I was lucky enough this morning to have the opportunity to hear prospective Labour leader Liz Kendall give a small speech At De Montfort university.
I heard about it only last night, and in my wish to have a good seat I arrived slightly too early, unknowingly walking in with the press pack some twenty minutes before guests were allowed to enter the lecture theatre. What I heard at the talk impressed me.
Liz was honest about the sheer scale of the defeat Labour suffered earlier this month, much more candidly so than the other candidates for the job. She stressed the need through her experience in different inner city Leicester primary schools, where pupils start fifteen months behind the average child in their age bracket, for early years intervention being an essential priority for a prospective Labour government. She was duly scathing therefore on the governments overzealousness on secondary schools as well as what she deemed their obsessive closure of Sure Start centres.
She rightly proposed that in a time of tighter budgets spending alone is not enough. Citing her own experience of constituency schools inviting different professions to come in and speak to children, many from deprived backgrounds, to open their eyes to what they could possibly become if they apply themselves in school and try as hard as they can. She proposed wheeling this out wholesale nationally, getting union members, students, public and private sector employees to do more work in schools.
While experiencing much criticism of late for being ‘right wing’, she criticised New Labour for sitting on its hands and being too blasé about the adverse consequences of globalisation. Furthermore, she parried a question about the different types of school structures well, emphasising the need for greater accountability from all types of schools, rather than getting bogged down in the minutiae of who runs them and what type they are.
This as a moderate on the parties centre is what I like to hear, and is in keeping with her statements about not getting too sentimental or ideological about how services are produced, focusing instead about what works.
I think that Liz Kendall is the candidate best placed to speak to a broad base of voters by bringing together a will to deliver better services and compassion while not alienating businesses and more affluent voters and instead getting them on side. I do not think she is right wing and her proposals for devolved budgets and control of services to local levels, advocated by Jon Cruddas for years, is more democratic and empowering than the command and control, centralised nature of New Labour, a major flaw in a governing party that I nonetheless hold in high regard.