Margaret Thatcher said that the “facts of life do inevitably turn out to be Tory”. However one of her admirers, the Conservative MP Liam Fox, stressed this week that emotion was also important. Conservatives have a sense of mission. We should not apologise for implementing our principles on the grounds that the facts make them a regrettable necessity.
There was plenty of emotion in the education session at the Conservative Conference this afternoon. There is a place for statistics showing how the reforms are improving standards. Yet it was right to put across the human elements.
There was speech by Lindsay Johns, a youth worker in Peckham, who said:
I’m so tired of the vacuous pc educationalists and the hand-wringing liberals who take great offence at Michael Gove’s championing of a bunch of “dead white men” and what they perceive to be arcane, difficult books – books which they claim have no relevance whatsoever to modern, multicultural Britain and to the lives of Tommy, Dwayne, Abdul or Nadine in the inner-cities.
As any sane, sentient and intelligent person knows, those doing the carping are speaking utter nonsense. Of course the sonnets of Shakespeare or the novels of Austen and Dickens are relevant to all young people in this country today, irrespective of their class, colour or creed.
Next came a speech from George Parker. He had been a teaching union leader in Washington. But then he reflected that his work in trying to keep bad teachers in he classroom was wrong – when he wouldn’t want them anywhere near his grandchildren. He said the arguments against performance related pay were familiar to him but that they had been proved wrong in the United States.
Then came then headmaster Mark Lehain from the Bedford Free School, then a parent from the school Jo Morey, who was in tears about the importance it meant for her sons.
Michael Gove then spoke and declared that the Conservatives are determined “for every child to flourish.” Mr Gove criticised the “leaders of the militant teaching unions have called a strike” against performance-related pay saying: “They want to stop good teachers being paid more money.” He took time to praise his Ministerial team including the Lib Dems and also singled out the former Minister Nick Gibb and allies in the Labour Party such as Lord Adonis – and even Diane Abbott – and those US Democrats who were embracing education reform.
Mr Gove criticised the “leaders of the militant teaching unions have called a strike” against performance-related pay saying: “They want to stop good teachers being paid more money.” He mocked unions claims that the industrial action would be “child friendly”. He said to the unions “Don’t put your ideology before our children’s interests.”
The Labour Party had failed to condemn the strike. They had failed to back the reforms that were already proven to be working. Ed Miliband said nothing about education in his Labour Party conference speech.
For Michael Gove this is not just about governing in an efficient, cost effective way. It is a moral crusade.