Ministers fear that ‘The Blob’ – made up of political opponents, union barons and local government administrations – is colluding to sabotage the reopening of schools
- Ministers believe ‘The Blob’, a political group, will try to politicise covid-19
- Accusation comes amid outrage over unions’ threat to block schools reopening
- They said there could be no return to classrooms without deep cleaning and PPE
- Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19
Ministers believe ‘The Blob’ – an army made up of political opponents and union barons – is colluding to politicise the coronavirus outbreak, The Mail on Sunday has learned.
The accusation comes amid outrage over a threat by unions to block schools reopening unless their demands for extra money are met by Whitehall.
Last night the news sparked a furious backlash from academic experts and MPs.
And inside Downing Street there is mounting concern that a rejuvenated Labour under Sir Keir Starmer, working with the party’s union allies and the devolved administrations, are co-ordinating their response to lifting the lockdown. A source said: ‘It’s clear they are going to work together to make this as difficult as possible.’
Inside Downing Street there is concern that a rejuvenated Labour under Sir Keir Starmer (pictured), working with union allies, are co-ordinating their response to lifting the lockdown
Concerns were echoed by a Cabinet Minister who said: ‘The Blob never misses an opportunity to demand more cash.’
Another Whitehall source added: ‘There is functioning opposition again in Westminster and Nicola Sturgeon is being particularly difficult in Scotland. And now their cavalry are coming over the hill.’
Michael Gove coined the term ‘The Blob’ to deride bureaucrats, academics and teachers’ unions determined to thwart his efforts to reform state schools when he was Education Secretary from 2010 to 2014.
Last night education experts, MPs and even former union officials rounded on the union bosses, accusing them of sacrificing children’s education to make political gains
The term harked back to a 1950s sci-fi film called The Blob about alien life-form that engulfs everything in its path.
The tension was ramped up on Friday when union chiefs united in a public threat to block any reopening of schools in England until their demands – including for more money – were met. They said there could be no return to the classroom without extra money for deep cleaning and personal protective equipment, and local powers to close schools if clusters of Covid-19 infections broke out.
The union chiefs’ letter, published by the Trades Union Congress, to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson called for ‘clear scientific published evidence that trends in transmission of Covid-19 will not be adversely impacted by the reopening phase and that schools are also safe to reopen’.
Last night education experts, MPs and even former union officials rounded on the union bosses, accusing them of sacrificing children’s education to make political gains.
The accusation comes amid outrage over a threat by unions to block schools reopening unless their demands for extra money are met by Whitehall
Professor Alan Smithers, a respected former adviser to the House of Commons Education Committee, said: ‘Clearly there is an urgent need to reopen schools and get the economy back up and running. The unions instead are using this as an opportunity to bargain and making a political point. They should be working with the Government and asking how can we make it happen for the sake of our children.’
Sir Anthony Seldon, who was a head teacher for 20 years and is vice-chancellor of the University of Buckingham, said: ‘If the scientific advice is that it is safe for schools to reopen next month, then it would be completely and ethically wrong for the unions to say to teachers that they should not do it.’
Tory MPs also reacted in fury to suspicions of a Left-wing stitch-up. Ipswich MP Tom Hunt hit out at ‘irresponsible’ teachers’ leaders apparently opposing a reopening of schools this summer even if safety concerns were met. He warned: ‘Given comments made by some teaching unions, I am beginning to think that the welfare and the needs of children is not their number one priority.’
And furious Durham MP Richard Holden said: ‘This is not a time for political posturing.’
Former TUC committee member Chris McGovern, a retired head teacher who chairs the Campaign for Real Education pressure group, said: ‘There are many heroic teachers out there but I am afraid that there is also a significant minority enjoying the lockdown as an excuse to have a bit of a rest.’
A spokesman for Sir Keir denied he was politicising the crisis and said that he wanted to work constructively with the Government.
The TUC said the unions would back a ‘safe, gradual lifting of lockdown’ but needed Ministers to make sure that workplaces were safe.