All 'new' and all the same

22nd April 2005 at 01:00
"Right. Pay attention everybody. Now since there is going to be a general election in a few days, I thought it would be a good idea if we spent today's citizenship lesson talking about the main political parties and what they stand for."

"Do we have to?"

"Yes we do, Jason. As citizens of tomorrow you need to be clear about the main beliefs of the parties, so you know how to cast your vote when you're 18."

"Sir, I've already voted for Wayne Rooney to be the next prime minister."

"I think that was just a pretend election, Samantha - the real election isn't until May. Now let's revise some of the things that each party stands for."

"Sir, you told us a lie last week. You said that Labour believes in public service and the Conservatives support private business."

"Yes, that's true, Melissa, we covered that in our history lessons when..."

"So why are the schools in Swineshire run by a private company?"

"Er, yes, that's a good question."

"And why did a private company take over our exam board?"

"Thank you, Melissa. I'll come back to that later. Now what you need to know is that Labour believes that services like education are a human right and should be provided free."

"My dad says that I'm going to have to pay a fortune if I want to go to university, thousands of pounds every year. I thought you said education was free under Labour."

"Look, it's a bit complicated. You see, normally a Labour government has provided education free, but nowadays they're called New Labour and er..."

"Does 'new' mean 'opposite' then? Is it, like, New Labour is the exact opposite of Labour?"

"No, it's not as simple as that, Thomas. Labour now says that the state should interfere less."

"But sir, you said last week that it was the Conservatives who believed that the state should interfere less."

"Well they did, er, I mean they do. Mr Howard says the Government should let heads and teachers decide what happens in schools, for example."

"That can't be right, sir. My mum's an infants school teacher and she says that if Mr Howard is elected, he says he's going to make every teacher teach sympathetic phobics."

"I think you mean 'synthetic phonics', Kirsty. It's a way of teaching children to read, you know, c-a-t equals 'cat', that sort of thing."

"So does he know all about teaching children to read, that Mr Howard?"

"No, not really, Kirsty, he's a politician actually."

"Then why is he telling my mum how to teach reading? She doesn't tell him how to lie."

"Now that's not fair, Kirsty, politicians have a difficult job."

"Sir, I don't understand what you're saying. You told us that Labour believes the Government should interfere less and the Conservatives think that as well. So are they both the same?"

"Well, no, I mean yes, I mean they are the same on some things but not others."

"You said that Labour was going to make us wear school uniforms and introduce a house system, so how can they say they're going to interfere less?"

"That's a good point, Paul, but..."

"Sir, you told us that the Conservatives would cut out waste."

"Yes, that's true."

"So why are they going to have 600,000 empty places in schools? Isn't that a huge waste?"

"Yes, it will cost a lot of money, because it's like running about 1,000 empty primary and secondary schools, but it's to give parents more choice."

"I wouldn't choose to go to an empty school."

"No, it's not like that. Labour and Conservatives want more choice. Mr Blair even wants parents to be able to run the school."

"Run the school? Paul's dad couldn't even run a chip shop, theirs went bust, and Melissa's dad is in Pentonville, so that could be difficult."

"Don't be unkind, Jason."

"Sir, is Mr Blair a Conservative?"

"Yes - I mean no. He's what we call conservative, written with a small 'c', but he's actually Labour, well, New Labour."

"Like 'exact opposite of Labour'? So is that labour written with a small 'l' ?"

"No Thomas. Look, it may seem complicated, but you've got to understand it, so you can vote one day."

"My dad's going to vote Lib Dem, but he says that if they were given a free kick on the edge of the penalty area, they'd need six months to decide who was going to take it."

"Right, listen everybody. Tonight's citizenship homework is to write an essay called Politics Today. Now any questions? Jason?"

"Sir, is it double 's' in 'tossers' - and is it written with a small 't'?"

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