Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Ridley's shame haunts Respect hypocrites

Well here is the most remarkable thing.

If we check the Respect web site we find the following article, under the title: “Ruth Kelly - New Labour's latest hypocrisy”

Apparently, according to Respect: “Ruth Kelly's decision to purchase educational provision from the private sector for her son who has special educational needs is yet another sign of New Labour hypocrisy. One of the Kelly's justifications for this decision is that she wants the best for her child. Perhaps we should ask Ruth Kelly which parents do not want the best for their children? I can certainly assure her and New Labour politicians that all parents of children with special educational needs feel the same as she does. The difference is that not all of us can afford to pay for private provision, nor should we have to.”

But who are the hypocrites?

As I revealed in July 2004, Respect parliamentary candidate, and national steering committee member Yvonne Ridley, sends her own daughter to Windemere St Annes, where the fees are £16380 per year.

At the 2004 Respect conference, John Nicholson moved an alternative slate for the steering committee, trying to remove Yvonne Ridle, for this very reason. SWP leading member, John Rees, defended Ridley being on the steering committee as “Respect’s most successful electoral candidate” – which was true at that time.

George Galloway MP describes Kelly’s decision as “a slap in the face for the hardworking teachers and dedicated support staff in east London who have an excellent record of including children with special needs into mainstream education.” Yet he supported Yvonne Ridley being both a parliamentary candidate fro Respect, and a national steering committee member, despite Ridley offering exactly the same slap in the face to the state education sector.

Perhaps someone can explain to me why it is OK for Yvonne Ridley, but not for Ruth Kelly? New Labour are less hypocritical than Respect, because at least New Labour do not have a policy of opposing private eductation, while simulataneoulsy allowing their leading members to take advantage of it.

As I wrote back in 2004: “Surely Respect needs to be different from the mainstream parties, not fall into the same trap of making statements for public consumption while the candidates contradict party policy with rank hypocrisy in their lifestyle choices?”


Joe said...

I have a hard time criticising someone for chosing to do something they think is best for their child.

We're not talking about the Carterhouse/Eton end of the public school spectrum (as far as I understand from the information given) but a provision Kelly is paying for her child with learning difficulties to enable him to return to a state school in a few years time.

In the same way, I could wait for the provision of an NHS dentist in many parts of the country and get toothache. Or I could bite the bullet and decide that maybe I need to pay to go private before my teeth fall out.

Charlie Pottins said...

Yes, this does rather show up the SWP's self-degrading position in Respect.
A year ago we were discussing speakers to invite for a Stop the War meeting in our area, and I proposed an RMT member whom I had heard speak before, notably on the London tube bombings. He had a Muslim name, and I guessed he was probably an SWP member, but the SWP people who had been saying we ought to have a Muslim speaker seemed put out and embarassed. "Yes, he's a Muslim, but he's a secular Muslim, "one of them said. In the end we did get this comrade to speak, and he spoke well, and yes I gather he is an SWP member. But they also got Yvonne Ridley, because she is a Muslim convert you see and might impress the religious elders. I could not help quipping that "She will be able to talk to local Asian women about common problems, like school fees."
Working class militants -even their own members -are pushed to the background, because although they might understand the problems of their communities they are not religious or Establishment enough. A patronising attitude to minorities goes with the opportunist politics.
As with Galloway and the Big Brother programme, they started by saying he had not consulted them, as I am sure he did not, but soon switched to having to defend him. With Ridley they could say she made her school arrangements before she joined Respect and that they don't approve but are making allowances for her background. (The WRP had the same issue with Redgrave, I think the argument then was her former husband had arranged the schooling of her daughters. At least it kept them away from Healy's grasp).
But defending Ridley from criticism does put them in a poor position to criticise Labour hypocrisy, or to convince working people that Respect is any real improvement on New Labour. Even if you voted for them would you really feel it was worth going out working for Respect, or confident enough to argue for it in the workplace?

AN said...

Joe - on the question of where this school sits in the rankings: from the press reports Ruth Kelly is paying £15000 per year, whereas Eton charges £20000 per year. they are in a similar league.

What makes Kelly different is that she is a minister in a government who have run down special needs provision in the state school sector, and never spoken out over the issue.

Jim Jay said...

I think it's slightly different though because it only has 60 kids and is especially designed for kids with learning problems - so whilst only being £5,000 a year less that's not necessarily a mark of poshness (although C4 said it had tennis courts and swimming pools, which is quite posh)

The bizarre thing is that although the press is wrong to criticise Kelly as a hypocrite on this (as it would imply she'd been an opponent of private schools) Respect actually are being hypocrites in attacking someone for doing something their own leading members are happy to do... ah well

AN said...

And it would not be impossible for Kelly to have used her special interest in such schools to infleunce government policy, to extend special needs provision for all children who need it.

For example, I understand in the People's Republic of China, not a country reknowned for progressive policies on workers rights, there is robust policy on disability, that require companies to make special provision for disabled workers, and strict requirement that they do in fact employ them. This is becuse Deng Xiaoping had deiabled children.

Now i know that Ruth kelly is less infleuntial than Deng was, but se has never even spoken out on the issue.

Jim Jay said...

But the fact she's never spoken out about it (obviously the dept. had a policy) could be partly due the fact she had a personal interest... there was a vote winning opportunity to parade her child around and she didn't go for it - not all bad then

seren said...

Although I sympathise with anyone who has kids needing special education, we should get this into context. Her son has dyslexia, as do hundreds of thousands of kids. They are expected to cope via the state system but she feels it OK to opt out at the first sign of a problem.

It's a reflection of her own privileged background of public school education that also makes that kind of decision easier for Kelly.

The analogy with NHS dentists is inaccurate. There *is* provision for kids with special needs in the state system. By contrast, there are many areas - such as my home town - where there are no NHS dentists currently taking new patients, meaning that you either go without a dentist as I do or pay privately.

AN said...

One of our comrades in Swindon Socialist allaince was a leading dyslexic rights activist, and had even given evidemce to some House of lords committee. It is not an issue I am an expert about, but have discussed it with him over the years.

One of the issues is recognising that there is a continuum between those grossly effected, and those mildly affected, and also the deree to which individualls are affected is also socially conditined. BUt another importnat issue is that dyslexia is very popular with middle class high acheiver parents,, as a "medicalisation" of any social or learning difficulties that their own children have - whereas working class children exhibiting the same behaviour may be regarded as affected by Attemtion Defecit syndrome, or just thick.

I don't know what bearing that has on the issue - i just thought I would throw it in.

BTW - i cannot help recalling the Linda Smith joke, that doctors were taking the piss when they called the syndrome of those affected when they caled it dyslexia - the hardest word to spell in the whole language!

Janine said...

I have a five-year-old son with special needs. So I feel entitled to shamelessly plug my own blog entry on theis subject: http://www.workersliberty.org/node/7505

The thing that bugs me most is that parents like us are entitled to feel confident that the state education system will be up to the task of education our kids and meeting their special needs. It is a big blow to that confidence to see a Government member (and recent former Education Secretary) reject the state sector and go private.

AN said...

Thanks Janine,

That is a really good point, it is also important for childrens' own self respect to think that they are getting as good treatment as is available.

Kelly is sending a message to other children with special needs that they are not as deserving of good care as her daughter.