I ought to have smelled a rat when I went to see Lib Dem education spokesman David Laws before the election, and he wriggled like a fish on a hook.


Privatising education was a Conservative idea, but at least when Education Secretary Kenneth Baker proposed handing education to companies, the state school had the Labour Party on its side.



When in 1986 Baker proposed the first academies – they were called City Technology Colleges in those days – Labour’s then education spokesman Jack Straw told the House of Commons: “[It] is wasteful and wrong, so why does he [the education secretary] not scrap it altogether and immediately save £120 million, which could be spent on a crash programme of repairs and improvements, as we have demanded?”


He was horrified that the government was spending many times as much money on each CTC pupil as on state school pupils.


Perhaps his deadliest attack was a 1990 press release in which he said that sponsors were “second-order companies whose directors were interested in political leverage or honours.”


In 1989, Margaret Hodge, the Labour chair of the Association of London Authorities, said that the next Labour government should return all the CTCs to local authority control.


Labour came to power in 1997 and was instantly converted to the policy it had opposed vigorously for a decade.  But at least the Liberal Democrats still opposed it.


Or so we thought.  I was on a Comprehensive Future delegation to see David Laws a while before the election.  I did not hear the ringing defense of comprehensive education, or the firm rejection of privatisation, that I’d hoped for and expected.  Now I know why.


One of the shortcomings of our political system is that a policy like school privatisation, which few electors consider worth having, and those who have thought about it oppose, gets implemented because the political elite support it.


Tomorrow the Anti Academies Alliance will be  protesting outside Parliament from 1 pm tomorrow against the Academies Bill. 


The Bill is, as the Alliance says, a massive attack on state education.  It will lead to the creation of a layer of elite academies and privately-run schools, far better funded than state schools, largely for the benefit of better-off families and the private edu-businesses who will benefit from them.


Little will be left of a comprehensive system of state schooling which is democratically accountable to the local communities it serves. 


Many Labour and Lib Dem MPs don’t like it, and they know their constituents don’t like it either.  But they will vote for it.  And that’s a real scandal.