Lib dems' education Black spot

The Sun thought it had the Lib Dems by the balls yesterday after it apparently caught the respective education spokespeople in England and Wales singing from different hymn sheets over extending the school age.

Sarah Teather (in Westminster) said, "I welcome this important reform as a constructive proposal from Alan Johnson," while our own Peter Black said, "This sort of compulsion will just cause resentment and disaffection amongst youngsters who are ready to leave school."

The Lib Dem defence was that Sarah and Peter were indeed singing from different hymn sheets, but since hymn sheets are a devolved issue it is perfectly acceptable for different ones to be used in England and Wales.

This is much the same as the Tories' excuse for their divergent views on top-up fees. David Cameron has recently come out as a proponent, while Welsh Tories continue to lead the charge against them.

But a 'devolved matter' is rarely as simple as that. A number of Westminster policies will directly impact Wales, whether or not Wales is drafted as part of the legislation or not. In the case of top-up fees, if David Cameron were to lift the cap as prime minister in 2010, the funding gap between Welsh and English universities would become astronomical and urgent action would be needed here.

Devolution shouldn't mean the end of complementary politics between England and Wales. There's nothing wrong with singing from different hymn sheets, but singing in the same key would probably help.

hat tip Iain Dale for being bothered to read the Sun

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posted by Blamerbell @ 8:57 am,


At 11:17 am, Blogger Peter Black said...

Anybody who knows me will know that I am tone deaf. The issue of top-up fees is clearly very different to school leaving age as it clearly has an impact on Wales because of the way that the HE system works. School leaving age is one of those devolved issues where you can take a markedly different approach.

As it happens, if you read the full press release - and then compare it to Sarah's you will see that we are in fact not that far apart. Sarah ( adopts a fairly sceptical tone, whilst I argue that we can achieve the same outcomes in Wales using different methods.


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