Thursday, 5 April 2007

It would be nice to believe you, Gordon

Gordon Brown has published an article in the Times today in which he trumpets the “Education for All” campaign. Before his promise to help educate the 80m children worldwide who do not go to school causes you to reach for the champagne, however, two words of caution.

Firstly, the bottle is already empty, as Brown has been making this promise for years. What is new is his focus on providing what one might call ‘emergency education’ for children who are displaced due to war or disaster. “For the first time, we propose to do for education what the Red Cross and Médecins Sans Frontières already do for healthcare — provide education even in fragile states and war zones.” Which is all very admirable, but it would be nice if Brown gave credit where credit was due. Only two nights ago, Lynne Featherstone told an audience of Lewisham and Beckenham North Liberal Democrats that she had first proposed this at International Development Questions. This had taken Hilary Benn by surprise, but he had agreed to her proposal. Now, Brown is proclaiming it as a great Labour innovation. It isn’t the first time our policies have been stolen.

Secondly, as he has overseen (from the commanding heights of the economy at 1, Horse Guards Road) the UK’s national education failure, one might question whether he is the right man to bring education to Africa. In the UK today, a quarter of school leavers are functionally illiterate. This is a particularly germane statistic at present as the current generation of school leavers are a Labour generation, having known almost nothing of education under any other government. Yet basic literacy and numeracy are beyond the power of this government, despite pouring record amounts of money into education, one has to question whether it will be any more effective in Africa.

Gordon Brown as the solution to Africa’s woes has been an image that the Chancellor has paraded for some time. As his impending promotion nears, expect to see more saintly images of the dour-looking Scot. Pinches of salt are recommended.


Anonymous said...

> It isn’t the first time our policies have been stolen.

Calling it "stolen" makes it sound like a bad thing. If LibDem policies are being adopted, then surely that's a good thing! As long as they're actually implemented property, of course...

Tom Papworth said...

It's a good point. I did think about adding a sentence about the policies not being implemented properly, and even about being happy if they were adopted by others, but my posts can get a bit lengthy and I was trying to be a bit more brief.