Thursday, 28 July 2011

A taste of things to come

Meeting of the Labour Party NEC, Wednesday 28 July 1993:
"When we came to the Education Green Paper, the really big debate turned out to be on higher education. Claire Ward, the Young Socialist, said that students were very worried because there was a phrase in it which suggested we might move towards student loans, rather than student grants. And Gordon Brown said this would be open to misinterpretation, and would give the impression that Labour was shifting its opinion.
John Smith said he was also anxious; he said there might be another scare about a graduate tax.
Then Neil Kinnock said that, despite thirty years of opposition to the idea of student loans, 'I have now come to realise that loans must be part of the debate.' There was Kinnock, preparing for another U-turn; he does a U-turn on everything.
Then Ann Taylor said that grants to all students couldn't be sustained. Clare Short remarked that student loans were not very good, and Diana Jeuda said, 'Just leave it.' Kinnock said we must face the facts.
I said, 'I do think our purpose in publishing this is to restate our commitment to education, to attract the right support. Some people seem to be suffering from ministerialitis, even though they've never been Ministers.'
This one was absolutely as a body blow to Kinnock and he looked most miserable. Anyway, I said I agreed with John Smith and we ought to be cautious about it.
Smith said we should shorten and clarify this passage, and Prescott said, 'Neil Kinnock says we can't raise tax, but why not? What's wrong with that? If it's necessary to do it, we'll do it.' Kinnock looked as sick as a dog."

Tony Benn, Free at Last: Diaries 1991-2001, p.194-5


Alex Niven said...

Eeeh that Kinnock. So was Smith to the left of Kinnock too? He does tend to get expunged from the records doesn't he?

William said...

I don't know if Smith was much more left-wing than Kinnock, but he was more of a unifier. Funny to think that at this point people like Prescott are still arguing for tax increases. What did Blair do to them?

Benn really hated Kinnock. The entry before this one reads:

'... Kinnock was basically a student politician. He, Peter Mandelson, Charles Clarke and Jack Straw were sectarian student infighters, and Smith is so much better.'