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January 25, 2006

Education policy: the mysterious disappearance of two–party politics?

Tony Blair is probably having some mental issues at the moment. For 8 years, the Tories have acted like his worst enemy. And then suddenly, they're threatening to back him to the hilt over education reforms which a number of his backbench colleagues are opposed to.

So what's going on? Is this the end of two- or three-party politics? Very simply, no. Normal service will be resumed. But David Cameron is very happy embarrasing Mr Blair by showing him that his education policy is inherently Conservative.

Again, Labour's presentation of a major policy has been poor. Much of the government's opposition will come from backbenchers who were put off by the arrogant style of policy-making which Number 10 has adopted.

Charles Clarke today said that the education policy didn't need adjusting, because it was part of Labour's manifesto which got them elected. But didn't they get elected in spite of much of their manifesto? If you could only vote for a political party if you agreed with everything they said in their manifesto, then we would either have a plethora of parties to choose from, or very low turnout.

So David Cameron is playing a very clever game. By showing outright support for Labour's education policy, he is driving a larger wedge between Mr Blair and much of his own party (indeed, even his predecessor).

And while this might become a regular occurence if Dave thinks it works to his advantage, don't expect the parties to be quite so closely aligned when it comes to the 2009 election. The two parties do really have different policies, even if it serves Cameron to pretend otherwise – for now.

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