Ed and Ronnie
In a Statement in the Commons today, the new Schools Minister Ed Balls encouraged Universities to involve themselves in the expansion of Academies, by removing the need for them to find £2million when acting as a sponsor. Unfortunately, no MP asked him whether yet more Academies were advisable and whether any alternative form of linkage could be provided between Universities and Local Authority Schools for educational purposes. Nor did anyone check out as to whether the £2millions would come from the Exchequer instead, and (if so) whether the money couldn't be better used by Local Education Authorities.
All the MPs present who wished to asked questions were called by the Speaker. Yet the only left-wing Labour MP who raised a matter was Ronnie Campbell. He was justifiably concerned about a matter in his Blyth Constituency where two neighbouring and newly built schools are in a damaging competition with each other - one an Academy, the other a Local Authority School. Ed Balls offered to attend these with him, to try and defuse the situation. I am sure that Ronnie will make good use of the visit.
Ed and Gordon
It was interesting to see that Gordon Brown turned up for Ed's statement. Tony Blair tended to ignore Statement's from other Minister's unless they were what he considered to be high matters of State, such as a Foreign Affair's crisis or a Budget Statement. Does Gordon's appearance indicate a greater commitment to the Common's than was the case with Tony? That would, at least, be helpful.
Ed also offered to meet a whole host of MP's to discuss matters they raised. Even though they had seldom asked for meetings. With most others, he promised to further investigate the matters they raised. But only Ronnie won a Constituency visit from him. Either this was all a new inclusive form of governing, or Ed isn't yet sure how he should answer parliamentary questions about schools.