May 1, 1998

Tony Blair's government is one year old today. What challenges lie ahead, what has it achieved so far and, if Labour celebrates ten years in power, how will Britain look in 2007? The experts give their verdicts.

Blair's first year has been outstandingly successful. This has partly been luck: a buoyant economy and a non-existent opposition. But in politics you make your own luck. In 1997-98 the trick was to have promised little, so that what was delivered always seemed a bonus. Gordon Brown's Bank of England decision set the tone. Since then, the most important developments come under the heading of "reducing tensions in the UK": devolution to Scotland and Wales; the settlement in Ireland; the about-to-happen London Assembly and mayor.

In education there has been helpful rhetoric about standards but little substance. If new Labour is to do a quarter as much as the 1960s Wilson administration, it needs to get cracking.

Education in 2007

Predictions are always wrong. Who, in 1988, guessed that ten years later a Labour government would be setting fashions worldwide? We can take for granted that by 2007 Labour will have joined the Economic and Monetary Union. Beyond that, we are talking astrology. There are plausible projections: various kinds of interchange with European partners (especially in higher education) may dramatically increase, though political integration may be slower than is imagined.

University expansion will have been substantial, involving as much as 40 per cent of the age-group. This could lead to the alternative possibilities of a listless mass of ill-taught graduate-dole-queue fodder if the Tory policy of underfunded growth is maintained or to a flowering of as yet untapped talent if money is found to provide the staff universities need. If the first then we could see a recurrence of student revolt, though this time with more damaging consequences because of sheer numbers.

Ben Pimlott is professor of politics at Birkbeck College, London.

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