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Reading this morning’s papers, you would have known that Michael Gove’s proposals to scrap GCSEs and bring back two levels of qualification for 16-year-olds have sparked a row. But to a greater extent than any recent government, this row is not between the government and the opposition, it is within the government. The papers reported:

Michael Gove has ignited a furious coalition row with the Liberal Democrats… (FT)

Nick Clegg vows to block Michael Gove’s plan to ditch GCSEs (Guardian)

Nick Clegg erupted with fury and vowed to block Michael Gove’s proposals… (Daily Mail)

To an extent, this suits both coalition partners: Gove gets to posture in front of the Tory faithful, while the Lib Dems get to show their muscle when the eventual compromise is reached.

But where does this leave Labour? The most they get is an online comment from Stephen Twigg, the shadow education secretary, on the Guardian website, in which he says:

Michael Gove is planning to rewind the clock and replace GCSEs with the old system of CSEs & O-levels, abolished by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s for being out of date.

Labour aides have complained for a while about how they are often shut out from important debates because the more interesting argument is the one taking place inside the government. And they are right – it is much more significant that the Lib Dems oppose these reforms than Labour do – after all, only the former can do anything about it.

There is no simple solution for Ed Miliband and his team – all they can do is make their views known and look for ways to original ways to get into the debate.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved.

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