Top Trumps – Labour Leadership 2010

September 1st 2010 is a significant date in the diary for many reasons. For most schools in Britain it heralds the start of the new academic year. It marks the 25th anniversary of the wreckage of the Titanic being discovered. Uzbekistanis celebrate the 19th year of independence from the former Soviet Union. For Ed, Ed, Dave, Andy and Diane the 1st of September takes on a special significance as it marks the day in which the Labour leadership ballot begins to drop. Throughout the month, Labour party members will be voting in their thousands until the 25th when the results are announced.

Regular readers of the blog will know that this isn’t the first time I’ve strayed from the subject of the coalition. As I’ve stated before you can’t separate the coalition from the Labour leadership election because the winner will have a direct impact on the success or failure of the Con-Dems. If the correct candidate is elected, then they will have the challenge of trying to form a credible opposition.

When I was growing up, my friends and I used to argue about who would win in a fight…who would win between Optimus Prime & Megatron; Dalglish & Kendall; Stallone & Schwarzenegger; Thatcher & Kinnock (ok I made that last one up). Optimus was a truck but Megatron was a plane; Kendall had Sharp but Dalglish had Rush; Stallone had Rocky but Schwarzenegger had The Terminator; Kinnock had Hattersly but Thatcher had Tebbit. We loved nothing more than debating the minute details of each opponent. Sometimes we would fall onto the statistical debating cards, Top Trumps, to assist us.

Well, in a throwback to those salad days, my friends and I were in the pub the other day sharing stories of our complicated lives. During one of our discussions, two of my more troubled friends started to debate the leadership election. As the debate grew to include all of the table, it became clear that we all seemed to share different views of the candidates.  One area where we were all in agreement was on the importance this election has on the country. We just couldn’t agree on how best to judge the candidates…who would win? David has more support from MPs but his brother has the overwhelming support of the Unions; Diane is a woman, the rest all look the same; Well, just for fun, I’ve made these cards to help me choose and I hope they help you decide…the Cameron card is also included in the pack. (Cards not to be used for serious debate…watch out for the ‘special’ election reform referendum pack soon).

Ed 'I'm not David' Miliband

Ed 'I almost lost my seat' Balls

Diane 'I'm a woman' Abbott

Andy 'I'm northern' Burnham

David 'I'm not Tony but by god I want to be' Cameron

David 'I'm not Tony or Gordon' Miliband

The count-out begins

Over the past week two heavyweights of British politics faced off against each other, again, and again, and again. Gove threw the first punch, kick starting a match off  that is sure to continue throughout the duration of this parliament.

Ladies and gentlemen, this week’s main event. In the blue (and slightly yellow) corner, the elected representative from Surrey Heath; MP since 2005; the Secretary of State for Education…Michael ‘The Cleaner’ Gove! In the red corner, the elected representative from Morley and Outwood (Just); MP since 2005…Ed ‘Spender’ Balls; brought to you by the people of Great Britain, in association with the Lib Dems…Lets get ready to crumble!!!!!

Round One – Last Monday saw Gove land the first knock down after he announced that he was axing the BSF programme. Although it wasn’t a knock down that was entirely unexpected by Balls and his team, he was still sent reeling from the loss of his Education legacy. Gove wins the fist round; Gove 10 – 8 Balls

Round Two – However, Balls was soon up off the canvas as he started throwing some counter attacking punches on Newsnight that very evening. Gove almost went down as Balls came in with a crunching uppercut. An uppercut that was delivered not from his own hands but that of the Permanent Secretary for Education. That afternoon, Balls had received an apology from the secretary over claims that Gove had made during the announcement in the House that afternoon. Bewildered by this assault, Gove was left blinking, his eyes stinging from the pain that surged through his body from this winding body blow. However, the wiley Scotsman wasn’t finished, he countered with the charge that Balls had made a large mess and he was cleaning it up. These two seemed to throw counter punch after counter punch at each other until Paxman, the ever vigilant referee, broke them apart as the bell sounded. Both fighters landed some strong blows in that round so honours even; Gove 10-10 Balls

Round Three – After a motivating pep talk from his corner, Balls came out swinging at the sound of the bell. It turned out that he didn’t need to. In a strange twist, Gove had spent the interval punching himself in the head with the assistance of his own corner. Gove now lay withering on the canvas…Balls, arms aloft, danced around the media outlets claiming victory. Gove was all but out, the countout was ringing in his ears…members of his own corner were baying for his blood…Gove, however, was saved by the bell. Balls storms round three; Gove 8 – 10 Balls

Round Four – Firing on all cylinders now, Balls jumps from his stool as the bell sounds, pumped up, scenting blood. He charges into the ring and demands an apology, which Gove feels like a right cross slamming into his jaw. For a full 30mins Gove stands, Rockyesque, as punches are thrown and land like hammer blows to his coalitions…spurned on by the few remaining voices of support from his blue corner, the voices from the red corner fail to land the killer haymaker. Once again Gove survives and staggers back to his corner. Balls wins the fourth round; Gove 8 – 10 Balls

Round Five Nothing round really. Balls and his red corner, dance around, slightly tired from their unrelenting attacks of the previous rounds. Gove hides in the corner occasionally sticking his neck out to apologise once again. Both opponents feeling the pace; Gove 10 – 10 Balls

Round Six – Has Gove been using the risky Rope-a-Dope strategy? Well just when it looks like he could be down and out, punched out, ready to throw the towel in, he delves deep and finds something. He looks into the stands as he sits, waiting on his bench, he sees a mystical figure, he cries out through bloodied lips CAMERON!! What was said could only be conjecture, it seemed to do the trick, Gove came out of his corner, cocked locked and ready to rock! Gove lived up to his name to land a few killer blows of his own. Every charge that was thrown at him he ducked with ‘it’s all their fault’. With every tired punch he countered with ‘it’s all your mess’. When it came to blocking those haymaker punches he simply held his guard up high to his face and proclaimed ‘you left us with no choice’. An Ali like recovery; Gove 10 – 9 Balls (Gove 57 – 58 Balls)

The fight will continue but as it stands Balls is ahead by one point. Who are the real winners of all this political sparring? Sadly I don’t think it’s parents, teachers, building contractors and most importantly children. Some will argue that the BSF programme was highly bureaucratic and riddled with over spends. However, most will argue that the end justifies the means. Value for money shouldn’t come in to it.

The BSF programme leaked money not because it was a bad idea, it leaked money because it was badly managed. If a school starts to fail because it’s badly managed, you get rid of the Head teacher and you employ someone who can get the school back on track. You don’t simply close the school and say everything about it was failing. What better way to prove that the previous government weren’t up to the job?

We all know that Gove has cancelled BSF for ideological and political reasons. The money that he will save will go towards funding his ‘Free School’ project. It mustn’t come as a surprise that on the list of cancelled projects, academies don’t feel the same level of disappointment as state controlled secondary schools. Once Gove has managed to divert all funding to his pet projects, and as a consequence state controlled schools fall even further behind, he can sit back in his blue corner and pontificate about how successful his ideas were.

Sadly I feel that cancelling the BSF programme was the real and hardest felt haymaker thrown this week. It knocked state education to the canvas, the countdown began, and unless we help it back to its feet, the fight could now nearly be over.