Now, in a batty wheeze, George Osborne comes along to undermine Gove's efforts with his plans to empower the Socialist Workers Party with a battery of 'workers co-op' schools. Presumably this will open the door to schools run along the lines of the notorious William Tyndale school in Islington, in the mid-seventies, the school whose antics led directly to Jim Callaghan's famous Ruskin speech and the accountability we have today? (Do read this terrific piece by Jill Tweedie from the Guardian archive showing how working class kids lost out.) I appreciate that Boy George was probably not yet born in 1976, but its philosophy was best summed up by its headteacher Terry Ellis who declared: "I don't give a damn about parents". With this in mind, perhaps the shadow chancellor could explain how parents' and pupils' interests - or the authority of the headteacher - might be preserved in schools where teachers can opt to exercise a takeover at any moment?
Of course, there is a role for co-operative schools, and the government has promoted a range of trust schools along these lines. But as Michael Stephenson, general secretary of the Co-operative Party, put it today:
"George Osborne's comments show the Tories are completely clueless on co-operatives. Mutuality is about giving communities a say in how services are run. That is about more than involving workers, it is about people running services as a community asset. The Tories don't have co-operative values.....George Osborne's plan for employee-run public services fails to balance the needs of consumers, the public, with the interests of the public-sector workers themselves."
UPDATE 1: Tessa Jowell has more here on Labour's co-op trust schools. The key point is that they are not simply run in the interests of the teachers, but for those of parents too. That may be what David Cameron spoke about two years ago; it is not what today's policy suggests.
UPDATE 2: James Crabtree at Prospect seems also not to recognise the difference between a mutual which is owned by the community and allowing the workers to take over an existing service. Without substantial safeguards, the Osborne plan could actually prevent other radical proposals on new academies that would be in pupils' interests, or necessary school mergers.
This posting has been picked up by the TES.