News from British and Canadian Conservatives

Monday, June 04, 2007

Grammar schools row rumbling on

The row over the new Conservative position on Grammar schools is still rumbling on. I've already made clear that I was far from impressed by David Willetts' announcement. It was already known that there were no plans to expand selection. I thought that was a shame, but accepted it. The bigger Conservative picture is more important than one issue. However, the reannouncement, accompanied by an unhealthily PC and socialist attack grammars was rather too much for me to stomach. I'm far from alone in that. ConservativeHome's monthly survey showed David Willetts' approval rating slump from +37 to -24 between May and June. I was amongst those describing myself as "Very Dissatisfied" with his performance.

I was also disappointed by the response I received from David Cameron, to whom I wrote on the subject. I made clear in my email that I did not agree with the new policy, but that I was willing to accept it. My request was for advice on how to deal with the contradiction between a statement that grammars are outdated and bad because they "entrench advantage", yet support for the continuation of Kent's selective system. I pointed out that I intend to canvass for the Maidstone North East KCC by-election, and that the issue is likely to arise. The response to my email (delivered by snail-mail) was that there is no contradiction. That's plain nonsense.

Let me make absolutely and unequivocally clear. I firmly believe that grammar schools are a good thing. I certainly gained opportunities which my background would not otherwise have afforded me. I doubt that, without my grammar education, I would now have a degree from Cambridge. I obtained that grammar education because I was willing and able to learn, not because of any kind of social or economic advantage - anyone who knows my background can attest to that. If the Conservative policy announcement had been that grammars would be abolished, this would be the blog of a former Conservative. Thankfully, this is not the case, and is unlikley to become so.

Now, David Cameron needs to stop the name calling. I'm not deluded, and debate about party policy is not pointless. No man is bigger than his party, even if that man happens to be the leader. DC needs to learn from the mistakes made during this fiasco. It's no use having a small cabal running the party and telling the rest of us what to think - Conservative members are mostly intelligent people who will not stand for being treated like sheep. There's an awful lot of goodwill towards David's modernisation agenda and he needs to be careful not to squander that. I'm pleased to see that a new head of the media unit has been appointed, starting next month. The appointment does not come before time.

1 comment:

Jae said...

Well said.

Grammar schools are a good thing, and the Tory leader needs to remember that.