Labour's next big idea?

July 7, 2011

After the political mire of New Labour, Simon Szreter's piece offers a welcome escape route for the party ("Universal access", 22 June).

Szreter's timely anchoring of his argument on the dismissal of R.H. Tawney's proposal for universal secondary education by the financial and political Establishment of the 1920s shows that nothing changes in that quarter. Yet apart from the natural injustice of allocating educational resources according to class-based privilege, the case for universalism is in large part economic. If we fail to invest in the means of renewing capability and democratic citizenship to match the demands of the 21st century, we will continue to proceed down the slippery slope of economic decline.

For a Labour Party looking urgently for the means to be both radical and relevant, the big idea of universal higher education is obvious.

John Bynner, Centre for Longitudinal Studies, Institute of Education

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