Shinzo Abe

5th January 2007 at 00:00
Teachers often grumble that public consultations on education reforms are a sham. But we hope no politician in Britain would go to the same lengths to get the school policies they want as Japan's new Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (right).

Mr Abe staged public meetings intended to gauge reaction to his party's new law, which will force the teaching of "better morals" and "respect" for Japan in schools.

To ensure the meetings produced the desired outcome, 65 people were paid to ask "appropriate questions" and public officials were sent along to masquerade as regular citizens.

News of the scam has added to anger against the bill, which was steamrollered through Parliament against the will of most teachers and a quarter of the electorate.

Some teachers have joked that Mr Abe's Liberal Democratic party is only liberal with the liberties it takes.

But the prime minister has now apologised for rigging the public hearings by agreeing to pay back three months of his pound;180,000 salary and asking his education secretary to do the same.

Mr Abe, whose grandfather was arrested but not charged with war crimes in the 1940s, joins a long line of PMs keen to wave the nationalist flag in Asia.

Let us hope that Gordon Brown, who has called for a discussion of Britishness in UK schools, takes greater care.

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