Party Politics, Speeches and Ed-ucation

We’re halfway through the political party conference season in Britain. Those of the UK Independence Party and the UK Coalition Party (aka the Liberal Democrats) have been and gone. The Labour party is now in the middle of its get-together, and the Conservatives will gather next week.

The Conservatives are at an all-time low in the political polls, as are the Lib Dems. There’s talk of UKIP becoming more popular than the LibDems, which in theory could make them coalition partners for either Labour or the Tories in the next Parliament – an interesting prospect.

One of the interesting issues around at the moment concerns our current generation of full-time professional politicians – people who are often in their forties and have gone straight from university into careers in think tanks and ‘advising’ MPs, eventually metamorphosising into beautiful and not so beautiful MP butterflies themselves, and then becoming government ministers and shadow ministers almost overnight.

These are people who, if they weren’t involved in politics, would have to think very hard about who they are and what they want to achieve in life. Of course it used to be the other way round, and people were expected in the past to do some sort of life-defining work and become substantial people in their own right before standing for election as a representative of we, the people.

Before the party conference season began Polly Toynbee wrote an interesting piece in the Guardian, which ended with these paragraphs:

We need great speeches in this time of national drama

Amid the government’s injustice and class bias, people want to see their deep anger reflected by opposition politicians

Great speeches spring from times of heightened national drama. In democracies we make ambivalent demands on our leaders, rightly suspicious of any overreaching rhetoric yet demanding to be moved and impressed nonetheless.

Compared with the relatively calm postwar era of British history, these times may rank as a moment that calls for a heightening of political language. My postwar generation has never known such a long and deep recession, never seen a government impose such austerity, never watched a chancellor deliberately depress growth through unshakeable, evidence-denying dogma. We have never watched the incomes of the bottom half of society assaulted while the upper echelons stay unscathed. We have never witnessed the effrontery of a chancellor claiming “We’re all in this together”, then piling the sacrifice on to the most hard-pressed while cutting tax for rich.

The challenge for Ed Miliband is how to capture the right tone of indignation at this injustice and class bias, how witheringly to crush the wilful ignorance of Tory backbenchers calling the British “the worst idlers” when so many desperately seek more work.

Travelling around Britain this summer I found wells of anger in people who don’t see it reflected in overcautious Labour at Westminster. Worse is to come, with 80% of cuts not yet implemented, housing benefit evictions and disability scooter repossessions not publicly visible. Good rhetoric catches the spirit of the times, not extreme but forensic, resonant with what’s happening – the million young people without jobs, the rising debt wasted on unemployment instead of constructive investment. This peacetime crisis needs a lick of warlike fire.

On the radio this morning there was talk about the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, making a speech today regarding the 50% of young people that do NOT go to university, and what sort of education they need to have access to. We’ll report on that and share a few comments tomorrow.

About 3D Eye

Gary Foskett and Clare Blackhall are educationalists, writers and consultants. We work with schools and other organisations who share our vision of how schools, businesses, etc should work in the 21st Century. We also run courses and contribute to conferences - speaking about our three dimensional model of intelligences and how schools, colleges and universities can develop the full potential of all their staff and students. We also offer consultancy for businesses and public sector organisations to support staff training and organisational change and development. For more detailed information read our blog at or see our website at
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2 Responses to Party Politics, Speeches and Ed-ucation

  1. fraser says:

    If you compare Westminster to Holyrood you’ll find that a significant number Holyrood politicians have had real jobs. Hence they’re a bit more clued up. The Westminster system is rotten. But Labour are happy to go along with it as it keeps their professional politicians in jobs.


    • 3D Eye says:

      That’s good to know, Fraser. There are many things about Scotland that English politicians should learn from, not least its more enlightened approach to education and government via proportional representation. ( We should probably write a piece on the differences between the Scottish and English systems of education, or ask someone who knows more about it than we do to write something. No doubt there are summaries floating about somewhere.
      I think the point that Polly Toynbee is making is that the poor, the dispossessed, the disadvantaged and the desperate don’t feel like they are properly represented by politicians who truly understand their situation, or care about it very much, let alone are able to speak on their behalf with any passion and persuasiveness. What’s more, many of the better-off sections of society have begun to feel the same way. “The Thick Of It” seems more like reality TV than satire, with people in the Westminster village caring mainly about in-fighting, seeking personal advantage and preoccupations with personal vanity. We’ll see whether brother Ed’s speech at the conference has made any difference.


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