Tuesday 26 September 2023

Value Added?

What would the imposition of VAT on private school fees be supposed to achieve? There are other ways of raising £1.7 billion, not quite two per cent of the education budget. But when asked, as only they ever are, how they would pay for this or that, then Labour frontbenchers always now reply that they would impose VAT on private school fees. That is supposed to pay for everything.

Now, no one is scrimping and saving to find anything from £15,000 to £50,000 per year. Anywhere on that scale, you either have that kind of money, or you do not. Even HMRC, which is of course the State itself, admits that 50 per cent of workers in Britain have gross annual incomes of less than £20,000. Two in five adults do not reach the income tax threshold of £12,570, just over one thousand pounds per month. And yes, that does include benefits and everything else.

But the pretence that VAT on school fees would pay for every policy under discussion at the given time, proves only that neither it nor they would ever be attempted in actual fact. Moreover, this levy could not be both an inexhaustible source of revenue, and a device for closing down the hated private schools. It would obviously not be the former, and it would no less clearly fail to be the latter. The customer base would perfectly easily absorb the small additional cost and carry on.

You could go so far as to ban private schools by law, and they would set up abroad. Furthermore, their continued existence is utterly unrelated to what, if any, educational provision the State may make. The Labour Party has proposed a privately schooled Prime Minister at the last two General Elections and at five of the last seven, as it will again next time, and it has proposed a privately schooled Chancellor of the Exchequer at all of the last four. Those schools are not especially academic. They are often still using the IGCSE, which has been banned in the state-funded sector for being too easy. But they are selling social connections.

Consider Hamish Falconer, who has been parachuted in as the Labour candidate for Lincoln, where the Conservative majority is only 3,514. Falconer's father is said to have refused to move his children to state schools, thereby preventing his selection as a Labour candidate, and thus compelling his old flatmate, Tony Blair, to raise him to the peerage in order to make him first Solicitor General and then Lord Chancellor.

Believe that if you like, although such arrangements have not precluded other people's advancement in the Labour Party, but the point is that it is now stated entirely matter-of-factly that the younger Falconer, who has a thoroughly spooky CV, would be a Labour Defence Secretary within two years of election, and a Labour Foreign Secretary within two years of that, precisely because he had gone to a major public school. Glamis, Cawdor, and King hereafter? Well, Leader of the Labour Party, perhaps. But he was at Westminster, and no male product of a mixed secondary school has ever become Prime Minister.

Still, when I tell you that there is going to be a hung Parliament, then you can take that to the bank. I spent the 2005 Parliament saying that it was psephologically impossible for the Heir to Blair's Conservative Party to win an overall majority. I predicted a hung Parliament on the day that the 2017 General Election was called, and I stuck to that, entirely alone, all the way up to the publication of the exit poll eight long weeks later. And on the day that Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister, I predicted that a General Election between him and Keir Starmer would result in a hung Parliament.

To strengthen families and communities by securing economic equality and international peace through the democratic political control of the means to those ends, including national and parliamentary sovereignty, we need to hold the balance of power. Owing nothing to either main party, we must be open to the better offer. There does, however, need to be a better offer. Not a lesser evil, which in any case the Labour Party is not.


  1. There are no state schools in England any more, then that private schools with state contracts and private schools without state contracts.

    1. Indeed. Hardly anyone seems to have noticed, and even fewer seem to mind. It is in the running of state-funded schools that the Liberal Establishment in academia and the media meets the right-wing Labour machine in local government. The Left should have no sentimentality about state education.