Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Grammar school "U turn" causes consternation in Tory ranks

Fascinating stuff. At the next election we'll have a Conservative party which won't or can't promise tax cuts and won't support Grammar schools. This is, no doubt, the apotheosis of Cameron's plan to rid the Conservative party of any historical "baggage", including the annoying baggage of being a Conservative party. However, it seems that David Cameron's soggy liberal solo is going to be consistently accompanied by the leitmotif of a virtual army of "retired colonels" spitting out their cornflakes.

This morning's choir of revolting Tories, outraged at Cameron's abandonment of Grammar schools as an article of faith, include:

1. The Torygraph which says in its leader entitled "Two brains, no gain":

Why does David Willetts, the shadow education secretary, keep changing his mind?

Throughout his career, he has pandered to the winning side. Back in February, he said: "We want every local school to be a good school" - quite right. A good school, surely, is one that provides the best education for its pupils. The Royal Ballet School, for example, is world-class; but not if you have two left feet.

Today, Mr Willetts says academic selection is no longer the way to encourage social mobility. This pursuit of the lowest common denominator contradicts his wish for all schools to be good. Yet again, Mr Willetts has changed his spots to favour his masters.
He may be known as "two brains", but we fear perhaps one of them is becoming slightly overheated.

2. "Tory supporting university lecturer" blogger Bel is thinking who says:

I am terminating my membership of the Conservative Party. Someone let me know when they return to their senses. Failing that, I will be supporting any party that offers a true conservative manifesto. I think it’s time to take another look at Ukip.

3. "Norman Blackwell of the Centre for Policy Studies, interviewed for this morning's Today programme, (who) said that he deeply regretted the new Tory policy. The former Head of the Downing Street Policy Unit, Lord Blackwell said that there was strong evidence that high ability children fare much better in the selective system and there should be more opportunities for high ability kids from poorer backgrounds to be able to attend grammar schools." - From Conservative Home.

4. Tottenham Conservative Chairman, Justin Hinchcliffe who has said: "This policy is stark raving mad".

5. Right wing blogger, West Bromich Blog who says: "Revolting Tories....Many Tories were spitting out their cornflakes and throwing down their copy of the Telegraph in disgust, and quite rightly....The Grammar School it is far more equitable, allocating school places based on individual merits not parental wealth. Why in Gods name would you want to stop that?"

6. Commenters on Conservative Home who say:

No no no. Are Cameron and Willetts deliberately trying to p*ss off as many of our core supporters as possible? - Planet Earth

The new policy is totally misguided. - Clive Elliot

This is a rank bad decision - Og

I cannot believe Cameron and Willetts are doing this. - Christopher Blore

Willetts was totally unconvincing on the Today programme this morning. - Realcon

As a CF member currently at a private school I am bitterly disappointed by this policy; despite my underlying satisfaction with DC's leadership I do not believe that Willetts is even bordering on competence in his current position. - Alex Fisher

Christ almighty. What awful strategy. - Peter Hatchet

If J Hinchcliffe thinks this policy is sh*te we Are in trouble.- Don Hoyle

Its about time the Tories plotted to get rid of Cameron - S Jamieson

Cameron is obsessed with pleasing the Lefties at the BBC. If you want to be governed by the BBC vote Cameron. - Dontmakemelaugh

What a shame....& I thought we were starting to do well.- Alison Anne Smith

what a DISGRACE thge grassroots need to say we stand i thought we were conservative.
im a Cameronite but i worry that we are loosing our conservative heritage let fight thisand stop this drift to the left -
James cullis

What is the point of having two brains if you dont use either?...The policy is not only wrong, it is ineptly presented...he has really seriously pissed off the core vote on probably our most important issue after or even before Europe...Inept, incompetent, led by headlines and unable to control them. Last month I said I was very disatisfied with Willetts in the Survey. Can the editor please ensure next month's survey includes the category "man needs sacking"- Jonathan Munday

A bankrupt educational policy should not be allowed near the Conservative manifesto, never mind form a part of its headline pledge, but that is what Mr. Willetts is offering.- Giles Marshall

What nonsense. If there is a grammar school in an area, it picks the brightest pupils, not the ones who can pay for dinner.- Torygirl

The party of choice and localism should not stop inner city parents coming together to set up a new grammar school.- Umbrella man

I'm not surprised that he saved this announcment until after the local elections. As a UKIP supporter (since Greg Clark's "Polly Toynbee is a Goddess" article in the Torygraph) I can only thank Willetts for making my job 100 times easier in future elections.- Russell Long

Time and again Cameron's Conservatives try and fail to ape new Labour's triangulation and spin intead of identifying solutions to problems. Quite frankly they insult our intelligence. - bill


  1. Have a look at conservativehome - it's hysterical, in more senses than one.
    Serena H

  2. Thank you Serena, I have trawled CH and now included a whole shedload of comments in my posting!

  3. It Could be Cameron's "Clause 4" moment. Virtually every Tory i've met believes in grammar schools. I could see a lot of Tories voting UKIP over this, if only Farage gets his act together.

    "Today, Mr Willetts says academic selection is no longer the way to encourage social mobility. This pursuit of the lowest common denominator contradicts his wish for all schools to be good"

    So it's impossible for a school to be both good and Not a grammar school, eh?? Hmmm, that makes sense...

    It'll certainly be interesting to see what Cameron proposes instead of grammar schools. It looks like they could favour academies instead, which would be rather disturbing.

    Willetts Did hit the nail on the head though when he said that middle-class parents can always afford their children extra tuition, which means they'll have an advantage over poorer children. In this respect, academic selection is flawed.

    Still, what are the Tories going to do, to level the playing field?

  4. For a different take, almost as funny as the ... er ... "blood-pressure-challenged" types on Conservative Home, have you seen today's As A Dodo? V funny -

  5. Thank you Leo for that thoughtful comment. Many thanks Tim for that link which led to an inpsired piece of writing.