also provide some healthy competition to the existing state sector. And paying a "premium" to schools for each child from a disadvantaged background they accept, as Mr Gove proposes, is a sensible way to ensure that there will remain a bias towards equity in the system.

There was another cunning piece of positioning from Mr Gove yesterday in his comments on "men's magazines". The education spokesman was adopting a tactic often deployed by Mr Blair over the years, namely articulating the public's sense that something is morally wrong with society. Mr Blair did it very effectively as shadow Home Secretary in the wake of the murder of the Liverpool toddler Jamie Bulger, when he spoke of "hammer blows struck against the sleeping conscience of the country".

Actually, on men's magazines the Tory message is not very convincing. Publications such as Zoo and Nuts may not be to everyone's taste, but it is going too far to attempt to lay the blame for a decline in moral values at their door. The phenomenon of feckless fathers predates the birth of the "lad's mag". In any case, the circulations of these magazines are on the slide. The Tory cavalry would appear to be riding over the hill just as the Indians are retreating.

But, to a large degree, such posturing is the nature of opposition. Rival parties must attempt to set the agenda and make the Government look out of touch. The real test comes when they attempt to put their radical proposals into action in office. And as we have seen, it takes considerably more than just sensitive political antennas to pull that off.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager - Part Time

£16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital agency based in Ashford, Ke...

Recruitment Genius: Sales and Marketing Executive

£19000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

An unelectable extremist who hijacked their party has already served as prime minister – her name was Margaret Thatcher

Jacques Peretti
 

I don't blame parents who move to get their child into a good school

Chris Blackhurst
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent