It all started with The Young Ones.
Hearing Rick rail against Thatcher, whoever that was, piqued my interest in politics and tilted me portside.
Then came the musicians. Firstly, through politically engaged indie bands of the early 90s, like the Manic Street Preachers. From there, I traced back the genealogy through Billy Bragg and Red Wedge to The Clash and the A.N.L.
I can’t remember a time when I haven’t leaned to the left.
So, you can imagine my own sense of self-doubt and confusion when, in the midst of all of the hatred of Michael Gove, I found myself agreeing with a lot of what he said and did.
I mean, it seemed to me that no matter what the wider intentions of the Tory party were, Gove himself was trying to raise standards of education. And even if that wasn’t his prime intention and in reality he was secretly manipulating galactic politics to establish a blockade of Naboo by the Trade Federation in order to gain election as Supreme Chancellor… even if that was his true aim, the upshot is that a lot of the education policy he introduced along the way will raise standards.
So how could this have happened? How could I have agreed with [spits] a Tory?
Maybe I had succumbed to that old prophecy that you become more right wing as you get older?
But I knew that wasn’t true: I still got angry at what Jeremy Hunt was doing to the NHS and how Cameron and Osborne were cosying up to the bankers. All of my card-carrying leftie credentials were still in place: belief in the welfare state, concern over climate change, mistrust of nationalism, affection for the colour red…
Then it struck me. The reason I had agreed with a lot of what Gove had given us: Conquest’s First Law of Politics.
Conquest’s First Law states that, “Everyone is conservative about what he knows best.”
It’s true. I am (small ‘c’) conservative about education. And what’s more, I don’t think I’m alone.
It’s for this reason that I worry about Labour education policy. I worry that they might reverse some of the good that has been put in place to raise education standards in the past five years, and that they might do this because they think it’s what all Labour supporters want.
What I want from Labour education policy is a continuation of the drive to raise standards and to build on a lot of what has been done in the last 5 years – even if it has been put in place by their ideological opposition. Whilst I’ll concede that Gove may not have got everything right, I’d hope that Labour would be keen to ensure that there is a continued focus on an improved curriculum and a scrupulous assessment process.
Whilst I still laugh at The Young Ones’ Scumbag College changing the questions so that they can cheat on University Challenge, there’s part of me that recoils at their attempts to attain par with their Oxbridge peers on the opposing team by gaming the system. The only true way for comprehensive education to match private is through a better standard of curriculum and higher expectations of pupils.
Of course, I now realise that The Young Ones’ Rick was always more conservative (small ‘c’) than he wanted people to know. That is what made the character funny. For all his railing against Thatcher, when the chips were down in the very last episode, the students found themselves homeless and turning to crime. In his last mention of the Iron Lady before the gang drove their bus off a cliff, his words were extolling rather than scolding: “That’s one thing I’ll say for Thatcher, she definitely has put this country back on its feet.”
Whilst I’ll admit some conservatism over education, I don’t think I’ll ever confess any admiration for Thatcher. But what I would hope for is that, should Labour gain power in May, they don’t undo some of the good work of Gove purely because they were Tory policies. They might do well to know that some of us, whilst Labour supporters, are also fairly conservative about what we know best.