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The Next Labour Manifesto

5 March 2009

12:14 AM

5 March 2009

12:14 AM

Taking a cue from Vogue and other glossy mags, the New Statesman has decided to liven things up attract some publicity by inviting a celebrity to be "Guest Editor" for a forthcoming issue. Their choice? Alastair Campbell. Among his ideas? This:

As well as the articles I’ve already commissioned, one of the pages will be handed over to ‘LabourListers’ and others to finish the phrase: ‘if I could get one sentence into Labour’s manifesto for the next election, it would say this…’

I want to do this because, for all that the Tories may be ahead in the polls, and taking that position for granted, I think the battle of policy ideas still has more energy on the left than the right, and I hope this page will reflect that.

I’ll get the ball rolling with a couple of ideas, then the space below is yours for suggestions:

I would like to see compulsory voting for general and local elections. And I would like to see an end to charitable status for private schools.

I have to assume that Mr Campbell actually has better ideas than this. He must do. Right? I mean, he couldn’t possibly really want this brace of coercive, illiberal promises in the party’s manifesto could he? Whatever the merits of compulsory voting* removing charitable status from non-profit making private schools would be a gift to the Tories. Trying to put private schools out of business – which is the intention of such a measure – and thus reduce options for parents at a time when the Tories want to increase the range of choices available to parents seems like a losing idea to me.

It’s also illogical. After all, if you close private schools you increase the cost of state-sponsored education, costing all taxpayers extra. And if schools lose their charitable status, shouldn’t universities also lose theirs? What’s the difference? Universities may receive public-funding, but private schools subsidise the government.

*I’m unpersuaded by the case for compulsory voting. Are Belgium and Australia more "engaged" or "cohesive" societies because they insist upon this? That said, I might be more amenable to the notion if "None of the Above" was also listed on the ballot paper…

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