The balance of power between the state and the individual is not just about money but also knowledge. The increase in transparency introduced by the Coalition Government greatly boosts choice. An important early example was the publication of school league tables during the Major Government – the publication was bitterly resisted by the Labour Party and the unions. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt takes inspiration from it for ensuring patients know more about the performance of hospitals.
There has continued to be opposition to transparency from the Left but I think it would be difficult for a future Labour Government. It is the Zeitgeist. The Government’s reforms are in line with the growth of the internet and wider access to information across the globe.
One recent example comes from an initiative from the Mayor of London called the London Schools Atlas. This shows what areas pupils attending a particular school are drawn from and the extent of mobility between boroughs. It also provides information about the performance of schools.
The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said:
“We are putting information and transparency at the heart of schools planning in the capital. Whether you are a teacher, a policy maker or a parent, the London Schools Atlas provides a single authoritative resource for anyone concerned about education and seeking to understand the challenges of pupil numbers and places.
“This important new tool means that, for the first time, a range of information and data about school numbers, location, catchment areas and attainment is available in a way that is easy to use and to interpret.”
Munira Mirza, Deputy Mayor for Education and Culture, said:
“The London Schools Atlas brings data to life more graphically than ever before, making it easier than ever for more people to absorb the facts. We hope to encourage collaborative working between local authorities, academy providers and free school groups, and enable universities to better target their wider-access programmes. We also hope it will help London parents as they research places for their own children.”
Councillors can click on their ward and see the proportion going to different schools. There is a “show more data” function – which shows the projected percentage increases in pupil demand for different districts. That is useful for those planning to start new free schools. Universities wanting to encourage more applicants from poorer pupils are also already using it.
All this information reduces state control by empowering individuals. Given the arrogance and snobbery at the heart of socialism the Labour Party don’t want ordinary people to make choices for themselves. Their instinct remains that the “man in Whitehall knows best.” So they don’t like the transparency revolution but would struggle should they try to reverse it.