Balls and Gove reach out to Lib Dems

30th April 2010 at 01:00
Labour and Tories seek common ground with Lib Dems while TES poll shows teacher support for Clegg

Schools secretary Ed Balls and his Conservative counterpart Michael Gove have reached out to the Liberal Democrats, signalling they would be prepared to work with the party on schools policy in a hung parliament.

With less than a week before polling day, the likelihood of the nation waking up to a hung parliament on May 7 is becoming increasingly real.

This week, a TES poll reveals that the Lib Dems are now the most popular party among teachers (pages 14-15).

The growing popularity of Nick Clegg has forced both Labour and the Conservatives to reassess their positions in the event of a hung parliament.

Talking to The TES this week (pages 26-27), Mr Gove said he was an admirer of his Lib Dem counterpart, David Laws, and said he was keen on "cross- party working".

"I'm a big fan of David Laws," he said. "He makes a good case for the pupil premium. He makes a good case against the flawed nature of the current GCSE league tables, which rely too much on focusing on the CD borderline pupils, and which reward schools for putting students in for qualifications which are allegedly the `equivalent' of several GCSEs."

Mr Gove added that he would be willing to work "cross party" with the Liberal Democrats but still considered a minority administration an unsatisfactory outcome.

"I'm not a fan of hung parliaments - but I am a fan of cross-party working," he said. "Whatever the shape of the next parliament if I were in the DCSF I would want to work with Lib Dems like David Laws . who have generated lots of good ideas on education."

Mr Balls said that a hung Parliament would lead to greater uncertainty but added that both he and Mr Laws were in agreement about what was best for education in the immediate.

"On the crucial immediate question of education, should we be cutting education spending this year? Both we (Labour) and the Liberal Democrats are clear that would be the wrong thing to do, the wrong way to cutting the deficit," he said.

"Similarly on the free market schools policy (free schools), we and the Lib Dems believe this would be a mistake. The biggest threat to education would be a Conservative government who would embark on a huge ideological experiment, which tears up post-war education policy of the last 60 years."

Mr Balls added: "That's something both we and the Lib Dems agree would be a disaster to our school and our children."

Mr Laws said both parties would need to make "major changes" if they were to work with either party after election day.

"In the event that no party wins an overall majority, the Liberal Democrats are determined to work constructively to deliver improvements in the education system" he said. "However, in order for this to work, both other parties would need to make major changes.

"The Conservatives would need to reverse their commitment to cutting the schools budget and Ed Balls would need to end his incessant meddling in every school in the country,"

Original paper headline: As hung parliament looms, Balls and Gove reach out to Lib Dems

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