When two competitors join together against a third you can be sure that they sense real danger. This applies in business or in warfare. It used to go on in Yugoslavia when it was breaking up, as between the Serbians, . . . the Croats and the Muslims. Alliances would change from day to day. It’s going on now in Syria between several of the various factions concerned. In peaceful England, this is now going on in very much the same thing as business or warfare — politics. Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham are trying to trash Liz Kendall in the contest for leadership of the Labour Party, now vacant since Ed Miliband’s resignation.
Why? Because she’s the only one who is speaking her mind in refreshing new ways while the other two are unable to say anything new while trying to make themselves distinctive. Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham, having already trashed the failed leader in a very personal way and blaming him for the failure of the Labour Party in the General Election now find themselves — because, actually, they can find nothing new in their brains — supporting Miliband’s old policies. They’re just using new verbal work-arounds.
But what all three candidates ought to learn — and what the Labour Party as a whole must do if it’s to have any relevant future — is that the old-fashioned class system based on wealth doesn’t apply any longer. Call it what you will — capitalists versus the workers, rich versus the poor — it started disappearing simultaneously with the rise of the Labour Party in the 1920s and ’30s. The old Liberal Party in the same period had a far better grasp of society because then there were progressives and diehards among all ranks of society — the land-owning aristocrats, the new managerial and professional classes, and the workers themselves.
What the old Liberal Party conceived in the 1920s — without recognizing it more specifically — was the growth of a class system based on the career selection of education, or analytical thought or merit or what is best described as ‘revealed intelligence’. By the last I mean whatever intelligence babies are born with not being subsequently blunted by poor or inadequate parenting in the earliest years of childhood or by poor or inadequate education in the child’s school years.
The blunting effect of inadequate parenting means that there is already a 1 to 2 year gap in educability or revealed intelligence at 5 years of age when children start to go to school which then enlarges to a 3 to 4 year gap in revealed intelligence at puberty when the general blunting effect of state education is added on — that is, when pupils at state schools are compared to those fortunate enough to go to private schools, plus what probably amounts to about another 7% to 10% from the relatively rare state secondary schools in some of the ‘leafy suburbs’ .
To be realistic, and due to the fast-changing nature of the automating job market — which parents know about far quicker than centralised government education departments — the situation is already beginning to change, particularly due to the development of Free Schools. These, besides giving a better education also have a galvanising effect on the quality of nearby state schools. But Free Schools are yet far too recent to judge their ultimate overall effect on the job market — that is, when they start sending increasing proportions of their students to the better universities which, hitherto, the private schools had a predominant lien on.
The result in the last 30 years or so — since the computer has had such an dramatic efficiency effect on manufacturing industry and retailing, and continues to do so — has been divide in the country (as also in America and probably elsewhere) between a relatively well-paid highly educated professional class (and including rich entrepnreurs also) and the rest. Social mobility (a result of the instinct to rank ordering) goes on well enough within the two sub-populations but not between them — that is, when considering the social mobikity of the country as a whole. The Oxford University team under Erzsabet Bukodi has shown very clearly that those in the lowest classes only have half the chance of rising to the top compared with 50 years ago.
So what the Labour Party had better take a view on is the importance of education. When Tony Blair was in his first flush as Labour Party Prime Minister 18 years ago he said his list of priorities was Education, Education, Education, but he largely let this slip during his term of office — though it must be said that right at the end, with the skilful assistance of Jonathan Powell (with all his previous civil service experience) he managed to persuade the Department of Education to allow the first few Free Schools to come into existence.
I would already vote for Liz Kendall if I were a member of the Labour Party, but wholeheartedly so if she were to resurrect the only important policy for the future.