Coffee House

Michael Gove is right — the Conservatives are the party of social justice

1 April 2014

12:00 PM

1 April 2014

12:00 PM

Yesterday, George Osborne dedicated himself the mission of ‘full employment’. Today, Michael Gove has given a speech declaring that the Conservatives are the ‘party of social justice’. This is not positioning – it’s simply stating the obvious.

Thanks to Gove, the best hope a council estate kid has of dodging the local sink school is for a new school to open nearby. The Gove reforms don’t help the rich – the education system works fine for them. The best state schools are filled with the state pupils from the richest backgrounds. Ed Balls was sent private, as his dad (who used to teach at Eton) had wisely saved money and rightly sought to invest this in his child. The same is true for Tristram Hunt’s parents. They will be proud to see their investment pay off, as their children fully develop their gifts  climb to the top of the political tree. If you have the cash, in Britain, there is no need for school reform. The system works fine for you.

But those who don’t have such money have much to fear from the Ed Balls and Tristram Hunts of this world. Both of them seem determined that the ladder extended to them does not go to children from more modest homes, by stopping new schools from opening (if there are places to fill in bad schools).  To the Tories, education is about the child. To Labour, it’s about the adults: the teaching unions, and the bad schools that fear competition. You don’t need to be a genius to work out which is the party of social justice.

It’s also encouraging to see George Osborne interested in the social justice agenda, having previously been a tad suspicious of mission-driven politicians. But he is richly entitled to use such language: the agenda of tax cuts is nothing less than an emancipation. Only the Tories believe in transferring power to the many, from the few, by the simple means of tax cuts. Power over the money you earn is the greatest power of all. Labour will do anything for the working class – except trust them.


And those million new jobs? No one can accuse the Chancellor of announcing a fake target. Thanks to his recovery, it is very doable. The below graph shows that the UK economy is expected to easily generate a million more jobs – in fact, the OBR small print envisages 1.2m by 2018.

The OBR expects that there will be 700,000 more people in employment in 2018 than it thought there would be this time last year.

The OBR forecasts that between now and 2018 there will be 1.2 million extra people in employment in Britain.

Theresa May also has strong social justice credentials: her proposed legislation to end Modern Slavery will put Britain at the forefront (yet again) of world attempts to eradicate this mutant strain of an old evil.

Iain Duncan Smith is so committed to this agenda that he set up the Centre for Social Justice (on whose advisory board I’m proud to serve) and his welfare reforms are explicitly aimed at saving lives, not just money. You can look at the above graph, and see how jobs has gone a lot better that the Treasury expected year after year. Why? Because the IDS reforms are reconnecting British jobs with British people,

Conservatism delivers what socialism dangles. Twas always thus. It’s true that Tories have tended to tone down the rhetoric, and leave the left to bang in about the ‘arc of the moral universe’ etc. The left tend to judge policies by their intentions, the right tend to judge them by their results. Ed Miliband’s policies in particular pose a massive threat not just to the recovery, but to the fairness and strength of British society. He proposes a Hollande-style bureaucratic restoration. It’s the last thing we need.

So it’s worth saying, again and again, that the best hope of a socially just and strong Britain is a Conservative majority government at the next election. I hope the Tories keep banging this drum all the way to June 2015.

PS: Gove’s speech extracts:

‘We’re implementing a long term plan for schools – rooted in evidence – driven by moral purpose. We want every child to have a chance to flourish. We inherited an education system which was one of the most stratified and segregated in the developed world. Thousands of children – overwhelmingly from poorer backgrounds – were receiving an inadequate education.

‘That had to change – and that’s why we have been implementing reforms to help all children succeed; targeting support on the most disadvantaged; executing a long term educational plan, rooted in evidence of what works. The most successful schools in this country – and the most successful education jurisdictions in the world – share particular qualities. Greater autonomy for those at the frontline; sharper, more intelligent accountability; and doing everything possible to drive up the standard of teaching.

‘Our plan for schools is focused on each of these objectives. And it’s working. Since May 2010, the number of pupils taught in underperforming secondary schools has fallen by almost a quarter of a million. And we’ve raised the bar on what counts as success – setting a tough new minimum floor standard, which no school should fall below. In 2010, 407 secondary schools would have fallen below the floor. This year, it was just 154.Still 154 too many – but a significant improvement.’

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Show comments
  • andagain

    I’ve never liked the term “social justice”. With libertarians or egalitarians you know what they stand for.

    Social justice just seems to mean “nice things I refuse to specify. But they are really nice, honestly…”

    • the viceroy’s gin

      …so, socialism, in other words.

  • Frank

    Good to see The Spectator becoming the Pravda of Britain.
    The more you bang on about the moral mission, the party of social justice, etc, the bigger the discrepancy between the rhetoric and the reality, eg Tim Yeo, Mark Menzies, Maria Miller, etc.

    • allymax bruce

      ‘Moral purpose’ = Common Purpose ?

  • London Calling

    Hello Fraser………
    We all hope for a better future……….if what you say is true, which I do not doubt, the future looks rather rosy…………….:)

  • George_Arseborne

    This is an April fool.

    • MartinC

      You are an April fool.

      And to prove it, lets see who gets the most ‘recommends’…

    • Nicholas chuzzlewit

      So speaks the year round fool.

  • dado_trunking

    Magna Carta Socialism rules Britain.
    Only a select economically inactive few take full advantage of the taxpayer-funded subsidy system.

    • anosrep

      Yes, they’re called the royal family.

  • Hello

    “Ed Balls was sent private, as his dad (who used to teach at Eton) had wisely saved money and rightly sought to invest this in his child”

    I think you make an important point here: education doesn’t always work.

    • telemachus

      You are on dangerous ground, son
      Our future Prime Minister may well have a dad teaching at Eton but he will ensure with Tristram that the sink schools are revitalised and demotivated rather than left to wither as part of Gove’s Darwinian experiment

      • Colonel Mustard

        Love to see that “revitalisation and demotivation” at work. What is it, telling students that if they get 90% + in an exam they’ll get the afternoon off and then when they do giving them an afternoon’s detention instead?

        But seriously, where was all this Labour-sponsored revitalisation turning out world class students in the 13 years from 1997-2010? You think “sink schools” miraculously appeared after May 2010? You have been busily telling us how much money Brown threw at schools to “revitalise” them. What happened . . . . son?

        • allymax bruce

          “Brown threw at schools to “revitalise” them. What happened”
          The money went to golden-pension sinecures of the placated Common Purpose Labour drones!
          Time to sack them= Gove’s reform.

      • Nicholas chuzzlewit

        Michael Gove is scouring the rancid filth and decay of socialism from UK schools. Competition will eventually force the closure of ‘sink’ schools and throw under performing or useless teachers deservedly onto the scrap heap. Standards are rising and the last thing we need is a bout of spending money we do not have on the reinforcement of mediocrity and failure by Labour the party of lies, lying and liars.

        • telemachus

          My issue is “eventually”
          The principles of Govian Educational Social Darwinism dictate that you plonk a free school next to a comprehensive and wait for it to wither
          While the children of the non engaged parents(14%of the whole) get a progressively more dreadful education condemning them for ever
          This is evil
          Gove is evil

          • Nicholas chuzzlewit

            I couldn’t care less and neither could you. Keep it up Michael.

            • telemachus

              The differences I perceive between posters here is that some of us believe passionately
              And like all socialists care

              • allymax bruce

                Stalin, and Hitler, ‘passionately believed’; and I’m sure they would have said they ‘cared’ too.

              • Nicholas chuzzlewit

                You care only about ruining lives and fascism.

      • David B

        I see you are back to your educational flat earth society again, son!

        Ed Balls has more chance of being thrown out as an MP at the next GE than becoming PM

        • Kitty MLB

          Yep, the winds of change are in the air, next May, hurricane electorate will
          hopefully blow Labour and all their nasty little MP’s to

      • Kitty MLB

        You are rattling on again Telemachus, Tristram is a beautiful
        but dim statue. The Excellent Michael Gove is breathing life through
        our education system, so that our young become enthusiastic and bright tax payers and have a future. Instead of having a life of no
        hope on the benefits system. Our children under Labour left school
        without even knowing the basics- and that is unforgivable.

      • HD2

        Darwinism has beaten Marxism on every occasion they’ve competed.
        No exceptions
        Over 3.5 billion years.

        So why oh why does anyone still believe Socialism can solve ANYTHING?

        Is not Einstein’s definition of stupidity doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result?

        Socialism = shared misery and a bankrupted nation (both morally AND economically)

      • Melanie Eskenazi

        Our future Prime Minister? Oh, wait – I read this on April 1st.

        • Kitty MLB

          An April fools nightmare. Some of the remarks
          that telemachus makes are quite alarming.

    • Kitty MLB

      Indeed some people can will not allow their good education to get
      in the way of their ignorance. Especially Mr Balls.

  • allymax bruce

    ‘Theresa May also has strong social justice credentials:’
    Yes, May has the ‘centre-right’ ethos of Disraeli; and thank God for that too.

    It’s frightening to think the Labour Party are more ‘far-right’ in their ‘social policies’, than The Conservatives, but Labour are now committed to a horrendous Marxist-Communist ethos of Nation-State; ofcourse, Labour want to give it a friendly name; they call it Socialism!

    ‘Only the Tories believe in transferring power to the many, from the few, … Labour will do anything for the working class – except trust them.’
    Very true, Fraser. Labour are now The Marxist Party, while, The Conservatives have re-branded their Conservative Party as a Modern, all-inclusive, 21st century Nation-State Party. The 2015 General Election is now a walk-over for The Conservative Party; glad to see David Cameron taking my advice.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      …and you appear to have spotted out the calender today, as well.

      • allymax bruce

        What’s long-winded, red, and gets right on your nerves?
        the viceroy’s g-string.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          …well if that g-string was on a sheep, we know darn well what you’d be on, lad.

  • Rhoda Klapp8

    April the first, I see.

    • alabenn

      Must be, Fraser is praising a Tory or two who have actually achieved something.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      Yes, April is a fun time for the socialist Camerloons.

      May the next and the next after won’t be so fun, however.