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From Iain Dale's Diary:

Osborne: Tories Will Prevent New Grammar Schools From Opening

I was under the mistaken illusion that the grammar school issue had been put to bed and that the party leadership wanted to close down the debatre. The Press Association has just disabused me of that notion...

Shadow Chancellor George Osborne risked stoking the bitter education row further
today by indicating that a Tory government would actively prevent new grammar
schools being opened. Mr Osborne insisted that countries in the "mainstream" of thinking on education - such as America - would not allow selective schools to appear. Pressed by a Conservative activist from Buckinghamshire on whether the party would permit them to open new grammars which had local support, Mr Osborne said: "We don't believe in schools choosing pupils. We believe in pupils choosing schools. "That is where the mainstream of the education debate is all around the world. You go to the United States, you go to other countries in Europe, that's what they are talking about. They wouldn't allow schools to emerge and take funding that had academic selection as a criterion for entry. That is the mainstream education debate in the rest of the world and we're suggesting that Britain and the Conservative party joins that mainstream debate. His comments were immediately attacked by former shadow Europe minister Graham Brady, who resigned yesterday in protest at the policy. Mr Brady - the first front-bencher to quit under David Cameron's leadership - said the Conservative position of keeping the 164 existing grammar schools but ruling out creating any more was "illogical". "This question highlights the illogicality of supporting popular selective systems but preventing them from expanding when parents want them to," the MP for Altrincham and West Sale said. "If population is growing in a selective Local Education Authority area, whether it's Buckinghamshire or Trafford, surely new grammar schools should be available.

Unless they have completely changed their secondary schooling system Germany operates an entirely academically based selection procedure to decide which pupils should go to a Gymnasium (Grammar School), Realschule or Hauptschule.

What on earth was George Osborne thinking of by giving this answer? I thought Conservatives believed in the freedom of parents to start new schools. We criticise Labour for having a £2 million barrier to entry, and yet we are seriously suggesting that we should prevent people opening schools in a format which has a fantastic record of academic excellence and promoting social mobility.

Has Conservative Home been leaned on?

Graham Brady makes an excellent case.

But even the best newspaper article has a relatively short attention-hold on the blogosphere and the wider media.

I suggest Graham turns it into a short video, together with a few graphics, and puts it on Youtube.

A political video has far more power to refresh an issue (and may itself be updated); and this issue is vital enough to be kept ‘alive’ until there has been some modern thinking by the shadow education team.

It was time to move on 10 days ago. Quite how it was thought worthwhile agonising for so long over a point of policy that had long been settled and which was part of David Cameron's leadership election platform is beyond me. Well-liked or not, Graham Brady has been self-indulgent and put his ego ahead of his party's needs. What it tells this floating voter is that too many Tories still prefer the purity of opposition to the need to make compromises to reach Government.

I'm very disappointed to read this post. I had hoped ConservativeHome would continue to lead the fight on this.

antifrank: "It was time to move on 10 days ago. Quite how it was thought worthwhile agonising for so long over a point of policy that had long been settled and which was part of David Cameron's leadership election platform is beyond me."

Cameron describing the debate as "pointless" and opponents as "deluded" may have had something to do with the fact that the debate persisted!!!!

What exactly is meant by a "grammar stream"?

My understanding is that if a school "streams" then usually pupils are allocated to a stream on the basis of their overall ability, and they stay within that stream for all subjects.

They will also stay in that same stream for all subjects year after year, unless
it becomes apparent that they should be transferred to another stream.

So there's no question of eg "I'm good at French, but lousy at maths, so I'll be
in the grammar stream for French but a non-grammar stream for maths".

But yesterday the Telegraph editorial quoted (or misquoted) Cameron saying
"a grammar stream in every subject in every school" which sounds more like sets, but just ensuring that at least the top set in every year in every subject
is up to grammar school standard.

What exactly is Cameron proposing?

Why don't we keep talking about grammar schools? Let's all tear into each other and let Labour's new uncharasmatic leader off the hook.

As we once again appear divided, the sighs of relief from nuLab will be audible for miles around Islington.

It is time for all of us to move on.

No it's not.

It won't be time to move on until the leadership bend to the wishes of the Tory majority.

Until then we the people will be referring back to this issue again and again.

Alongside Grammargate all the other Cameroon gaffes - even 'hug a hoodie' - pale into insignificance. Now we can see the split between the minority Cameroons and the majority Conservatives widening, with a few unhappy fencesitters like Malcolm actually having to make a stand on a point of principle.

This is the first - but it won't be the last - great rallying-point for the forces of democracy and decency within the party.

In future we won't even need to 'bang on' about it. We;ll just cite that wonderfully loaded little word (was it coined by CH?)


Weren't Dave and the gang let off the hook yesterday when the Iraq kidnappings forced the Brady resignation off the front page.

A good day for bad news methinks

Picking up on this and looking again at ConHomes manifesto of which there is a link in the above, was very interesting. I would urge people to look at the pdf file link. I cannot find much I disagree with in that manifesto to be honest (some things of course and some points of detail but it's essentially correct). It seems to me it is pretty much the strategy the party is currently following (although I think we need a bit less spin and a bit more grit) and yet many people who post comments on this site keep criticising that one nation approach!


"It was time to move on 10 days ago."

Osborn doesnt think so.

"Quite how it was thought worthwhile agonising for so long over a point of policy that had long been settled and which was part of David Cameron's leadership election platform is beyond me."

I dont remember David Cameron pledging to stop new grammar schools as part of his election campaign. Wheres your source for this?

"Well-liked or not, Graham Brady has been self-indulgent and put his ego ahead of his party's needs."

Perhaps the spin doctors shouldnt have leaked to all the press that they were going to sack him?

"What it tells this floating voter is that too many Tories still prefer the purity of opposition to the need to make compromises to reach Government."

What it tells me is that the Tories cant even make compromises to act as an opposition.

Why is Osborne banging on about grammar schools (Richard Hislop, 09.00)? Shouldn't the chief whip give Osborne a stiff reprimand for speaking outside his brief? :)

which was part of David Cameron's leadership election platform

Oh so a few Conservative Members in Kensington & Chelsea and Dorset and Berkshire get to decide policy in a membership election with low turnout and the Voters have to live with their decision ?

The Soviets called that Democratic Centralism - is that New Tory Ideology - the Clique decides and the Masses obey ?

We Voters are cynical - you keep feeding our cynicism


Was it a low turn out?

The Soviets called that Democratic Centralism - is that New Tory Ideology - the Clique decides and the Masses obey ?

The new Cameroon ideology is called Gleichschaltung

Oh so a few Conservative Members in Kensington & Chelsea and Dorset and Berkshire get to decide policy in a membership election with low turnout and the Voters have to live with their decision ?

Actually the turnout of members was high - but the geographical coverage of membership was pitifully low.....a few Southern counties


So lets get this clear.Academic selection at 11 years old is delusional but selection at 18 to a university and which university is right and proper.Precisely which age is the tipping point and what is the scientific evidence for choosing any age for selection.
To quote a famnous and succesful Far Eastern politician'The most important requirement for the success of Singapore was talent. It took me many years to realize that.'Well he had 31 years at the top. I hope Cameron is a faster learner.

Again I point people to the PDF link in the above article setting out the manifesto the Editor of this site put together. Read it and then think about some of the nonsense posts on this site. It seems to me the party is currently broadly following the notion in that manifesto although of course there can be improvements. Maybe debate should centre on something solid like that manifesto rather than personal attacks on each other. Perhaps we need less overeactions to things somebody-said-might have-happenned-but-actually-haven't, because it is clear the press pick up on all this in a bizzare form of chinese whispers,


BBC, 29 October 2005:
Davis wants more grammar schools

Tory leadership hopeful David Davis has pledged to "revolutionise" inner city education by creating 20 new grammar schools if he becomes prime minister....

But Mr Cameron later said it was preferable to have a "greater choice" for parents.

He said: "Schools should have the freedom to decide their own culture and ethos, determine their approach to discipline, own their land and buildings and decide their own admissions policy.

"Rather than just a binary choice between grammar schools for some and secondary modern for others, it is far better to have wider diversity in schools and greater choice for parents."

Gentlemen, if you don't stop arguing and get behind Cameron right now you're going to lose the next election! And that would be a shame. He may be wrong but you can boot him out after he's got you back into power. There is a big risk that the party unity restored under Michael Howard will dissolve again (indeed it already is doing so) and people won't vote for a divided party. Let Dave do his job or there won't be a conservative government for another decade at least! It's that simple!

DC was right then and right now. Thanks for the reminder,


Having read this editorial I find it neither fair or balanced, in fact I am left with the distinct whiff of hypocrisy when it comes to the way it judges and compares the behaviour of some in the Cornerstone group when they undermine the leadership, shadow cabinet colleagues and the whips office.
I presume that David Mundell is not a member of Cornerstone, when his private memo written many months before and then unhelpfully "leaked" to coincide with the Scottish Conservative Party conference was judged a much greater crime on this site?

I understand that Eton and others use a highly selective Common Entrance examination and scholarship tests to choose which of the lucky applicants in their over-subscribed admissions process get school places. If selection is so evil, will a new Conservative Government ban selection by private schools on educational grounds as well? Clearly this would be an unjust interference in these schools independence.

Pupils and their families can choose schools, but there has to be a fair mechanism to sort out over-subscription. Open academic selection is probably fairer than most other methods.

Graham Brady is right; selection has enabled many bright children from disadvantaged backgrounds to have a high quality academic state education. We need to allow local communities to set up more grammar schools and have more grammar places, if we wish to widen access.

I ask again, as a point of information, what exactly is a "grammar stream"?

If Cameron's policy on secondary education is to include a "grammar stream"
in every comprehensive school, then surely it should be possible for one of his devotees to tell me exactly what that means.

Scotty - I think you are being a little unfair.

I'm sure ConHome is entirely even handed in these matters and would never consider giving a platform to favoured individuals who sytematically undermine their party leader.

Like Brian Monteith for instance.

gingeral - the Conservatives are going to lose the next election anyway. Maybe even as early as this October if Brown, as I suspect he might, calls a snap election.

I think if you read the editorial in the Spectator from last week, (or perhaps the week before), two comments made by DC during the election campaign for the leadership clearly show he was open to the idea of new schools selective opening up.(I can't do links and things, but the speccie website should have this).

To be fair to Osborne though, the point he is making is, I think, that Blair has opened doors that a Conservative government could never have opened when they were in office. The Tories job now is to push those doors wider still, though to be mindful of the pace of change with which the electorate might be comfortable.

That probably does mean no new out and out 11+ grammar schools now, though I'm not sure I see much difference between an "aptitude" for maths and passing an exam?

That Gordon Brown and the 6 wannabe deputy dawgs are all the other side of that door, desperately trying to push it closed, is the imagery the tories should be trying to plant in people's minds.

Never forget, joe public actually quite liked Tony Blair and one reason for that was that he was seen as on "their" side, against the machine of Government, the Labour party and the Tories.

When IDS supporters and their like had the upper hand I kept myself to myself because you don't rock the boat as though you matter more than the party as a whole. Elections were held and I abided by the results.

Now we get the people who I tacitly supported behaving like spoilt brats and resigning and threatening to because they are not getting their own way. Well, excuse me, but if I could do it why can't they? If they can't cope with it then they should go and form another party or something.

There's nothing that makes me more angry than those who once told me that I shouldn't speak out changing their tune so markedly.

Spot on Dave Bridger,



What difference does it make if we're not going to represent Conservative Values when we 'win' ?

Dominic Grieve is now criticising Cameron's stance.


As a governor of a private school (Public School), I find the ignorance displayed about Common Entrance very interesting. Increasingly, Public Schools try to ascertain aptitude at a much earlier stage in the selection process and the Common Entrance is a test to confirm knowledge and aptitude ... the system is designed to try to minimise failures and the decision to accept a child is conditional on passing the Common Entrance in the knowledge that the child ought to pass because he or she has the appropriate aptitude.

Failure rates at Common Entrance are very often exceedingly low ... otherwise the schools would get a reputation for 'failing' kids and that would result in their becoming undersubscribed.

It is interesting to note that this process has changed very considerably in the time between 1980 (when I took common entrance) and now. The Public Schools are selective, but the process of selection takes place in a much more intricate fashion and over a much longer period than is indicated by the idea that common entrance is the test.

Have you been offered a job or something in Central Office, Editor?

An interesting insight Mr Price. But cutting to the chase, is selection for public schools selective or not?

"One of the things that the leadership needs to do now is make peace, not war, with its critics"

Oh the chutzpah!

Aghast, well for one thing it would mean yet more talented Tories retiring without having ever had a chance to serve in a senior cabinet post (David Davis being the most obvious example), which would be a tremendous waste. I think you'll find that a Cameron government would be more conservative than a Brown one.

Its not often that you find a principled politician; Graham Brady has demonstrated that they exist, and has brought a refreshing breeze of candour and ethics into the sleazy pit of slime that has become politics since NuLab gained power.
I trust that his constituency stick by him.

I've never agreed with you before Felicity but the same thought was on my mind.

What it tells this floating voter is that too many Tories still prefer the purity of opposition to the need to make compromises to reach Government.
It's about what Education policy you want, not some kind of issue of image and a lot of Labour and Liberal Democrat voters and other voters are still in favour of Grammar Schools just as a lot of Conservatives against. Policy on Grammar Schools vis-a-vis whether they should exist or not will probably not affect total number of votes for the Conservative Party, decide things one way and maybe they will appeal more to people who might otherwise vote Labour or Liberal Democrat but also lose votes to UKIP, another way and appeal more to people who might be more likely to not vote or vote for UKIP and lose some votes to Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

It's not been handled very well though because the Conservative leadership have wrongly assumed that Conservative policy on this would have a major effect on Conservative support - certainly it affects how the Conservative vote will be comprised. In announcing it as a big change though the Conservative leadership has managed to put off people who back Grammar Schools from voting Conservative, while not gaining many extra people who oppose Grammar Schools because it had ceased to be an issue for such a long time and it has highlighted divisions over the issue among Conservative politicians.

Maybe if people on this site and the Telegraph put as much effort and pressure into opposing the impending Euro Consititution as they have into a silly row over someone criticising sainted grammar schools something productive might actually get done.

I think you'll find that a Cameron government would be more conservative than a Brown one.

Posted by: gingeral |

I doubt we shall ever see a Cameron Government, we may see a Conservative one again, but in the meantime we have a Brown Government and must live with that.

The Conservative Opposition has no policies beyond disowning what it believed in - it is a Not The Conservative Party party - At least when the SDP split from Labour they were coherent, but this late entryism of the Blairites escaping from the Brown Era makes the Conservative Party look like it has been infected with an alien virus

'If population is growing in a selective Local Education Authority area, whether it's Buckinghamshire or Trafford, surely new grammar schools should be available.'

Of course they should - it is absurd to suggest otherwise. Here in North Bucks our excellent local grammar school is full to capacity and thanks to Prescott's plan to concrete over the south east we have thousands of new homes on stream for the area over the next few years. How is our education system going to cope without building new grammar schools and new secondary schools ? 'No new grammar schools' is ludicrous. Incidentally, our local county secondary schools at Waddesdon and Wing are excellent too.

The EU Constitution will come whether we like it or not. Education policy we can do something about...

Curiously...what is practical education? Is that just another term for vocational education?

put as much effort and pressure into opposing the impending Euro Consititution

Again a red herring. There is absolutely nothing Conservative Opposition can do about this proposed treaty. Only Gordon Brown can block it by refusing to ratify it or respect it if Blair tries to sign it and having the Cabinet resign.

There has been no major EU Treaty which the Conservative Party has blocked - at no stage. It is another policy myth.


I was at Oxford when the SDP began in the 80s. The Notting Hill Cameroons remind me a great deal of the SDP's supporters there at that time, with their similar demographic and attitude towards the less privileged.

Whatever may be the rights and wrongs of the argument, the fact is that as a PR exercise this has been handled by the Leadership with all the skill and acumen of, to pick a disaster at random, Robert Mugabe's Propaganda Ministry. Can you imagine Blair and Campbell (the most interesting Propaganda Minister since April 1945)circa 1996 allowing this story to spin on and on and eventually out of control? No, the story would have been closed down two weeks ago by these spinsters.

Here we have Cameron and Osborne furiously digging the hole deeper and deeper whilst Graham Brady remains courteous, dignified, honourable , reasonable but above all right to defend what he believes to be in the interest of his constituents.

This has been a shambles that has made the Conservative party look disunited and that has probably not benefited from the leader sunning himself abroad this week.

All in all a throughly unimpressive performance which has left many wondering what the policy actually is and whatever it is, does it stand up to rational scrutiny?

No wonder party stalwarts and activists are deeply irritated.

Denis Cooper,
I'm just a lone party activist, not someone from CCHQ so don't take my word on the definition of "grammar stream" as gospel.

At the comprehensive school where I was educated children across an entire year group are put into sets based on academic ability in the core subjects (English, Maths, Science) and Foreign Languages. In other subjects we were taught in our forms, with no selection involved (In Humanaties, there was an insignificant amount of setting, as they used to teach two forms together in two groups; an upper and lower set). Students typically only moved sets after the end of year exams (Separate exams were sat by each set), however if a student demonstrated that they were clearly further ahead of their peers or falling behind they would be moved beforehand.

Cameron has said that he wishes to have setting in 100% of subjects, and that he wants a "grammar stream" in every school. This means that every subject would have year group based setting as opposed to just a few subjects like we have at the moment.

I don't know the exact details of the "grammar stream", because as I said I don't work at CCHQ, however I can envisage that it would work like top sets in core subjects at my old school.

As a top set student I was given extra academic opportunities, because it was deemed that the National Curriculum didn't stretch us enough. For example, I took my GCSE Maths a year early, gained an FSMQ Advanced Mathematics in year 11, had the opportunity to sit various outside additional qualifications. My school also organised an accelerated ICT group consisting of myself and 3 others and we sat our GCSE ICT course a year early.

Denis, I hope the above is of some use to you!

Well said Huntsman. This has been appallingly badly played by the Tory leadership. Its amateurish at best. The way this should have gone was that the speech should have concentrated on how to bring the weaker schools up without using Grammar Schools as a straw man to bash down as an excuse. MEntioning Grammar Schools in that way just made ths speech controversial.

After the speech kicked up the storm Cameron should have calmed down the party by not using inflamatory language like calling us delusional or inverse class warriors. Perhaps mentioning that the Policy Groups will have an input and that this is not the full policy yet would have been a good thing.

No matter what, Cameron must not verbally assault his Party. Its childish and inappropriate for someone of his position. We mere political anorak bloggers can get away with it but thats because we arent the Leader of the Opposition with a wonderful opportunity to become the next Prime Minister of Great Britain...

As said in Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility.

Nadine's article is now online:


I always knew that Graham Brady was a sound man, but perhaps I hadn't quite realised how sound. I salute him. He is right, Willetts is wrong. Right at one level, because the grammar school system was clearly better for all children, and for the country, than the systems that sought to replace it. Right more broadly, in that the type of education should be decided by schools, teachers, parents, governors, and not by governments. Conservatives should not be replacing one state system with another, still less "carrying on the Blair legacy". We should be freeing the people to make their own decisions. I can think of nothing more anti-Conservative than George's Osborne's hint that a Conservative government would prevent the creation of new grammar schools, defying parents' wishes. I joined the Conservative Party because I believe in Conservative values. I wish I were confident that our front bench team shared those values.
Posted by ROGER HELMER on May 31, 2007 9:00 AM

Telegraph Blog

Oh, and Iain Dale is reporting that Andy Coulson (Former NotW editor) is going to be announced as Director of Comms later on today. Not exactly the best name in business, but should at least be able to stabilise our appaling media operations.

I don't think it is possible to move on. I was a candidate in 2005 and a Chairman in 2001, but I don't think I would be able to campaign to have David Willets made Education Minister. How could I support a man who not only would stop further selection but who is now actively campaigning against the surviving grammars? And how could I support a leadership which is actively suppressing supporters of grammars?

Moreover, the issue is illustrative of many ways in which the leadership is out of touch with the membership and with important issues for the country.

Thanks Simon - I've updated the main post now.

Please don't close this issue down; it is of the most vital importance.

First, the fact is that supporters of grammar schools long ago won the argument. They find support in all sorts of statistics - to do with exams, the heritability of intelligence, the distribution of that intelligence over the population and so on. That being so, it is a moral imperative that selection should be restored.

Second, the continuing hell of comprehensive life for the children of Britain must be stopped. The drugs, the bullying, the underachievement, the blunting of talent, the political indoctrination - it is a national scandal of Dickensian proportions. The modern Oliver would find his Mr Bumble at the local comp dump.

Third, this is indeed a clause four moment but of the wrong kind. In 1994 Clause four had to go because the vast majority knew it was rubbish. Not only Mrs Thatcher, but the falling Berlin Wall had crushed all the pretensions of socialism.

Educational selection, by contrast, has been repeatedly and entirely vindicated. It's only coherent opponents are Marxists who actively wish to deprive clever middle class children of the use of their intelligence. This is why I am so viscerally shocked not only by current tory policy, but by its language, which borrows shamelessly from the vocabulary and the priorities of the far left.

The parties are not symmetrical. They are not a sort of Tweedledum and Tweedledee who simply have to ape each other's wheezes to win the next frivolous contest. Labour, hitched to a dying and unpopular socialism, simply had to ditch it. The tories, representing a justified education policy, are in no position to abandon or betray it.

Why has Tory HQ got this so wrong? I believe it is because they are superficial people. At a personal level, they want to impress their friends and colleagues who have signed up to Europe, high government spending, green politics and so forth. They yearn to avoid the ugly sneers and moral denunciations meted out to them over drinks and dinner throughout the nineties.

Secondly, they take a politics seminar view of political life. They think, every so often, that they have found a panacea which will bring the electorate round in five minutes flat. Hence their embarrassing use of right wing "dog-whistles" in 05. What appalling contempt for the voters that phrase bespeaks. Everything would appear to have changed, but that contempt, that view that all you need is the correct "formula", it is still there. All they have done is cynically change the formula. The old truth is that politics is full of strain and ill temper and division; fighting for what is right, therefore, takes time and guts - no magic bullets, no clever positioning.

Why did Blair win, then? Long, deep, BBC abetted propaganda, plus a gift from heaven to the socialists: John Major.

Again, please don't stifle this debate. For all the above reasons, it is a test case. It reveals the superficiality of our current leader. The issue must explode now, before Brown can call a snap election in which to trade on tory treachery, and Cameron should be ruthlessly shunted aside.

During the local elections, where I was a candidate, a good dozen voters in my ward refused to vote Tory while Cameron was leader.

"When I was told this week that I had to choose between the frontbench job I loved and the freedom to speak for the children whose life chances are blighted by poor quality education, there was no real choice." - Graham Brady

"I joined the Conservative Party because I believe in Conservative values. I wish I were confident that our front bench team shared those values." - Roger Helmer

And an excellent article by Nadine Dorries.
It is good to know there are still some Conservative MPs out there who are prepared to stand up and be counted for what they believe in.

Peter Hitchens has a few interesting points in The Daily Mail 29 May

29 May 2007 2:52 PM
Inverted Class War

Read Peter Hitchens only in The Mail on Sunday

Every few weeks I find myself bicycling in the opposite direction to the Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition, as he heads for Westminster and I pedal towards the Mail on Sunday office. One day I fear there will be a regrettable accident, but so far we have managed to avoid catastrophe. The last time this happened he bawled sarcastically at me "Very fair programme!", presumably a reference to 'Toff at the Top', the documentary on Mr Cameron that I presented for Channel Four.

I was just digesting this encounter when I was confronted with the memorable sight of David Willetts, also on a velocipede, labouring along in his chief's slipstream, spectacles glinting, brains whirring, his sunny Professor Branestawm smile in place as usual. I have to say I worry about him. Intellectuals and machinery do not go well together. I took extra care for the rest of the way in case I met the boyish George Osborne, who also uses this route and once - seeing me hunched on what he regarded as a green, liberal mode of transport - could only boggle and goggle at me. George has much to learn about the harsh realities of life.

Of course, my programme about Mr Cameron (during which I rather pointedly bicycled about the place, so as to demonstrate that bad, reactionary people use bicycles too) could have been fairer. How? Mr Cameron could have made it fairer, by agreeing to be interviewed for it. But his office rebuffed repeated approaches to take part, one of which I know for certain reached him personally, as I took care that it should do so.

And actually - though I am openly and unashamedly biased - I do believe in fairness, to the extent that those I attack should be big enough to look after themselves, and given the opportunity to answer the charges against them. My old friend and adversary Michael Gove took on the hard task of speaking for Mr Cameron in the programme, and was unfairly attacked because he got into trouble while doing so. But he got into trouble because he was loyally trying to defend what he knew to be a weak position. Mr Cameron should have defended himself.

These reminiscences are brought on by the Blue Labour leader's accusation, in a Mail on Sunday article, that his critics on grammar schools are guilty of inverted class war, or some such phrase. Humph. Well, there is a bit of a point in this. There's no doubt that a rich Old Etonian needs to be pretty careful about what schools he prescribes for the middle classes and the poor.

Now, this isn't just me saying so. Listen to the words of Matthew D'Ancona, enthusiastically pro-Cameron Editor of the mainly pro-Cameron 'Spectator', writing in the mainly pro-Cameron 'Sunday Telegraph'. He said: "There is something deeply distasteful about listening to the Cameroons preen themselves over their tough line on state grammar schools, before, without missing a beat, they go on to discuss the selective examinations for top private schools facing their own children."

You may be sure that Mr D'Ancona is speaking from direct personal experience here, and he is dead right. If he finds it distasteful, then Mr Cameron should worry. It won't work to accuse Mr D'Ancona of waging class war, inverse or the right way up. Mr Cameron's Toffishness, and that of his coterie, as I've said before, is important because it blinds him to the growing plight of the striving classes, who don't have his cushion of money.

This policy creates an interesting change in the landscape of scandal and hypocrisy. Tories who paid fees to avoid the comprehensives, used not to be direct hypocrites. Their party had nothing against private schools and was, more or less, in favour of selection and rigour in the state sector - if you didn't look too closely at its record. But now they have dismissed grammar schools as the wrong route to excellence, and endorsed dubious City Academies, they are open to exactly the same jeers as those directed against the Labour grandees who do the same thing or - worse - fiddle their children into secretly selective schools by the judicious use of religion or the purchase of houses in small catchment areas.

Mr Cameron now seems to have pledged to send his children to state schools, which will be interesting to watch. I urge him to convert to Roman Catholicism well before they are 11. For, though the Church of England does some pretty good primaries, it is not so good at secondaries. Cardinal Vaughan, as his fellow left-winger Jon Cruddas can tell him, is an excellent school, but you have to know your Catholic catechism to get in.

I cannot see - by the way - how Mr Cameron's critics' assaults on him can be inverse class war. Surely an upside-down class war would be an attack on the middle class by the upper class? Or on the working class by the middle class? If this were class war, it would be the normal sort, the people below attacking the people above, urged on by the people in the middle. Actually it's not class war at all. It is a straightforward conflict of interest - between politicians who dodge what they think are difficult policy decisions, while being able to afford to avoid the consequences of their cowardice.

Actually, I am by no means sure that a return to selection is that difficult a policy, or that unpopular, which is why Mr Cameron is politically mistaken as well as tactically wrong.

Camerong011006_228x334 Simon Jenkins, normally one of the sharpest and least conventional commentators, wrote a ridiculous article in the Sunday Times this week. Sir Simon praised Mr Cameron for 'deftly tak[ing] a blow at the old right and speak[ing] the truth all at the same time." He lauded Mr Cameron for his 'aplomb' in 'clearing the decks of intellectual clutter", and compared 'fundamentalist' supporters of grammars with Labour's pro-nationalisation cavemen. This is all very robust and iconoclastic and breezy, but is it right?

Sir Simon asserted that school selection had become 'massively unpopular' by the 1960s. Forgive me for quoting so much from the papers, but they are where our national debate now takes place. Hardly anything ever gets discussed in Parliament any more. Sir Simon made the old claim that the Tories failed to defend grammar schools because they were losing them votes, and may have cost them the 1964 election. Odd, that, given that Harold Wilson, the Labour leader in 1964, would later claim that grammar schools would be abolished 'over his dead body'. Why say that, if they were so unpopular? And I believe there was very strong local opposition in Bristol - and other cities - to the abolition of grammar schools around that time.

I checked the Labour Manifesto for 1964 and it was cunningly ambiguous, offering the mythical beast of grammar education without grammar schools, dreamed of by Anthony Crosland in his 'Future of Socialism' and now being offered again as a 'grammar stream', or rather 'grammar sets' since he apparently doesn't believe in streaming, by Mr Cameron.

Funny that this has never actually worked in practice. This is presumably because you need the whole ethos of a school, not just a few isolated classrooms, to produce the grammar school effect. But it is an old idea. The 1964 Labour manifesto said: "Labour will get rid of the segregation of children into separate schools caused by 11-plus selection. Secondary education will be reorganised along comprehensive lines", so far, so straightforward. But then it added "Within the new system grammar school education will be extended: in future no child will be denied the opportunity of benefiting from it through arbitrary selection at the age of 11" (my italics).

I cannot be sure if the drafters of this document believed what they were saying, but it is quite clear that they recognised that grammar school education was popular and desirable. So they pretended that by abolishing it for some they would make it available for everyone, and they would extend it. How they can honestly have believed that it could be offered to everyone, I do not know. But why was there nobody around to suggest that more grammars could be founded, that secondary moderns could be encouraged to establish sixth forms that the missing technical schools should be built? Why was it abolition or the eleven-plus, and nothing in between?

Maybe I was too young at the time, but I can't remember school selection being a big issue in the 1964 election, or the one after, in 1966, in which I did last-minute 'knocking-up' (badgering voters who had pledged their support but hadn't yet turned up at the polling station, since you ask) for the Labour Party in the back streets of Cambridge, dressed in the uniform of my then Public School. Perhaps there's some evidence someone could produce. Even if it was, selection is certainly not a vote-loser now, after people have seen what comprehensive education does in practice. Recent opinion polls, not apparently designed to produce this result, came up with the clear message that 49% of all voters, and 70% of Tories, now support selective education.

Sir Simon, like so many participants in this debate, seems to think that discontent with selection at 11, and perhaps with there being too few grammar school places, equates to support for the comprehensive system. Sir Simon mocks those who say that you can have selection without the eleven-plus as believing in 'immaculate selection', which is a jolly witty phrase but ignores the fact that Germany does indeed have selection without an eleven plus, and it works pretty well.

As for the transparently silly claim that by shutting grammar schools you benefit the non-grammar pupils, made by so many supporters of this unhinged vandalism, I am indebted to the Graham Brady, Tory Shadow Europe Minister (at least he holds that brief now, but I'm not sure it can last) who has gravely embarrassed Mr Cameron by producing some research showing that selection improves results in all schools in grammar areas, not just in grammar schools.

The reason why this controversy has run for so long is that it matters so much, and says so much about those who take sides in it. Here's a puzzle for you. If selective education benefited the country, even if it was unpopular, would it be the duty of a serious politician to argue in favour of it? I think it's easy, because I cannot imagine being in politics unless I believed first of all in the good of the country.

"It's time to move on" means it's time to shut up. But the debate is not now solely about grammar schools. It is about suppressing dissent, suffocating debate and censoring statistics which do not support the party line.

Cameron seems more suited to dictatorship than to democracy. I don't want a Blairite 'Conservative' government. I want a conservative Conservative government but that seems to put me in opposition to our leader.

Chris @ 12:15 - thanks. But if as you say

"Cameron has said that he wishes to have setting in 100% of subjects, and
that he wants a "grammar stream" in every school."

then surely Cameron was using misleading phraseology.

Because a stream is a stream, in the idealised case running vertically through
all the years of a school, with pupils staying within the same stream for all their subjects year after year. While a set is a set, a sub-division of either the whole horizontal year group, or of that part of the year group which has been placed within a particular stream.

Therefore you can certainly define sets within already existing streams, but you can't create streams by dividing all the pupils in a year group into different sets
for each of their different subjects - if you do that, then there can be no distinct streams, "grammar" or otherwise.

So the sound-bite "grammar stream in every school" boils down to putting the pupils in a year group into sets for all their subjects, not just some, and then trying to ensure that all the top sets are working at a "grammar school" level.

"cant do anything about the EU consititution"

Of course, I forgot you’d rather be a right-wing debateing society. Wont do anything about important issues but my God you love fighting over non-stories.

Instead of putting pressure on Blair/Brown to have a referendum, clearly it's much better to have a three week row about Willets daring to criticise Grammar schools - no objection to the actual policies he was talking about you understand (as the Editor says: synthetic phonics, home school contracts, opposition to further closure of special schools, 'grammar streaming', City Academies and mechanisms for parents and other social entrepreneurs to open new schools), just outrage over his blasphemy in saying GS only help middle-class kids.
Burn the witch!

Graham Brady amusingly exposed the absolute silliness of the row when he resigned - he went on the radio and admitted he agreed with the actual education policies ("sensible") and would still encourage people to vote for them, he just couldn't stand Willets' rhetoric criticizing his beloved grammar schools (blessings be upon their name).

Two and half weeks of absolute f**king farce, over f**king nothing.

Frank is right. The Conservatives should not and I believe will not be able to ape New Labour tactics because it is not in conservatives' DNA. It's all very well for a bunch of metropolitan PR types to think what a jolly jape it would be to copy Blair but ultimately it just won't wash.

We should never forget that Labour/the Socialists were wrong and the Tories were right. They thought they had history on their side but they didn't. And it was the too often maligned Maggie ably assisted by a broad church that achieved that victory despite the wets. However despite that, where the socialists did succeed over the last 50 years and more was in imposing a massive Marxist post-modern social and cultural settlement on our country, one which gets worse by the day. That is what Cameron should be opposing in clear and unadulterated language. And conservatives are the natural opponents of that settlement. Any failure to recognise and address this will be a failure of massive historic proportions. The Tories need to get back to their core values and bin the sociocentric rubbish.

Evan Price @ 10.57
"Failure rates at Common Entrance are very often exceedingly low ..."

That is generally because there many very good prep schools in the country that give an excellent education, thus "preparing" pupils properly to go on to academic schools.

Denis Cooper,
Your understanding is correct from how I see it (But Cameron may have different plans). Personally I favour the idea of more setting, because it enables children to get help in subjects they struggle in, whilst receiving a grammar-esque education in subjects they excel in. I know there were a number of boys in my school who were excellent a English, but awful at Science, and thankfully the setting system compensated for that. If you had fixed streams these boys would have either failed science due to being in too high a set, or wouldn't have been stretched to their full ability in English.

Instead of putting pressure on Blair/Brown to have a referendum,

Heirs to Blair don't challenge The Master..........besides whoever heard of having a referendum on a treaty ?....

We didn't over Maastricht or Kyoto


"David Cameron faced the most serious challenge yet to his grammar school policy today after it emerged that a key shadow cabinet minister was defying the party line.

According to reports shadow attorney general Dominic Grieve has broken ranks to insist that his local education authority should be allowed to build more grammars. "

Dominic is on the side of libertarians and is not Cornerstone material so this row is not a right Vs left row at all.

Nothing to add about this sad sorry saga, except to ask why in this month's survey I could not award Willetts a rating lower than "Very dissatisfied".

According to reports shadow attorney general Dominic Grieve has broken ranks to insist that his local education authority should be allowed to build more grammars.

The main item on Radio 4 news tis lunchtime.

And as such surely worthy of a new thread?

Yes, TT. The Editor's "Time to move on" headline seems a little premature in that light.

There's nothing that makes me more angry than those who once told me that I shouldn't speak out changing their tune so markedly.

Well, Cardinal, it looks like you are the one who's changing his tune.

Didn't you tell us a day or two ago that you enjoyed reading the posts from anti-Cameroons because they made you roar with laughter?

Has this terrible weather ruined your sense of humour?

Did I just hear on the radio correctly that D Grieve has written in his local paper that new grammar schools should be built in Beaconsfield if the population grew and more places were sought by parents?

And then, did I hear correctly that a Tory spokesman said that the policy allowed for more grammar schools to be built when there was this sort of justification?

I spy a man, or a crew, rowing backwards. Unedifying.

What a total horlicks. My bet is that this whole policy cock-up was caused by a cynical attempt at leftwards outreach, rather than any intellectual belief in what they were proposing, and in the full knowledge that it would be against the wishes and inclinations of the great majority of conservative voters (including those who have abstained at the last two elections).


Mr Grieve said:

"We must also ensure that if further grammar or secondary schools are needed they can be supplied within the county."


This is manifestly contrary to previously-stated Conservative Party policy, and ought to result in a 'severe reprimand' by the Chief Whip, and then official statements/briefings against him...

It is inappropriate for ConservativeHome to terminate this discussion when the Shadow Attorney General counters Mr Cameron's education policy. In the name democratic openness, please do not think that it is this site which is perpetuating the story. There is a moral obligation to support the views of Mssrs Brady and Grieve, which manifestly reflect the views of many right-thinking and loyal members of the Party.

I'm with the Bish's last paragraph above.

Ed - "We won't be asking about grammar schools. It is time for all of us to move on. The leadership's position is very unlikely to change".

Like you, Ed, I would like to move on and concentrate on nullifying Gordon Brown but I am still irritated at Cameron calling all of us delusional for believing that grammar schools have played a vitally important role in the education of our children over the generations.

I agree with what he is proposing but I think he should recognise the harm he and Willetts have caused by what they said and they should issue some sort of apology.

Nulab ministers spend a lot of time these days apologising for the latest cock-up and promising that "they will learn from their mistakes".

Instead of which they seem to be digging even deeper now that Osborne has stated that no more grammar schools will be built: what if local authorities decide that is what they want to do? Will localism or centrism win?

Bless you, Og.

One cannot avoid the impeccable logic here that Mr Cameron has dismissed the Shadow Attorney General - the most senior legal mind in the Party - of being 'delusional'.

It is indeed time to move on. It is time to elect a real Conservative as Leader. Or realise that a split is necessary, so why not now?


Does not the intervention of Mr Fawkes ensure and necessitate the perpetuation of this topic?

TT - I get angry at disloyalty to the party by MPs, as long as someone is not one of our elected members laughter is a better outlet.

"Gentlemen, if you don't stop arguing and get behind Cameron right now you're going to lose the next election!"

Good - I am not like Cameron. I don't want power before principal and will do what I can to ensure that such politicians are given no chance of it.

Maybe if people on this site and the Telegraph put as much effort and pressure into opposing the impending Euro Constititution as they have into a silly row over someone criticising sainted grammar schools something productive might actually get done.
Posted by: Jon Gale | May 31, 2007 at 11:36
Answered thus:-
The EU Constitution will come whether we like it or not. Education policy we can do something about...
Posted by: James Maskell | May 31, 2007 at 11:58
It's the 'elephant in the room' again. Dispirited Tories some of whom already think the next election is lost, who also believe there is nothing they can do about the EU Constitution.
If on 22/6 Blair signs us into a referendumless process resulting in the integration by 2009 of the UK into the EU superstate Westminster will become superfluous.
There is something your Party can do . As Frederick Forsyth and other Tory supporters have already urged, your Leader should here and now commit to a referendum on taking back power from the EU as the first act of a Conservative Government He should also commit to leading the campaign for that. Promise that now and he would immediately unite the Party, except for a few europhiles and even they cannot publicly object to asking the people. By echoing majority opinion in the country he would ensure winning the election - particularly if it’s a snap one. But he must do that now, before Blair goes to the summit and before any more ‘Tory splits' open up. In my opinion it's a case of TINA (and I am sure she would approve!).

The Fat lady has yet to sing - Will shadow attorney general Dominic Grieve be the next to resign?


I am a floating voter. Long term left-leaning but now libertarian, conservative. I voted for Anne Widdecombe for the first time at the last General Election. I would like to vote for a Conservative Party, but after the Grammar School issue I am not sure that I can vote for this Conservative Party, since it seems to be doing all it can to simply be a photocopy of New Labour. If I wanted that I would vote for Labour.

I am not an Old Tory. I am not a Right-Winger. But I do believe in diversity of educational provision, and I do believe in selection for educational ability, and that children should go to the RIGHT school.

My eldest daughter is at a Grammar school and is flourishing but works very hard. My younger children go to a heavily over-subscribed Secondary school where their own various abilities are pushed and they are also given opportunities to succeed. They would not flourish in a Grammar School and my eldest would not flourish in a Secondary School.

My own home town needs a couple more Grammar Schools, not less, and it needs flexibility in provision to allow movement from one school to another at 11, 12 and 13, and also to allow for students to study some particular subjects in different schools as appropriate if their own school does not provide them.

I thought that Conservatism stood for excellence, not for grinding everyone down to the same mediocrity. My eldest daughter studies with and has friends among children from very poor backgrounds, and I am not well off by any means.

If the Conservative Party follows this line of development then I will NOT be able to vote for a Conservative Candidate. I am already greatly concerned by David Cameron's support for the restriction of the right of Catholic Adoption agencies to refuse to place vulnerable children with homosexuals. It seems that the modern Conservative Party is not very libertarian at all but rather wishes to follow the same heavy-handed centralisation and control philosophy introduced by New Labour.

Cameron has suffered a humiliating and total defeat at the hands of the hard right on Grammar-wars.

He promised no more grammar schools, but this afternoon - under massive pressure from his own party - his education spokesman Nick Gibb has capitulated.

Gibb has told C4 news that the Tories WOULD after all build new Grammar Schools.

If Cameron can't control his own shadow cabinet, how can we trust him to run the country...?

[email protected]

I don't want control - I want democracy.

George Earle @ 16:06:

"If on 22/6 Blair signs us into a referendumless process resulting in the integration by 2009 of the UK into the EU superstate ..."

Blair doesn't have the power to do that: Parliament will decide whether its ratification of the treaty will be conditional on our assent in a referendum.

All the main party MPs were elected in 2005 on the pledge that we would
have a referendum, and we must insist that they keep their word.

I don't want control - I want democracy.

Grammargate has proved that we need Tory Democracy in order to rein in people of the Cameron tendency and check the slide to dictatorship.

What's happened to Mike Normington and Eric Chalker? They used to do some good work in this field.

I've still got a copy of Eric's 'Set the Party Free', published in 1899 or thereabouts.

I dont know why you headbangers cant get it right - its very simple:

(1) Grammar schools are a statist throwback to the 1950s. Not modern.

(2) Grammar schools dont work, unless your kids are already clever.

(3) But just because grammar schools dont work it doesnt mean we will shut down any of them.

(4) It just means we arent going to build any more of them, even if your area wants them.

(5) Unless that is you already have grammar schools in your area, in which case you can have as many as you like.

Got it?

Phil Dilks (aka "Fair Deal Phil") - welcome to the site - it's good to see Labour Party employees visiting. You might learn something about open debate & exchange of ideas - not something that your new leader appears very comfortable with.

Your credibility is not enhanced by trying to portray people like Graham Brady and Dominic Grieves as "hard right." I am sure your boss requires more acute analysis than that.

Oh, Phil, I forgot to ask - is Channel 4 News in the regular habit of giving the Labour Party details about its interviews with Conservative politicians before the programme is broadcast?

"Got it?"
Sorry Titania the 'headbanging' has got to me. Increases the intelligence you see......

Tory Retreat on Grammars in the Evening Standard this evening.

Yesterday Osborne confirmed they would block any attempt to build new grammar schools, today that has been reversed and is now on a "case by case" basis. Scan of paper here.

Yup! Grammargate rolls on and on...

...and on.

I wonder if it all began on CH...

The Tsar has capitulated. Osborne's authority is in tatters as the Tory Party's attempt to centralise and block new grammar schools lies in tatters.

I tried to move on but have surrendered in the face of an irresistible news story.

Not a clever move to stick your hand into a hornets' nest - never get the swarm back

My post @1606 drew only one reply and that from Denis Cooper @ 1724 despite my proposing a solution to the disunity of the Conservative Party and to the saving of the UK’s self-government. Dr. Cooper is a well known much published eurorealist but seems to have more faith in this europhile dominated Parliament than I do. If all MPs are as committed to a referendum as he says, my proposal should be a simple step for David Cameron

It is very interesting how the Left (which apparently includes Messrs Willets and Cameron) will support selection in State schools on any grounds (skill at ballet, musical aptitude, even the ability to kick a football in a vaguely straight line) EXCEPT academic ability. Mr Cameron seems to be leading us straight back to the period of the 40s or 50s where the landed and monied aristocracy controlled the Conservaitve Party and the idea that people from the working classes might use a decent education to gain good jobs and aspire to office in the Party was felt to be vaguely amusing.

My wife and I are both miners' childen and are now both Tory Councillors. But for the Grammar Schools we would both be languishing down the bottom end of the social mobility scale instead of both having been, before retirement, senior teachers with good degrees. We have seen the patronising aspect of Mr Cameron's friends and the revival of attitudes which we thought a Grammar School girl from Grantham had driven out of the Tory Party. Despair is close.

And as for the garbage about a "grammar stream" - Mr Cameron's ignorance of schools with real Rent-a-yob populations shows through here. What sort of life does he think the pupils in the small grammar stream will live, then, in their 1,500-strong comprehensive schools? Has he ever had to hide in terror at lunchtime because he answered a question, as I have seen able boys doing in a comprehensive? Didn't Eton teach him that it's the *ethos* of the whole school that matters?

As readers will know from my very occasional postings, I have been very worried about Mr Cameron since his election on a "doctor's mandate" Every word he utters convinces me we have a Blue Blair (well, a very-pale-cyan-and-sickly-green Blair) who is more interested in getting to No 10 than he is in Conservative policies.

AND YET ..... I have said before that the next election won't be between Cameron and Davies, it'll be between Cameron and Brown. And if we fight amongst ourselves, it will be Brown. (Who said green leaves turn Brown in Autumn?) And who will bet me that if that happens we will never have another open and fair election again? Brown has already muttered about PR; we've seen what happens with PR in Scotland and Northern Ireland where the extremists have gained trememdnous ground ...

First things first. Please, let's stop squabbling, stop talking about deposing Mr Cameron either before or immediately after a General Election, and concentrate on getting a Conservative Government back. If Cameron's loopy left policies are seen to be failing after a year or so, then will be the time to talk about changes.

If Cameron's loopy left policies are seen to be failing after a year or so, then will be the time to talk about changes

No! That will be too late. The poison will have taken hold.

We're fighting the axis of evil which has turned our beloved country into what William Hague rightly described as a 'foreign land', unrecognisable to all decent, moral, hardworking Britishers. Cameron and his flunkies are part of that axis.

Therefore he must go, and as quickly as possible. Once a decent Conservative leader such as Davis or Hague is installed we can turn on the other half of the axis of evil.

We have a nest of squalor in our very own party. Time to root it out!

Traditional Tory - I sympathise. But let's think about it. Odds on winning after a bloody battle to depose Mr Cameron - 1 in 6 and that, maybe, would be generous. And that is if Mr Cameron were deposed: remember all "right-thinking" (really, left-thinking) opinion said IDS would get only a handful of votes and he was not far off surviving in the end. The leader, whoever it might be, has trememdous advantages.

And if the depositon fails, or if it succeeds and we blow the election, we're stuck with the Left for ever.

On the other hand - odds on winning with Mr Cameron: slightly better than evens; say 5 in 8. Then, after a year or two of failure as in Ted Heath, chances of deposition: maybe 50/50. Half of 5/8ths is 5/16th: better odds than 1 in 6.

And, of course, Mr Cameron did win an open election. So maybe the options until he (if he) fails should be shut up or leave. I don;t like either, but it's the one thing or the other.

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