There has been much chatter about Jeremy Corbyn’s surprise decision to nominate hard-left former NUT general secretary Christine Blower for a peerage and the seat in the House of Lords that comes with it.
Critics within the party have been horrified by her elevation, complaining that she has only been a Labour Party member for a handful of years, and even stood against the party for the London Socialist Alliance in the 2000 London Assembly elections.
But there is more to this story than meets the eye. The relationship between Corbyn and Blower, who stood down as gen sec in 2016, is closer than just that of hard-left fellow travellers: from what I understand, Blower has been working with the Labour leader's office.
This is not a fact that is widely known in Westminster or beyond, and it goes some way towards explaining some of the recent developments in Labour education policy. These include the decision to announce at this year’s NEU conference that a Corbyn-led government would abolish key stage 2 Sats, and an expected announcement at the Labour conference, later this month, that it would also carry out major surgery on school inspection.
Both ideas are long-standing NUT policies.
Is Christine Blower shaping Labour policy?
One veteran Labour-watcher put it this way: “This just shows how far Labour has come – Blower knew she had no place in Labour before Corbyn, and she was right. The NUT has come a long way, too: it used to maintain political neutrality, for good reason.
“It also explains why Corbyn suddenly announced the plans to abolish key stage 2 testing earlier this year, with seemingly little idea about how – or with what – it would replace it.”
By this thinking, one can also assume that Blower would want to harden Labour’s thinking about reversing the process of academisation – which the NUT loathed – because shadow education secretary Angela Rayner’s position is surprisingly nuanced.
All of which begs a slightly speculative question: if Corbyn should find himself in government in the coming months (an election is surely just around the corner), what price Baroness Blower as minister of state for schools?
Now that would signal a very, very radical departure for schools policy in this country.