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Did no one at GCHQ think through what the response would be? Or they did think through the response and come to the conclusion that the negative headlines in the right wing press are worth the perception that the Tories have changed under Cameron?

Tim sets out the situation very well.

Also, someone took the decision to highlight the grammar school point when the press were briefed on this.

Who did that? The finger points at Willetts, Cameron was actually working as a Teacher's assistant at the time.

And why did Willetts choose to ride rough shod over the policy review team? He seems to have read a briefing note being prepared for them and then announced its conclusions without consulting the policy team.

Here the finger points clearly at Willetts being to blame for an act of crass rudeness. For that he should be fired.

I agree with most of what you've written Tim but the most important point is the last,'it's important we don't get things out of perspective'.
I remember the despair I felt during and after the 2005 election (which if we're honest with ourselves we hadn't a hope of winning) and then that awful summer before the leadership campaign started. No one then surely could could have predicted that within 18 months we would be serious contenders for government.
Our change in fortunes is the responsibility of many people (not least Mr. T. Blair) but the greatest architect of this success has been Cameron and his leadership team. I hope as I've posted elsewhere that he and they will learn from the events of the last week and sell their ideas to the party before rubber stamping them and also not to become petulant in the face of criticism.

Join the Conswervatives!!

These quotes are from from UKIP's education policy document - totally unambiguous in its commitment to grammar schools,
and therefore a great policy for them to tempt disenchanted Tories with!

The UK Independence Party believes in giving equal status, esteem and resources to all forms of school from primary schools to grammar schools and special schools.

Children who do not obtain the required grades for grammar school entry would be able to sit similar exams during their secondary school career which would allow them to transfer to a grammar school if they reach the required standard. There will be no compulsory nationwide
testing of children at the age of 7 (Key Stage 1).

We believe that grammar schools have a vital role to play in the education of academically more able children, and not only are we committed to the survival of existing grammar schools, but we will encourage the creation of new grammar and other specialist schools, aiming to restore a network of publicly-funded grammar schools across the country. We recognise the popular support that grammar schools enjoy in the areas where they still survive. Two thirds of mothers interviewed in a recent survey thought that grammar schools were
“a good idea.” Grammar schools have demonstrated a consistent and enduring quality of education that should be emulated, not destroyed.
We believe this would especially benefit bright children from poor families, as currently the presence of a successful state school often causes house price inflation in the catchment area, pricing poorer families out. In other words, at the moment, the process by which children end up in a given school can be something of a postcode lottery. Social and economic mobility has decreased over the last forty years, and we believe that the reintroduction of grammar schools with wider catchment areas will help reverse this trend.

We are firmly committed to the principles of the remarkable 1944 Butler Education Act, which had widespread cross-party support at the time, even for its grammar schools, and which sought to ensure a quality education for all.

So, in summary, someone decided to "sex-up" the Willetts speech by spinning it as 'Cameron gets tough on the right' [which, from memory, was how it played on the Today Programme]. Who would that have been?

All seems a bit odd when the substance of the Willetts speech could plausibly be seen as 'Cameron gets tough on the backward liberal education establishment'. But perhaps that's more of a mouthful?

The Conservative Policy Forum ought logically to be scrapped. It is clear that the only reason the present Leadership wants to know the views of the party members on policy matters is so that they can do the precise opposite of what the menbers want.

We have seen this with state-funding of political parties. We see it again now with grammar schools.

This seems to be the new politics. Don't say what you believe - say what you're opponents want to hear. Blair got elected by pretending to be a Conservative, so Cameron, to win an election, has to pretend to be a socialist.

Cameron's only attraction as leader was that he is a professional public relations man. (We knew little else about him). The trouble at present seem to be that his PR performance is pretty dire.

Exactly, William Norton.

As a right of centre voter and strong supporter of Maggie in her day I cannot believe the negative response the Cameron/Willetts education proposal is getting, read it for goodness sake and then you will understand the sense it makes as follows:

1/ They are not proposing abolishing grammar schools and there is no reason that they will not continue to flourish
2/ The comprehensives need a huge input of investment and energy to improve the standards dramatically and this is the quickest and best way we are going to improve educational standards for the majority of children.
3/ It is refreshing to hear from an opposition who are not promising to dismantle everything their opponents have put in place, but to change them with better policies and give the individual schools the opportunity to take responsibility for achieving this.

When Labour abolished the grammar schools we all criticised them for not improving the modern secondary's, they were wrong and we would be wrong to ignore comprehensives, its where most of the talent is after all, and we must not be diverted from putting huge effort and investment into making them world class

Under the Conservatives there will be no new comprehensives at all. LEAs will not be allowed to set them up.

All new schools will be CTCs or Academies. All new schools will include:

Powers to expel disruptive pupils
Traditional teaching methods like synthetic phonics
Traditional subjects
Selection by ability within the school into streams and sets.

Under the Tories the old Comprehensive education model with the lowest common denominator one size fits all policy will be dead forever.

Sometimes I wonder if anybody has actually noticed this!

It is farcical that Cameron & Willets announce a supremely tough and traditional package of school reform, bring the grammar/independent ethos into modern Academies and CTCs (and opening the door for vouchers down the line once the comprehensive sink schools are excised) - and the outcry is that the policy is "too liberal" and "too modernising"!

If it were any more traditional it would include mandatory Latin and Greek.

While I'm not fuming at the mouth over this issue, I hated the way Cameron described debate over the issue as "pointless". Dismissing your opponents is no way to win them over, and one thing Cameron must not be seen to be is condescending.

Richard Calhoun/Tory T: exactly. Willetts had a damn good story to tell. So how come a different story came across?

Richard Calhoun - I'd recommend reading Janet Daley's article in The Telegraph today. Its not just the policy that has cause upset - its the way the middle classes are described and their love of their children turned into some sort of socialist thought crime.

This is what we are furious about. (Its no good digging up some part of Willett's speech to point out what he is supposed to have said - the country heard the middle classes are selfish and we're going to ruin their children's education to show how right on we are, by the way we can all send our children to independent schools ). The way to deal with that is to either say:

1) Yes its true and we don't care.
2) We are deeply sorry - we didn't mean that. Let me apologise (many times).

The Team Cameron answer of trying to run roughshod over those who object with debating ploys like calling the grammar debate over and saying its the shallow end of the educational debate is pouring petrol on the flames.

We're just angry about half backed policy being rolled out without asking anyone.

I have to say I worry that Janet Daly is right about those around David Cameron.

Finally- this is not the Labour party. We did not elect a party dictator, but a leader. We will not be told what to believe and then bullied into silence.

A few weeks ago the CBI complained of low educational standards and wanted a return to Grammar Schools. Cameron snubs their Conference.

Willetts goes and tells them to accept re-branded Comprehensives.

William Hague chairs the Shadow Cabinet meeting where this farce is okayed.

We have an experienced Labour Government and a neophyte Opposition.....

It looks like the odds are moving in Brown's favour

Exactly William Norton!

The alluring references to vouchers was most encouraging as was the need to reform the supply side. BUT, the ludicrous negativity about grammar schools made the front pages because it chimes with all the other 'abandon every policy we've ever believed in' so evident with the current leadership. As such, it was a story.

Plus an exceptionally poor PR exercise.

The article points out this is a reannouncement of a policy. That wasnt the problem. We were all aware of that. The problem I think some felt is the scale to which Willetts would slag Grammar Schools off. I understand that Willetts may wish to point out the negative aspects of selective education, but to completely ignore the good aspects makes the policy unfair.

This policy as announced last week also goes against localism and educational choice.

William Norton,

It is as if a conscious decision had been taken to define our policy by opposition to grammar schools. As I have been "banging on" in other threads, it would have been more accurate and demonstrated better political & presentational judgement to have defined the policy as "every school more like a grammar school." Grammar schools are popular; we should be building on them not distancing ourselves from them.

In terms of consistent brand values, it would have been more localist to allow grammar schools to remain part of the mix.

Instead we have seen this false dichotomy: if you are in favour of grammar schools you must therefore be intent on ignoring every other pupil in every other school. This is nonsensical. It is clearly possible to advocate grammar schools, academies, and sweeping school reform in the areas of streaming and discipline. The other, excellent, policies that David Willetts announced last week would presumably be applied to comprehensive schools in areas where there are also grammar schools. As a resident in such an area I would certainly hope so.

I don't always agree with Michael Portillo, but last week he rightly described the Party's position on this as "preposteous."

The reason this row has become so highly charged is because Willetts made an ideological attack on selection. This was a new development and went much further than a reannouncment. This mistake was compounded when this line was spun to the press.

Where is the evidence that George Eustace is great? To put it kindly he is not exactly regarded in the lobby as a figure of calm and intelligence.

At some stage there will have to be a complete rethink on who the top team are. This won't be an admission of failure just an act of renewal. And frankly despite his own charisma Cameron's PR is a shambles at the moment.

"Strengthen the press operation. Too many rows have got out of control. Hug-a-hoodie. Green taxes. Polly Toynbee. Now grammarsgate. "

Yeah. And you know why?

Two words..

Steve "must have our clause 4 moment" Hilton.

I thought DC was for choice and wanted the best for all. Surely Grammar School's represent the old-fashioned centres of excellence much derided and hated by the left, who would prefer that standards fall to an average rather than creating an elite intelligentsia.
Other european nations have their centres of education excellence, so why hasn't this country?

"Where is the evidence that George Useless is great?"


Welberry is right to criticise the current CCHQ media setup.

While nearly all our opponents employ seasoned media professionals in their press offices (former regional newspaper/local radio/24 hour TV news hacks) ours is staffed by recent graduates from PR company training schemes/Tory councils or Brussels staffers.

Our head of media has never worked in the media (ex-strawberry farmer) and our head of broadcast (ex-banker) has never been a broadcaster. To my knowledge only two senior CCHQ press office personnel have any relevent media experience whatsoever whilst those that did were dispatched shortly after the last general election.

Put simply, a political party that wishes to be taken seriously by the media must employ people with the relevent experience or risk getting immolated in the media firestorm like we have just witnessed.

It's pretty unkind to start throwing personal abuse at George Eustice. Does anyone on this chain think they can do a better job? Tim - I really think you ought to stop comments such as the one HF posted.

@Laura M
"Unkind" that's very sweet, anyone would think he wasn't in politics but working for his local Sunday school.

Someone has made a total horlicks of this policy announcement and we deserve to know who. The head of press seems a good place to start throwing half-bricks to encourage his friends to point to the real villain.

Tory T writes that there will be "no new comprehensives at all". Really? CTCs and Academies are comprehensives in the sense that they may not select by ability. There may be some marginally stronger powers for Heads, but basically Cameron's policy is the same as Labour's. Worse there was the gratuitous attack on Grammar schools that does undermine their continued existence. I presume Cameron would allow LEAs to close Grammar schools, even though he would not allow them to open them.

Tory T goes on to say that phonics and streaming will be mandatory in schools; they are good ideas, but this contradicts the claim that schools will be freed from central control.

I stood as a Tory candidate in 2005 and was an Association Chairman in 2001, but I could not defend the new policy on the doorstep. Indeed I increasingly doubt that I will even vote for the Party in the next election.

It's not just about fairness and opportunity. It's also about providing an educational system with the best chance of creating a brain trust that will allow the UK to compete globally. Evidently the current leadership, with its eco-patrician view, has much grander, more esoteric concerns than the country's fundamental competitiveness to bother with.

There has never been a claim that schools will be freed from all central control, just that they will be made much freer. The core curriculum (greatly in need of revision) will of course be centrally controlled. Synthetic phonics works, and children have a right to be literate that cannot be trumped by any local love of "experimental" teaching methods.

CTCs and Academies will have academic selection by ability that is not present in comps. It is just that selection will be present within school rather than between schools. The emphasis on streaming and setting provides for the absolute need for differentiation by academic ability so sorely missed at the majority of comprehensives.

Jonathan: You and others on this chain do yourselves no favours by resorting to calling people names and insulting them because of their backgrounds.

George works tirelessly for the party and is a thoroughly decent and kind person. Labour are always complaining about positive attitude of the media towards DC....so remind me who his press sec is?

What a fuss about nothing, as many others on this thread have noted. This is a good policy, carefully thought through, and one which makes floating voters like me more likely to vote for the Conservatives at the next election. Next week, why Conservative activists are hacked off because David Cameron won't reintroduce national service.

City Academies are currently allowed to select around 10% of their intake in subjects such as Sport, A foreign language or art. Why it's 10% I've no idea or why it only applies to these subject I've also no idea. Blairite gimmickry I suppose.
One would expect this intellectual incoherence from the Labour Party but why do we have to put up with it?

Thanks Laura M (11:53) - I'll keep an eye on things. I remind everyone of ConservativeHome's comments policy - no personal attacks please.

Steve Hilton is a fifth columnist. All else is detail. The Grammar school is just that he went too far too soon in his mission to create Blue Labour.

Laura Montgomerie (11.53)is right to complain about personal attacks but where there is a repeated systemic failure to formulate a coherent message...surely we have a right to criticise???

CTCs and Academies will have academic selection by ability that is not present in comps. It is just that selection will be present within school rather than between schools.

Dream on. You will let teachers select based on personal preference or teacher-marked tests. Super !

Richard Calhoun at 10.04 and Tory T at 10.13 admirably and calmly point out the facts and I agree with them that the actual proposals are the right ones. I used to regard Willetts as a bit of a light weight but having watched him present his case objectively, openly (including on this site) and with maturity (in the eye of a bizzare storm) he has gone up massively in my estimation.

What has gone on in the last week? To me it has seemed like the silly season but to be fair perhaps there are a number of issues going on at once. Firstly there seems to be a tendency for commentators, including on the growing right-wing blogosphere, to overreact rather than be open-minded about new ideas and to embellish announcements so rapidly that it takes on its own distorted story. However, also to be fair, it does look as if our media operation needs a rework.

Then there is the approach. Maybe it is the case that there are elements who want to create Clause 4 type moments. I don't know but if its true I am not convinced this is a good idea. I think back to my industry days when if we needed to change an organisation to be more open-minded and innovative we aimed to take the organisation with us and took great trouble to explain why change is important and what it entails. Labour had a different problem which led them to their clause 4 moment.

At the moment DC has successfully led us ahead of Labour. I think the overall approach has been the right one and that we must be in the so-called "centre" ground. We have massive numbers of councillors and now run even more councils all over the UK. I don't think we need to create or allow division to be engendered. What I do think we need to do is draw together the threads of where we are going. Given the base DC has built this isn't actually that hard now but it requires a doggedly practical approach. We need to focus on a few key things (health, education, Law & Order) and illustrate exactly what we mean by social responsibility in a way that enthuses people about where we want to take our country,


Here we go again. It is all the fault of bad presentation by the press office. I don't think so. It is the fault of a bad policy.

It has the added disadvantages for the Tories of running counter to the long held views of its natural supporters. The only party offering what the long suffering members and supporters want is the one they are most likely to switch to. UKIP.

Do I have to declare an interest as I am a grammar school product. As a result of the opportunity a grammar school gave me I was the first person in my family to attend university. Without that chance I might well today be cleaning pig manure by hand.

It seems the old adage that 2 heads are better than one has just been proved wrong. See Janet Daly in the DT today.

Just as I was thinking they had no policies, up comes Dave and proves he has just one and it's about education. Instead of heaping odure on the middle class they should offer policies that make sence and appeal to them.

@Laura M
Even reading through my post again I fail to see where I have resorted to name calling or where I have disparaged anyone's background.

So why are you resorting to ad hominem attacks against me?

Someone has blundered, if not George who?

"Sometimes I wonder if anybody has actually noticed this!"
ToryT some of us did!
""Project Cameron will emerge stronger from all of this if Team Cameron is humble enough to learn the lessons of the last few days."
I agree with the points you raise Tim, but I think that this comment makes me uncomfortable and seems to highlight just what has been damaging the party most over the last 15 years in terms of being a strong and viable government or opposition. What if it is the party (MP's and members) that need to prove they are able to accept that it is possible to be led by a leader who wants to appeal to a broader group of voters, just maybe that might make more people see them as a strong and viable party to form a government with a strong PM?
We have the Labour party electing its leader/PM in almost stalinistic circumstances while we had a debate and a contest!
Recently Mr Leigh was critical of his leader in the Parliament inhouse rag, Nadine Dorries is equally scathing but pleased that her comments were quoted in full without mistakes!!!
Yep, so we already have HF demanding David Willets head for daring to simple reiterate the policy of the party for last 30 years instead, never mind that the rest of his speech was excellent and showed a real commitment for improving the education of all not just a few!
The Telegraph is leaking readers faster than a sinking boat does water because they are not on board with their wider target readership any more than they are with the present leadership of the Conservative party. That is why their coverage and line taken over this issue has been so hysterical.
Do we expect our leaders to be humble to the extent that John Major was forced onto the lawn of No10 to resign as leader during his premiership, or IDS when he was forced into an other leadership contest after the poisonous drip drip in the media as we waited for the names on a list to reach the magic number?
David Cameron is discovering like all leaders before him that he has to fight all the way to try and bring his party with him to make it electable for the majority not just the few, the party also has to realise that very vocal public disunity is still as unpopular with the electorate.

"David Cameron is discovering like all leaders before him that he has to fight all the way to try and bring his party with him to make it electable for the majority not just the few"

I would have thought 49% in favour of grammar schools was pretty damn near to a majority. Don't even need that many people to win an election!

Likewise I was not indulging in a personal attack.

The Editor claimed "George Eustice was great". I asked what the evidence was. I have never heard this claimed before. I have only heard the opposite opinion expressed before so was curious to see what this claim was based on.

There have clearly been a number of big PR blunders in recent months. Surely it is i the Party's interest to sort them out? And if that means bringing professionals in so be it!

I'm still struggling to understand why the reannouncement of an existing policy (no more grammar schools) caused quite the reaction it did. - Editor

Perhaps the unhelpful rabble-rousing from a certain quarter had something to do with it? Every time the furore has shown signs of dying down, another article is published in order to fan the flames. Odd that.

Somebody more cynical than myself might suggest that ConservativeHome is playing a blinder as the patsy in the current leadership's desire to portray this as a 'Clause IV moment', but I have more respect for the intelligence of the editorial team and integrity of this site as an independent forum than to make such a suggestion.

The Tories have put up silently with his husky trips to the Norwegian glaciers, havering over the health service and hugging of hoodies but this is a repositioning too far. - Melanie Phillips

It isn't a repositioning. David Cameron made his position on grammar schools perfectly clear during the 2005 leadership election, in which over two-thirds (excluding abstentions) of the party membership voted for him to become leader. I find it bizarre that people who endorsed his leadership platform then (not Melanie Phillips perhaps, but didn't ConservativeHome endorse David Cameron in the run-off stage of the election?) are hurling their toys out of the pram now that elements of that platform are being implemented in party policy.

This is all long past boring. Really. As I've noted previously, the details of this policy are, to say the least, arcane - we are in favour of one kind of selective, independently-administered school (that might actually become widespread) over another, slightly more selective but slightly less independently-administered school (that has no chance of being widely introduced). Whoopidy-do!

Insofar as there is a legitimate row to be had here it is *all* about positioning and presentation. But that is a row we should have been having for the past eighteen months! For what Cameron's people did last week was simply an application of the political positioning strategy he has adopted ever since he came in! Why are you complaining about it now? Many of you seemed pretty happy with it a month or so back when the local election results came in.

I've always argued that it was a mistake - we don't need to re-assure the public that we aren't going to reform public services or that if we do, it will only be along Blairite lines. The public was *not* put off by our policies on public service reform in 2001 or 2005 - they simply had no idea at all what our policies were...

"It isn't a repositioning. David Cameron made his position on grammar schools perfectly clear during the 2005 leadership election, in which over two-thirds (excluding abstentions) of the party membership voted for him to become leader.

Can you provide a link to that? I think he made his opposition to grammar schools quite plain *after* he became leader, but I don't recall him saying so during the leadership campaign.


"David Cameron made his position on grammar schools perfectly clear during the 2005 leadership election, in which over two-thirds (excluding abstentions) of the party membership voted for him to become leader."

This assertion has been made at least three times in the last few days. Each time I have seen it, I have asked for evidence to support it. I have seen no article or speech in the leadership election which made any reference to changing the Party's position on grammar schools. The earliest online reference I have found is a speech made in early 2006.

As ever, I stand to be corrected.

Can you provide a link to that? I think he made his opposition to grammar schools quite plain *after* he became leader, but I don't recall him saying so during the leadership campaign. - Sean Fear

This assertion has been made at least three times in the last few days. Each time I have seen it, I have asked for evidence to support it. - Simon Chapman

David Cameron made it perfectly clear during the leadership election that he did not believe the David Davis policy of more grammar schools was the way forward. After a quick search of the Leadership Race archive, I found this reference (see final paragraph), which admittedly isn't the strongest evidence, but I really don't have time to trawl through the archive to find something more concrete.

I have seen no article or speech in the leadership election which made any reference to changing the Party's position on grammar schools. - Simon Chapman

Unless I'm mistaken, this isn't really a change of the party position on grammar schools - more of a clarification/reiteration I'd say. I certainly don't remember a pledge to build more grammar schools in the 2005 manifesto, but if I'm wrong, I'll be happy to apologise.

DrFoxNews, our policy in 2005 was the same as the one announced last week if I remember correctly. We weren't going to build any more, but neither were we going to close them.

It is the same policy but the ideological attack on selection was new.

It was also spun out of proportion to its significance to the speech. this where the PR was so cack handed.

But we were going to offer vouchers so that people could choose in 2005 which is not the case today.
I voted for David Cameron in the leadership election and still believe that that was the right decision.
However if I had been aware then that he was opposed to selection for secondary schools and was merely proposing to expand City Academies my decision would have been much more difficult.

I'm sorry "DrFoxNews" but bare assertion isn't good enough. You say that DC made his position on grammar schools perfectly clear during the leadership campaign. There is no evidence that I have seen that he did. As a resident in a grammar school county with children setting out into primary school, this would have been a relevant factor when deciding how to vote. I paid close attention to the leadership campaign, and was not aware of any such "clear" message on grammar schools.

He did change policy in January 2006, when visiting a school in Essex.

I'm guessing the anti-grammar nature of these excellent Conservative policies of education was highlighted just to get it out of the way early on. We now have two years (?) to trumpet the good bits ...

I'm sorry "DrFoxNews" but bare assertion isn't good enough. You say that DC made his position on grammar schools perfectly clear during the leadership campaign. There is no evidence that I have seen that he did. - Simon Chapman

Are you questioning the veracity of the editor's reporting of David Cameron's position on grammar schools during the leadership campaign? I have little reason to doubt the editor's word, given that he is far better informed and connected than myself, but perhaps you know differently.

He did change policy in January 2006... - Simon Chapman

The. Policy. Hasn't. Changed. As David Cameron pointed out today, no new grammar schools were built during 18 years of the last Conservative government and Conservative councils have not been opening new grammar schools either. At the 2005 general election, the Conservatives did not include a 'more grammar schools' policy in their manifesto. Why is this seemingly so difficult to grasp?

To Man in a Shed and Janet Daley

Thanks for your comment and I have read Janet Daley's article and have to say that her article to my mind bears no relation to David Willetts speech. It was negative, smelt of vested interest and rude, ie.to refer to Cameron's young advisers "as a clique of juvenile idiots who advise him"
Hardly the stuff of constructive debate.

I have read in full the excellent speech by David Willetts,which is backed up by excellent research evidence.
If you have an open mind and accept the appalling state of our education system as fact you cannot fail to recognise it as a powerful argument to put right what is wrong

I see no attack on any class but a determination to offer this country a world class education system for all regardless of class or money

But as I said the ideological attack on selection was new. This is about presentation not policy.


I think you are being over sensitive, I do not see an ideological attack in Willetts speech, if read in full it is an excellent presentation

Willetts claimed (and was heavily spun by Tory press office) that selection entrneches advantage.

"We must break free from the belief that academic selection is any longer the way to transform the life chances of bright, poor kids,. This is a widespread belief but we just have to recognise that there is overwhelming evidence that such academic selection entrenches advantage, it does not spread it."

This was the huge departure. As I say the policy has not changed but it is this passage and its over emphasis by cameron's press team that has so enraged so many people.

welberry, I fully agree with you on this one. I support all of the policies outlined in the speech, but the opposition to grammar schools was poorly formed.. DC knew that people would be angered by the decision (Despite the fact that in my view it's not a new one) and should have tried to not use arguments which could have just as easily come from Marx. He unecessarily flared up the right wing, and so far has done little to try and put out the flames.

In my oipinion DC shouldn't have allowed Willets to mention grammar schools at all in his speech, thus avoiding this whole debacle. Inevitably someone would have asked a question on grammar schools, but a far more neautral answer along the lines of "We have no plans to introduce new gramnmar schools at this time" could have been provided and everyone would have been happy.

Well Laura as you seem to know George, how about refuting this from a "Schieflin Plan" above?
"Our head of media has never worked in the media (ex-strawberry farmer) and our head of broadcast (ex-banker) has never been a broadcaster. To my knowledge only two senior CCHQ press office personnel have any relevent media experience whatsoever."

Hardly compares well with the Labour or Lib Dem PR people?

Sorry, Richard, David Willetts' arguments on grammar schools are propaganda riddled with holes. The single reason why the middle classes dominate in the remaining grammar schools is because Labour and the Tories wrecked the nationwide grammar school system and it only survived in a few mainly middle class areas where local authorities held out against the failed Cultural Marxism of both Labour and the Tories. Presumably Willetts' next straw man is to blame private schools for being elitist because he and his friends in the Labour Party won't set up a proper voucher system to allow poorer parents to access them too?

As for Willetts' wonderful new policies, he has backed City Academies. To date, they weem to be the educational equivalent of the Millenium Dome - shiny, expensive and largely content-free.

Hardly a day goes by without David Cameron living up to George Walden's decsription of him as a left-wing condescending patrician whose guiding principle is: what would Diana have done?

Michael McGowan
You are right, labour and conservatives not only wrecked the grammar schools they wrecked the whole education system.
That is the whole point, we now need to build and invest on what we have and not change the whole system again.
Your last para gives the game away, are you just anti Cameron and whatever he does is not going to satisfy you??
I would rather make up my own mind on Cameron's actions since becoming leader than take George Walden's view as read.

I don't take Geroge Walden's views as read: I think he has got the measure of David Cameron. Given his background, Walden has a much deeper and longer-lasting commitment to good state education for all than a man whose career largely rests on the twin pillars of inherited wealth and knowing the right people.

I read your quote from Willets speech, I think it speaks for itself,backed up by carefully researched evidence.
It is certainly not an attack on the middle class

Michael Mcgowan
You are not going to be won over by Cameron that is clear, however Willetts is a Grammar school boy and I believe both of them genuinely looking to improve the education of all in this country.
I agree with Willetts speech as far as it goes and I believe the majority opinion in the Conservative party will support them

"DrFoxNews" I am not doubting the Editor's veracity, but nothing in the post that you have linked to supports your contention that DC was clear about his position on grammar schools before he became leader. The policy has changed - the Party is now explicitly saying that it is opposed to academic selection. There is also a significant presentational shift as others have said. Unless you have something new to offer (evidence of a clear statement in the leadership campaign would qualify) I suggest we leave it there.

HF - I'm not George's spokesman, but he ran the No Campaign...which I seem to recall being a success, and he also ran the media operation for DC's leadership campaign....and he's now the press secretary to a leader enjoing 40% in the polls. I don't know certain people seem so offended by the fact that he was once a farmer - I thought we were in favour of experience beyond Westminster village!

Richard, I don't take at face value the pieties of the Tory Party's talking heads over education. This is all about positioning to win an election. The post-war Tory record on education is deeply shameful and they are not to be trusted.

Michael, in all conscience having read Willett's speech in full I find it a very useful contribution to positioning the Tories for the next election

No Campaign wasn't a success. Economic circumstances forced Blair and Brown's hands. the only thing I remember of the No camapign was a very poor taste video comparing those in favour of the euro to Hitler. A PR disaster. Which brings us neatly on to the Tory Party's recent PR blunders despite the poll rating.

Having read Willet's speach, it certainly was considerably more reasoned than much of the commentary. However, I think that it still leaves some very major questions unanswered. The most significant, to my mind, is what we really mean by an aspriational society.

In his speach he cites and interesting study where it was shown that while more able, poorer kids initially perform better in tests that less able, richer kids this situation is reversed well before the age of 11. Willets uses this as evidence for the fact that resting ability at 11 does not select on a kid's potential as social
effects already predominate.

The problem is to what extent we have a right to our social position because of our god-given talents and what extent we have to knuckle down and work. Has the richer kid (+ his family) in Willets' example not shown a commitment to education that should be rewarded to a certain extent. Increasing the choice of secondary school seems a reasonable way of implementing this.

Of course, what Cameron and Willets would no doubt claim is that by heavily streaming every school, it becomes much easier to move a child up or down during their development than it would be to stream the schools and try to move the children between them. And in fact this is a very good argument.

Where it may fall down in practice is that there will continue to be better schools and worse schools (whatever our glorious leaders would like us to believe) and by removing any academic selection at the school level it becomes impossible to improve your lot through hard work. It is left to chance; and there is nothing like a loss of control like that to switch parents off.

I also felt uneasy with the way in which the Grammar ideology was taken apart by Willets. He seemed to fail to realise that Grammar schools symolise lots of values that many Conservatives hold dear, and so by attacking the schools he appeared to be attacking those values. After all, under Willets' arguments, Hogwarts would go (a more selective school it would be hard to find) so no Harry Potter to save the world and we're all doomed!

An easy way of avoiding selection at an age when "social effects already predominate" (Dogides) would be to have all children forcibly reared in state nurseries, away from the corrupting effects of their parents' wealth. None of that nasty inequality. So much simpler. Comprehensives might have a chance of working at last.

If we must have a Clause 4 moment we may as well have it over something which doesn't really amount to a change in policy.

Dogides: After all, under Willets' arguments, Hogwarts would go (a more selective school it would be hard to find) so no Harry Potter to save the world and we're all doomed!

But you're too late, Dogides - Hogwarts has already applied to reclassify itself as an Academy School using the sports skill specialism opt-out (quidditch).

Welcoming the move, Education Minister Lord Voldemort of Bogstandard said "This is a major advance in breaking down the social exclusion of the broomstick-riding community and further underlines the great importance this Government attaches to turning frogs into princes, which is why I supported Gordon Brown for the leadership of the Labour Party. Ha ha ha, cackle cackle, you're all doomed I'm going to take over the world."

The Minister declined to go on the Today Programme to clarify his closing remark.

I am just trying to see the argument from both sides as much as possible. I am happy to put my cards on the table and say that I am in favour of selective schooling but then that is coloured by my background, having gone to a very nice school through the old assisted places scheme and then on to a bundle of degrees at some very strong Universities.

I think that one of the starting points for Willets' analysis is very good, however. What is increasingly happening is that an underclass is developing that feels so detatched from mainstream society that it no longer feels it has to play by the rules. Hence the very real increasing problems of antisocial behaviour and so on. These are not all bad people (after all, a fine country like Australia was built by a previous wave of people most of whom were in a similar position) so the question is how to re-engage them. You could of course say you shouldn't bother. I don't take that position however. I do feel that we have a moral obligation to try to ensure that children don't get written off in life just because their parents can't be bothered.

Willets would no doubt argue that this underclass wouldn't get a sniff at a Grammar because by the time selection is done they are too far behind. I think this reflects a failure of the selection system as much as anything else (which is clearly favouring coached middle class kids at the moment) and I think that it is a pity that Willets has not appeared to consider looking at the selection procedure rather than the concept of selection as a whole.

Because selection is important. It is important because it provides a mechanism for removing disruptive influences who otherwise have a disproporationate effect on a group of children: if you have 8 kids keen to lean and 2 two aren't then they end up much closer to the 2 than the 8. I know Willets claims that strong disciplicary measures would be put in place but I imagine that most people are rather cynical about how this pledge would be implemented effectively - it is not easy to do. Selection is also important because if you want the really able kids to excel (and you want these kids to grow up to be the strong leaders of the future much as the Grammar school generations of the 50's and 60's are today) then you cannot forever be trying to apply pressure towards the average; at some stage you have to accept that those below average have had their chance and you must allow the top end to fly high.

"It's delusional to talk about these things in the future when we didn't do them in the past."

Potentially the stupidest thing Cameron has ever said? Here's a few things we didn't do in the past but soon turned out to do: declare war on Hitler, fund the NHS, join the 'Common Market', create privatisation, reform the trade unions. Should we have not done these things because in previous Conservative governments we hadn't done them?

I would join in the puzzlement about the sudden hysteria over grammar schools when Cameron has made his, general, position clear on many occasions for some time.

However, I think I can see the reason after reading Janet Daley. Janet Daley knows how things work so she must know that FSMs (free school meals) have for a long time the official measure of depravation in children. Willetts therefore used the measure as a demonstration that grammar schools don't provide much assistant to social mobility which has been one of the main reasons to justify grammar schools. Daley pretends he is, therefore, looking after FSM children at the expense of children of responsible parents. Surely she must know she is being dishonest. (Phillips did the same thing.)

But, she goes on to say that Willets is rubbishing middle class parents who want grammar schools to provide an out for their children from an education system which includes poor children. More, we should really not bother too much about the bottom 20% who might be uneducable! Incredible, no wonder we are called the nasty party.

The fact that she wrecks her own argument earlier on by pointing out that Willet's methods will still allow parents to "push" their children puts the lid on the argument - this isn't about education or grammar schools, the "right" have used Willett's speech to have a go at Cameron. The nicest thing you can say about Daley is that she must know she is talking rubbish as, i'm afraid, are most people supporting grammar schools.

I thought both Janet Daley and Melanie Phillips wrote excellent articles.

The Tories under the Cameroons' leadership have gone out of their way to insult the loyalty and intelligence of former loyal supporters.

More importantly, Bill, Cameron has made common cause with the left who see middle class educational aspiration as something to be actively curtailed. He will find it very very hard to generate social mobility with the inadequate tools he has adopted. It would not surprise me if he then attacks the remaining grammar schools and independent schools as scapegoats for his own failures.

The Tories should have chosen Kenneth Clarke as their leader instead of Cameron. He lives on planet earth and is politically shrewd and experienced. (They should have chosen him instead of Hague and IDS also.)
He would have run rings round that over-rated, chippy grump in No 11. As it is Brown is now consolidating (and he isn't even in No 10 yet.) I have long thought he will win the next election and I wouldn't be surprised if he calls a snap election in October and then settles down to five more years - of insulting the Queen by wearing his crumpled lounge suit from the Kirkcaldy Co-op at State functions. Cameron doesn't even begin. The grammar schools furore is just typical of how the rich, patronising Notting Hill set ride roughshod over the wishes of what Lord Falconer once patronisingly called 'ordinary people.' Why can't we have a PROPER Opposition to oust this bunch of PR spivs who have been ruining our country for ten years? When we lose the next election can we install Clarke as leader pronto?

ok, I've managed to stay out of this all day.... so forgive me if I go a bit 'personal'.

Well, i was wrong about my views. Not wrong (I think) about supporting Cameron on the Grammar schools thing. I was wrong about the Education White Paper (see my 'My Platform' "The Conservative Party Should not Support the Education White Paper", Nov 11 2005). This has taught me to be careful of Cameron, off lashing out with a gut reaction. What I'm saying is this, if you object, fine, but make sure you've thought carefully, I thought I did but I didn't. He was right.


I am no fan of Clarke but find little else to disagree with in your post.


Wouldn't it be great if next time Brown insulted his hosts by dressing inappropriately, they beat him to it say jeans and loafers/ hawaiian shirts /togas to his business suit.

Oh dear, when we are at the point of certain posters now wishing they had voted for Ken when at the time hell would have frozen over before that happened, time to issue a warning of possible hysteria overload.

actually... I supported Ken in the leadership campaign, but thought that it was good Cameron won in the end as he could deliver electoral success by getting the party on it's feet again electorally and hold the core support together, instead of Davis who would keep core coservatives happy and lose the election............

Is it worth reminding ourselves exactly what Cameron pledged during the leadership campaign?

In education, it means real school autonomy and more parental choice, freeing schools over admissions and allowing them to establish their own identities

Freeing schools over admissions? Like selection by ability?

Establish their own identity? Like setting up a new grammar school?

That seems a clear pledge to allow schools to choose how they admit pupils.

I guess that has gone the same way as the EPP withdrawal pledge...

Thank heavens for Internet website archive services that store even the inconvenient truths...

Sorry to rub it in, but who in September 2005 said:

"We need to recognise too that there is no ‘Clause 4 moment’, no single decisive act that will achieve the change we need. It’s about our culture and attitudes right across the board. In schools, it means not just a commitment to radical structural reform, with more parental choice and school autonomy; not just support for grammar schools and selection, but real commitment to raising standards in all our state schools by imposing rigour throughout the system"

..or promised selection by ability in December 2005..

"John Humphrys: ‘No no, but there will be a return to selection by ability if that is what the schools want, just to be quite clear about that?’

David Cameron: ‘That’s right, but much more autonomy for schools will be a good thing’.

Oops, the things politicians say to get elected, eh?

Archived link here.

Dogides said: "Of course, what Cameron and Willets would no doubt claim is that by heavily streaming every school, it becomes much easier to move a child up or down during their development than it would be to stream the schools and try to move the children between them. And in fact this is a very good argument".

Yes this crossed my mind and was a strong reason why I came down in favour of Willetts. I have posed a question direct to him that probes this point further. I think that what Willetts has set out is mostly very good,



You have hit the nail on the head. The advantages of Grammar is that ANYONE with ability can get in.................. at age 11.

Well, just as I was about to turn away from Labour I read these comments about grammar schools. So where do I turn now?

On the subject of the "Shadow Cabinet"... the silence is deafening. When are some or the 'i'm-off, hing your salary' going to grow some guts and enter the debate? If they don't soon, it will be difficult for them to hold gravits later ..."I was concerned. I was worried ... brief .... brief,,,, blah blah blah,...."

We don't need 'top flight' politicians like that.

"So where do I turn now?

Well Tory Cllr David Pickles, who sits on Sutton Council, has just defected to UKIP over the grammar school issue if that helps Helen.


Start your own party. Ask UKIP for some advice.

I don't want police in my community, no party can offer me a solution. I MUST go elsewhere!!"
I am so sick of "one issue, WAIL, where do I go?" posters. They all seem to feel they are natural Tories, but cannot make the leap, because of the Hampster Bill. I give up.

"Well, just as I was about to turn away from Labour I read these comments about grammar schools. So where do I turn now?"

And conveniently timed we have this

"So where do I turn now?

Well Tory Cllr David Pickles, who sits on Sutton Council, has just defected to UKIP over the grammar school issue if that helps Helen."

Hope you are not up to your old tricks without the faulty keyboard this time?

Councillor David Pickles was facing suspension or expulsion from the Conservative party after becoming embroiled in a race row.


UKIP are currently spinning the story that it was the grammar school issue - rather than his anti-asylum seeker rant in the local press - that casued him to jump aboard the UKIP sinking ship.

"Well, just as I was about to turn away from Labour I read these comments about grammar schools. So where do I turn now?"
So, lets get this right, you voted Labour because you support grammar schools? You simply didn't vote Tory because you felt that centralised government and high taxes were a good idea...

I haver deleted about ten comments on this thread this morning. The first for offensive language and all of the others for engaging with that person's obvious wish for attention. If you see an offensive post let me know and please then ignore the person who has posted it.

Vouchers for all is the only way to improve education in the UK.
The grammar school row is certainly Cameron's clause 4 moment. But there is a difference. Clause 4 was only supported by a minority of left wingers within the Labour Party. Grammar Schools are supported by a very large majority within the Conservative Party.

Streaming within schools is used on the continent and creates a lot of resentment there too, just as the 11+ used to cause resentment here. The only way to improve education is to give vouchers to all - this will become feasible if the spending per pupil in a state school is to match spending in private schools. Vouchers would allow parents to decide for themselves whether they want their child in a state school of a private school. Any doubt what they would decide?
Any doubt that this would be IMMENSELY popular ? Why is it not being proposed?

We have heard ad nauseam from Cameron' dwindling fan club how Margaret Thatcher never built a single grammar school during her time in office. Those who prate should perhaps consider for a mement how she was able to get away with that.

Firstly, her Conservatism was never in question (not someting that can be said about 'Dave'), secondly she and her supporters were effectively distracted by many other major issues (Falklands, miners etc) and thirdly she never issued a ringing
pronouncement that Grammar Schools were a thing of the past and their supporters bloody fools - which is effectively what has happened now.

The more one looks at this issue the more one is driven to conclude that 'Dave' has marked this territory out for the fight with the rank-and-file which (for various reasons) never came over Gays, the 'A List' etc'.

Well he's got his fight - and he's taking a pounding.

I thought John Humphrys got the better of David Cameron on the Today programme this morning, but not by a huge margin. Humphrys made quite a big thing (perhaps too big) about the number of privately educated MPs selected by Cameron for positions. After all its usually your parents who choose where you go to school. And in any event I believe you should select on merit.

Humphrys would have been on stronger ground if he had contrasted the Tories contradictory approach to grammar schools with their support and use of private schools.

Just read comments since 4.00 pm yesterday, this argument is going round and round.
However most of the criticism seems to be from those who have set themselves against Cameron for other reasons.
I cannot believe that if you read Willet's speech in full again, after calming yourselves down, you will not fail to recognise the research work that has gone into the whole subject. It is a fact based argument which makes a lot of sense.
As for Ken Clarke, just one question, where do you think we would be in the polls now if he was Leader of the Opposition??

I recall from conference after conference the fanatical support of the rank-and-file for state Grammar Schools and for the private system.

It was not so much a commitment to 'privilege' as a commitment to excellence and to traditional teaching methods which worked.

But Cameron would know nothing about this engrained 'tradition' because one of the chief disabilities from which he and several of his head honchos suffer is that they have no roots in our Party.

While the rest of us were pounding the streets they were pounding high class restaurants in their Bullingdon Club regalia.

I have often heard this commented upon by longstanding party hacks, though possibly not so much on CH.

I think this will be Cameron's Achilles heel. He thinks the groundlings love him so much that he can act like a latterday Louis XIV.

Recent events suggest that we can increase that Roman numeral by 'II'

If Ken Clarke was leader, the Tories would be 20 points ahead of Brown and Camoron would have never been promoted above his capabilites.

The remarkable thing about this argument is that it has gifted Labour the chance to go on about the Old Etonians surrounding Cameron.
They were wary before.
Now its open season & listening to Cameron crumbling on the radio today it could be very very serious.

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