Opposition Day debates from Labour are often rather boring, with a frontbencher getting very angry about energy bills (one of their favourite topics for opposition day debates), and three backbenchers pulling stern faces at the lonely minister whose job it is to reply. But tomorrow’s debate is being billed as a ‘box office’ encounter (which says a lot about the sort of thing people in Parliament get excited about) between the party’s new Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt and Michael Gove.
Up to this point, Labour attempts to attack Gove have been about as effective as trying to scratch a diamond with a pin. But Hunt has already launched a frenzied round of broadcasts on education, and is trying to undermine Gove on an issue where he believes public opinion is behind Labour: unqualified teachers. The party has just signed off the motion for tomorrow, which says:
‘That this House endorses the view that in state-funded schools, teachers should be qualified or working towards Qualified Teacher Status while they are teaching.’
Of course, this is designed more to smoke out the Liberal Democrats, who have now gone public on their desire for all teachers in state schools to have qualifications, or be working towards them. Gove is committed to it because he believes in letting heads pick the best candidate to teach their pupils, but as Fraser argued last week, Nick Clegg isn’t feeling so liberal these days.
So what will the Lib Dems do? The motion has been sufficiently carefully worded that in principle the party should have no problem with supporting it. But party sources say the most likely thing will be a government amendment signed by both parties which backs the current reforms while acknowledging differences within the Coalition on what policy should look like after 2015. The question is more what from Gove’s reforms the Lib Dems will agree to praise in the government motion, rather than whether they’ll vote with Labour.
But this whole row over unqualified teachers does say something interesting about Nick Clegg’s plan for 2015. Though he likes to talk about the Lib Dems being the reasonable party of the centre who modify any government so that it works better, he clearly wants to appeal to a certain person’s definition of reasonable. While polling shows that parents back qualified teachers, the other areas where the Deputy Prime Minister sees great benefit in prolonged and public differentiation aren’t always popular with voters, such as immigration and human rights reform. Clearly he is after a certain sort of voter, and a very specific sort at that. Perhaps given teaching unions’ fury over unqualified teachers, we can surmise that he’s after a voter who might be a member of the NUT or NASUWT, too.Tags: Education, Labour, Michael Gove, Tristram Hunt, UK politics