By Matthew Barrett
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Stephen Twigg, a Blairite reformer, was appointed to the Shadow Education brief in Ed Miliband's last reshuffle. As a former Education Minister who helped the drive for academy schools in the New Labour years, it was hoped his appointment might signal Ed Miliband's support for the Coalition's Free Schools programme.
Indeed, Twigg said earlier this month:
"On free schools, I am saying that we need to apply a set of tests, that we are not going to take an absolute policy of opposing them. The tests should be: will the school raise standards for pupils and parents, will it contribute to a narrowing of the achievement gap between rich and poor and what is the wider impact of that school?"
Unfortunately, any credibility that Twigg may have in his brief will be undermined by the class war, anti-rich sentiments of his deputy, Kevin Brennan (pictured above), who last night spoke in favour of abolishing private schools – a proposal last seen in Labour's 1983 manifesto, aka the "longest suicide note in history".
Brennan was speaking at the Oxford Union, where he proposed the motion "This House Would Abolish Private Schools". Brennan had previously spoken in favour of the same motion in his debut speech to the Oxford Union – as a student.
Graham Stuart MP (who chairs the Education Select Committee) and Toby Young, the founder of the West London Free School, helped defeat the motion, by 200 votes to 125.
Nick Gibb, the Minister of State for Schools, who Brennan shadows, commented:
"Kevin Brennan’s views will be of extreme concern to parents – not just those who have chosen to send their children to private schools, often making significant sacrifices to do so – but to all parents who aspire for the best for their children. Once again, Labour seems to believe that equality can only come through removing choice. Do Ed Miliband and Stephen Twigg agree with the Shadow Schools Minister, who wants to take Labour back to the 1980s by abolishing private schools? Or will this be another embarrassing u-turn in Labour's confused education policy just like on free schools?"