The youngest Ms. Lear was on the phone last night. It's always lovely to hear what she is up to as it contrasts completely with what I do and what her sisters do, and frequently makes me think more deeply about how bad things really are in this country.
Having spent 4 years at University in America, she is very much in tune with how American politics is framed, and how its beginning to get here. The abortion debate is one such area where party lines pretty much divide the issue.
But the most interesting part of her conversation last night was about the safety net people enjoy. In the UK, of course, its much stronger than in the US, but here NuLabour have effectively suborned it to create a client state that will always vote for them. Unfortunately for NuLabour, most of them don't bother to vote - as Mrs. T said " I'm for the workers not the shirkers". Of course, NuLabour is effectively dead ( if it ever really existed except as Our Tone's non-existent Third Way to gather votes) and will shortly be replaced by proper Old Labour - ie the opposition until the NEW NuLabour rises in about 15 or 20 years time.
It's undeniable that Brown's incompetence and Stalinist clunkiness has effectively stopped social mobility within the UK, and this, more than anything, is perhaps the reason so many of the people who voted Mrs. T in have finally abandoned NuLabour . They rather liked that nice Mr. Blair ( Our Tone as the Sun always called him) who seemed to share their aspirations.
But that Brown, he doesn't share anything with us. He wants to control us and take away our autonomy. Of course, they don't frame it in those terms, but when they reach for the fiver for the next round and it's not there, and they see lots of ne'er do wells getting freebies, they know for sure that's not what they wanted when they voted for Labour.
So what should the safety net be? Surely it needs to be the ability to stand on your own feet. I accept there will always be some who cannot for a variety of reasons, but I refuse to believe that 5 odd million people in this country are incapable of some work.
The Americans have done some very good and forward looking work on this which appears to be capable of scaling up and being helpful. But the one thing that differentiates people - beyond a certain native wit - is education. Ms. Lear made this point forcefully last night.
Blair was absolutely right ( and spoke to the masses) when he said his three priorities were Education Education Education - they believed him and voted for it.
Blair's problem was he also told everyone he would fix the NHS, poverty, the police, crime, immigration and everything else. He did it to be sure of getting into power - remember, he even set up a deal with the LibDems, which, after the election of 1997, he conveniently forgot. In the event, Brown spent our money to absolutely no purpose whatsoever in any department. As a result he has managed to alienate every single section of society - even the people who have benefited.
I've long believed that government's - any government's - greatest failure is not getting people properly educated.
I'm not calling for the moon. I just want people to be able to read and write, have some knowledge of geography ( quiz the other day: Question: what's the capital of Finland? Answer: Holland - right first letter I suppose), history, both world and UK, be able to cook a little, clean a house , know how to balance a bank account and perhaps most important of all understand about contraception. They have to understand good behaviour, right and wrong, and respect - and not the insanity we have at the moment where people get stabbed for " Not showin' me da respec'." And I mean both girls and boys.
Failure actually has to exist. Don't pass your end of year exams? Repeat the year until you do. Have a sense of achievement.
I know that's old fashioned. But unless we start moving up the education scale ( we've dropped dramatically over the last ten years) we will end up having to do the jobs we presently have Filipinos, Romanians, Poles and Asians doing for peanuts. Our Universities, because of insane anti-selection policies, have fewer children from worse off homes than they used to, and only Oxford and Cambridge remain - just - in the top ten worldwide. Brown and his ministers, even the majority of the Guardian head honchos, all benefited from selection in education - but want to deny it to others.
Its at least a two-term - if not three-term - job but DC and the Tories have to get this one thing right - or all else will be unaffordable.
And without it we won't be worth any more than the scraps from the rich man's table of well-educated hardworking nations like - oh, say, anywhere in Asia really.