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Last Updated: Friday, 18 May 2007, 11:21 GMT 12:21 UK
Martha Kearney's week
By Martha Kearney
Presenter, BBC Radio 4's The World at One

I had not expected such a speedy response to my text.

Gordon Brown visits a primary school
Gordon Brown says education is one of his top priorities

I had got in touch with one of Gordon Brown's advisers to ask for an interview "at some point".

He replied "How about tmrw?"

Excellent except that I went home after the programme, fell asleep and didn't look at my phone till about seven o'clock.

Panic ensued as I tried to get a confirmation and alert the team so we could set up a studio in Westminster.

All was resolved by Tuesday morning.

Influence

The Chancellor was due to make a speech on education that evening and I decided that would form the first part of my interview especially since he had said relatively little about that area.

Without a contest, will Gordon Brown have to start picking fights with himself to spice things up?

Like pre First World War Europe, this government has had spheres of influence.

Over the years, apart from the Treasury, the Work and Pensions and Transport departments have tended to be Gordon Brown's sphere of influence.

Education was seen as firmly in Tony Blair's domain, where he carried out many structural reforms most notably the introduction of trust schools and city academies.

Many Labour critics of the reforms (perhaps as a kind of wish fulfilment) believe Gordon Brown is not an advocate of those reforms.

Standards

That made it a fascinating area to explore in an interview as a litmus test of Brown's broader attitude towards the Blair legacy.

David Cameron
David Cameron has also been spending time in the classroom

On Tuesday, we kicked off at nine o'clock with the Education Secretary Alan Johnson who was launching his campaign for deputy leader.

I wanted to know where he thought Gordon Brown stood in the great education debate about structures versus standards.

He said this in reply: "I think we've done enough on structures, we've been through structures, trust school, academies etc, now we need to concentrate much more on what's happening in our schools".

But when Gordon Brown arrived in our studio, he made it very clear that he will be supporting city academies and even told me that he had been lobbying a businessman for support.

Change

Later on, a Blairite minister told me that the Chancellor had been very supportive of academies in private.

Brown has always maintained that he is New Labour and he may end up disappointing those on his own backbenches who are expecting a fundamental change of direction in their new leader.

Education was once an issue of clear party political difference, not any more.

You could accuse Labour of political cross dressing with its policies since 1997.

City academies are the heirs of City Technology Colleges, trust schools are similar to grant maintained ones.

Cameron

On Wednesday we saw David Willetts slipping into a Labour suit.

He said there should be no more grammar schools and urged an expansion of Tony Blair's academies instead.

That morning I gave one of Cameron's advisers a call to ask if they were doing anything on education.

"You could say that", he replied.

"We're at a school in Hull where David Cameron has been teaching for the past two days".

Too good an opportunity to miss.

We managed to get him out of playground duty at lunchtime and he came on the programme to denounce his critics on grammar schools as provoking "a pointless debate".

By the end of the week the big story was the coronation of Gordon Brown as no other challenger got enough nominations.

There are six weeks now until Tony Blair takes over. Without a contest, will Gordon Brown have to start picking fights with himself to spice things up?


SEE ALSO
Brown promises to 'build trust'
18 May 07 |  UK Politics
Cameron hits back over grammars
16 May 07 |  UK Politics
Tory leader's two days in school
16 May 07 |  Education

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