Sunday, 7 September 2008

The will to win

Matthew D'Ancona's piece in today's Sunday Telegraph is a characteristically insightful take on Labour's current predicament.
The most striking contrast between Labour in 1997 and Labour in 2008 is the drainage of that mighty thirst to achieve and to hold onto office. It was often said of Blair that he was "just interested in winning". For the leader of a party that had been in opposition for 18 long years, that struck me as a pretty sensible priority.
Yet, despite this apparent fatigue, the government is achieving results. As Ed Balls mentioned in his interview with Andrew Marr this morning, the number of secondary schools where fewer than 30% of pupils achieve five good GCSEs including English and Maths has fallen from 1600 - half of all secondaries - in 1997 to 475 in 2008. When anyone tells you Labour is failing on education, that's a figure worth deploying. Moreover, because the Conservatives are so disdainful of targets - which work when used alongside the diversity of academies, or good schools helping weaker schools through Trusts - it is unlikely they would achieve similar progress in the weakest schools.

At the moment, nobody is listening, but that doesn't mean they won't in the future. But as Alastair Campbell reminded ministers on Thursday night, they should be far more willing to remind people of our record. Otherwise, we are allowing the media and the Tories to define us unchallenged. And they are certainly more than happy to oblige.

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