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January 28, 2004

So, Tony's squeezed his higher education bill through the commons with a majority of five. All the pundits have been going on about how this rebellion shows that the Labour Party's not going to allow him to force them on an issue that runs counter to their instincts ever again, and how Blair will now have to straighten up and fly right, running the Government in a less "presidential" style.

What a load of bollocks.

The exact same things were said after the vote on Iraq and after the vote on foundation hospitals. When it comes to one of his pet "marketisation of the public sector" projects, he'll always threaten the parliamentary party with a confidence vote and they'll fall into line. It's his "nuclear option".

As for Blair suddenly leading by consensus and letting control of the party diffuse from him back to the cabinet and parliament ... I'm not going to hold my breath.

What's been interesting about the whole debate for me personally (outside of the fact that I work for a University) is that a leading proponent of the bill, Barry Sheerman, is my current MP and a leading rebel is Dr Ian Gibson was my old MP when I lived in Norwich. They were often interviewed together on TV news debates on the HE funding bill.

I like Ian Gibson - his beliefs are reasonably similar to my own "true labour" leanings and he was a good constituency MP while I was in Norwich, the one blob or red in the blue pond that is a political map of Norfolk. I broadly approve of his voting record.

Barry Sheerman seems to be a bit of a Blairite New Labour apparatchik, however, backing things like the ridiculous ID card scheme that David Blunkett seems so keen on, foundation hospitals, an all-appointed House of Lords and going to war with Iraq on no solid pretext. To be fair though, he's a responsive constituency MP, always responding when I harass him with moaning faxes about Government policy.

Oh, according to aristotle, now I've moved half a mile uphill I'm a constituent of the Colne Valley district, which makes my new MP Kali Mountford. Barry'll be releived that I'm going to have to take my complaints to her from now on. Hmm, looks from her voting record like she's a loyal Blairite as well as being named after the Hindu Goddess of Death.

She also has a fairly cluefully-designed website, apart from the frames and use of javascript rather than CSS to do her rollovers. (Still, I've always been fond of Anne Widdecombe's website.)

As for the HE funding Bill itself, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I don't like Blairs dogmatic faith in markets to solve public sector problems (see Railtrack, the Tube et al) and I vehemently oppose the creeping privatisation of our public services, but on the other hand it means that the new Unversity I work for will get some much-needed money. Last year I saw colleagues being laid off due to cash shortages and that's never a good thing. I still disagree that variable fees were the only option though.

Blair says on funding HE via direct taxation: "why should the hospital cleaner pay for the education of the fat cats' children?" So tax the fat cat and not the cleaner, you swivel-eyed warmongering prick!

Posted by Jonah at January 28, 2004 2:42 PM