New Shadow Schools Secretary Tristram Hunt has been sounding off today on LabourList.
Ostensibly it is an attack on Nick Clegg and his record on education policy. But specifically it is attacking the entire idea of compromising in government:
“The doctrine of collective responsibility is not some old musty constitutional suit of armour. It is much more concerned with common sense, good faith and comradeship amongst those who must act together in Parliament if they are to give effective leadership… No alternative substitute for that good faith exists”.
So said Michael Foot, who knew a thing or two about the dangers of loose tongues around the table. But he never reckoned with our Deputy Prime Minister.
Nick Clegg’s speech in Bethnal Green was supposed to set out his vision for education.
But as he railed against the policy of unqualified teachers – which his Government has implemented – a rather simpler message began to emerge. It went something like this:
“I may be the Deputy Prime Minister of Her Majesty’s Government. But please believe what I say, not what I do.”
Is it any wonder that politicians struggle to gain public trust?
Alas for the DPM, it is actions that speak louder than words, not the other way round.
So he is attacking Clegg for having been part of a government that has implemented a particular policy whilst he and the Lib Dem party would ideally prefer to have done something else.
I have highlighted before what the logical consequence of this sort of argument is but I'll spell out the reality first. It's a bit complicated but hopefully I can explain it clearly:
We. Are. In. A. Coalition.
So by definition we are going to have to compromise. Tristram was educated at some of the best schools and universities in the country. It beggars belief that he does not understand this. If a party does not have enough seats to get a majority then it simply has to compromise, either as part of a coalition or as a minority government when bill by bill negotiations will have to take place in order to ensure legislation and budgets can get a majority.
Therefore the only conclusion I can draw from Tristram's comments are that he is an absolute purist. Ergo it is impossible for him ever to take up a ministerial role in anything other than a Labour majority government. Anything else would require compromise and the Hunt doctrine clearly does not allow that.
I look forward to him stepping down from the Labour front-bench if he is ever asked to serve in a minority or coalition administration.