Tories' Swedish love-in

25th February 2005 at 00:00
We found ourselves fallen among free marketeers last week, invited to see the Tories stage a couple of seminars to boost their credentials among parents and patients (education and health, in other words).

The speakers included an array of frighteningly self-assured, young, right-wing think-tankers, convinced they had found the Right Way. The party spiced up its message by presenting Sweden, for years the darling of the welfare left, as its ideal model which had gone all out to bring in parent choice of school.

We were certainly eager to hear what Mikael Sandstrom, an adviser to the Swedish Moderate Party, had to say. And we did - sort of. So eager was Sandstrom to rush to Scotland to spread the gospel that he forgot his passport and had to wait for a later flight.

But a colleague, Frederik Erixon from Swedish think-tank Timbro, was equal to the task of picking up Sandstrom's Powerpoint presentation - mostly anyway. "I'm not quite sure what Mikael meant by this," Erixon confessed at one stage.

The job of presenting the view from the classroom fell to Lisa Neil, a young English and drama teacher recently arrived at Holy Rood High in Edinburgh from Peebles High. They loved her when she talked exclusion, but were probably less certain when Neil demanded more classroom assistants, more teachers and more preparation time for teachers. More union than unionist perhaps.

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