Gazette column - 24/5/18

NOSTALGIA and rose coloured spectacles can make the past look a better country than it felt at the time but older Tynesiders hold some fond memories from the 1950s.

The National Health Service was a tonic after Labour's twin giants, Clement Attlee and Nye Bevan, ended the scourge of charging for doctors' visits so the poor no longer suffered in agony or died.

Britain was rebuilding from the ravages of war with inside toilets in new houses and we enjoyed full employment, the Tories sustaining Major Attlee's remarkable demobilisation and absorption back into the labour force of millions of military personnel.

Yet 1950s Britain was also scarred by snobbery and class inequality, the Conservatives attempting to shore up a crumbling old order.

I think of conversations with local people from that era, now in 70s and 80s, when the Conservatives attempt to wind back the clock – wanting working folk to know their place and doff their caps at supposed betters.

The motor for Tory social regression is the return of Grammar Schools for a favoured few. Note the Tories never say they want the return of second class Secondary Modern Schools for the majority.

Theresa May would deny most kids a decent education, using an arbitrary exam at 11 to separate them into sheep and goats when people develop at different ages.

The Comprehensive system is far superior to the divisive Grammar-Secondary apartheid it replaced, pupils overall doing better.

Sadly Tory throwbacks led by May continually belittle Comps, ignoring it was Margaret Thatcher as Education Secretary in the first half of the 1970s who (when she wasn't playing Maggie Thatcher the 

Milk Snatcher) rubber stamped the closure of more Grammars than any politician in history.

 

Every parent wants a good local school to send their son or daughter to and I'm delighted most agree we have them in the parts of South Tyneside and Gateshead I represent in the Jarrow parliamentary constituency.

How heads, teachers, support staff and governors sustain education excellence in the teeth of a vicious Tory austerity spending squeeze is truly heroic.

So they deserved a slice of the £200m May found for her pet project Grammars.

Ask parents in the Jarrow constituency what they'd like to see and it is smaller classes, more teachers, better discipline, modern facilities and first class buildings.

Labour will give parents what they want, not what 1950s Tories want to foist on them.

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Meet your MP

 Stephen-Hepburn-MP

Stephen Hepburn has served the Jarrow Constituency as MP since 1997.

He was last elected to serve in June 2017 and won the seat with a conclusive 17,263 majority.

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