Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Double bubble Labour

I was listening with increasing confusion to Tristram Hunt (Shadow Education Secretary) on the radio on the way to work this morning. This (privately educated) opposition minister is threatening to withdraw tax benefits (specifically business rate relief) from private schools should the Labour party be returned to Government in the next election. What he wants is for private schools to share more of their resources with State schools, although he wasn't entirely clear about what that meant, presumably he means teaching resources, expertise and physical resources like sports facilities and public spaces etc. This would seem like a potentially very self-destructive (from a votes point of view) and divisive policy; reminiscent of "old Labour" and socialism with a capital "S", a sure-fire way to disenfranchise a couple of million people.

Private schools generate about £5 billion in tax revenue each year and at the same time save the taxpayer around £4 billion by not having the pupils in the State system. The tax benefits in question are only worth around £700 million. Giving private schools a pure businesses status by making them pay business rates or by removing charitable status would seem like a guaranteed way to increase the distance between them and the State sector, the opposite of what most rational people would want. Imagine forking out 25 grand a year to send your kid to a private school only to find that your cash is disappearing straight into a state system that you are already contributing to (but not using) through your income tax, it doesn't make any sense. Using business vernacular this is known as "double bubble" or getting paid twice for the same thing.

Either citizens can pay to educate their children or they can't; if the Labour party has a moral objection to private education then fine they should be open about it and make a case for abolition. If Labour wish to place private schools on the same footing as businesses then fine, pay a £4 billion rebate back to those people who choose that option; that would be the fair thing to do, somehow I doubt they'd do either.


Archdruid Eileen said...

Why would you let economic sense get in the way of good old-fashioned envy?

Besides, all the best Labour MPs send their kids to State schools. Selective State schools, on the other side of London.

Steve Borthwick said...

AE, You're probably right, envy certainly motivates some, although I think this is possibly a case of appealing to "core voters" by appearing to bash a "traditional" enemy.