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From the Archive - 02.10.1987

Sweeter pill but the same old medicine

Reporting from the Labour Party conference in Brighton, Barry Hugill wrote: "Mr Jack Straw (pictured below), Labour's young new education spokesman, is living proof that presentation matters almost as much as content.

"He is one of the more active participants in the endless round of fringe meetings, and whenever he opens his mouth he is applauded. The party faithful have taken to Mr Straw and clearly expect great things from him.

"But truth be told he has not uttered a single word that could not have come from his hapless and largely forgotten predecessor Giles Radice.

"Take the following five-point programme outlined to a jammed meeting on Tuesday lunchtime: universal nursery education; an agreed core curriculum; better school management; more opportunities for the 16-18 age group; and the right to higher and further education for all.

"This is the programme on which Labour fought the last election and which Mr Radice elaborated in a Fabian pamphlet a couple of years ago. For his pains he was dismissed by many of Labour's rank and file as unimaginative and ineffectual. It proves, if you were ever in doubt, that there is no justice in politics.

"Mr Radice was identified as a man of the Right; his successor as a Tribunite and Kinnock enthusiast. Mr Radice was considered 'suspect' on the touchy subject of gay rights and it's true he never really quite understood the enthusiasm of some socialist councils for anti-heterosexual strategies in the classroom. Mr Straw shares that bewilderment and says so. The difference between them is that he gets away with it."

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