Editor's comment

6th April 2007 at 01:00
And so, they're off. The official starting gun for this year's election campaign was fired at midnight on Monday when the Scottish Parliament was dissolved - although the participants have been at it for weeks. It will be of interest to see what impact education will have during the contest, whatever the intentions of First Minister McConnell to make it Labour's priority. Education will certainly be highlighted by each party as they focus on the various issues on particular days. But it is in the nature of election campaigns that the parties will try to spike each others' guns and a betting man might not fancy the chances of education featuring above the din surrounding the independence referendum, pensions, the Iraq war, the Blair factor, and so on.

Labour, the SNP, Conservatives and, presumably, the Liberal Democrats (if anyone wants to partner them) are all committed to bringing in an education act during their early days in government. That much we know. Themes are beginning to emerge and, with the Tories no longer intent on removing education from local authorities (after all, they may be running some of them if the new PR voting system for councils does them any favours), the parties have more in common than their rhetoric might suggest. Skills, standards, class sizes, mainstreaming, discipline and student debt will be at the heart of all the manifestos.

Although one Labour Westminster manifesto was famously described as "the longest suicide note in history", these party documents can amount to the most unrealistic notes in history. The election results, the horse-trading between the parties in any subsequent coalition and the wishes of the new parliament represent the reality checks. The election ephemera, whether on education or otherwise, should not be confused with the substance of what is to follow.

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