Sunday, June 03, 2007

From rebellion to insurrection - or just a bump in the road to government ?

Things are starting to move into a new phase with the revolt inspired David Willetts CBI speech.

But first the basis of the arguments haven't changed. The Team Cameron line is that its the media that whipped this all up and David Willetts wasn't saying anything new. They seem to refuse (if Alan Duncan's interview on Radio 4 on Sat is anything to go by) to acknowledge that the statements about middle classes dominating the existing grammar school provision have been taken as an attack on the aspirational classes ( in my view they are ). They also miss that they have green lighted the socialists to move in to kill off the remaining grammar schools in there continuing revenge on the middle classes.

However, clearly they do acknowledge the deep water with the parliamentary and wider party they are in - hence the climb down over allowing new grammar schools. When a week or two earlier the membership of the party were being branded delusional by its leader and told that all this was out of the question.

There was a definite attempt by the Tory bloggersphere to back off last week. Conservative home wanted to limit the damage, and we could all see that olive branches graciously accepted were in the best interests of everyone in the party.

But the mood of the MPs seems to be darker than I might have expected. The question I'm asking myself is are we moving from a rebellion over a single issue to a more general insurrection phase, where wider issues, the broader Cameroonie project for example, are being targeted. We now have the first angry ex-front bencher, Graham Brady, launching an attack in today's News of the World. Other MPs seem to have been lining up to support grammar schools.

Personally I think the ship can still be steadied. But Team Cameron need to understand that if they want large changes they need to persuade rather than launch surprise announcements. A bit of decent media management - welcome Mr Coulson - wouldn't hurt either ( see two examples of how not to do things below ). David Willetts - and Oliver Letwin and Boris Johnson for safe measures, should all be dropped from the shadow cabinet. They are just liabilities. If Dave wants some sacrifice from the the membership on green issues, MP selection, education etc - he needs to make some of his own and set an example - that's leadership too.

Time is running out, David Cameron has had little time to reflect in Crete (not exactly the climate change leadership green people expect) this week and hopefully he'll learn something deeper about leadership - like how to listen.

We stand on the edge. This is either a blip on the road to government, or the start of that insurrection I see starting to smoulder.

The skills of David Cameron's leadership will determine which.

Melissa Kite has a far better article here, which is worth a full read. (Credit where credit is due even if she isn't exactly a friend of Tory bloggers right now.)

Below are two examples from David Willetts showing why he needs some time on the back benches.

Willetts denies grammar U-turn"> Willetts denies grammar U-turn
Small Video Icon Education spokesman David Willetts has denied the Conservatives have changed their grammar school policy. 31 May 2007

David Willetts and Nigel Farage in TV am with Andy Marr.


dexey said...

"the statements about middle classes dominating the existing grammar school provision have been taken as an attack on the aspirational classes "

If you are assuming that those lower than middle class have no aspirations then you are a middle class snob.
Those below the middle class do not get the benefit of grammar school to raise themselves up because the places are taken by the middle classes with their money and ability to move. Everybody else has to do the best they can with a comprehensive school education.

Man in a shed said...

Dexey - that wasn't what I was saying. The quote from Willetts named the middle classes specifically. My statement refers to the aspirational classes - they could be anyone who wants to get on and doesn't like having the ladder kicked away in front of them.

I see no reason why people who pay for an education through their taxes shouldn't get the education they want for their children.

For some reason there seems to be some sort of need for rationing of that education ( I'm not sure I understand the reason why ).

Currently that rationing is done via postcode (ie house price), religion, sporting skill, and in some areas 11+ (but with the proviso that you can be trained to up your score).

However the system is changed people will learn how to work it - just look at MPs buying plasma TV's on expenses.

Some people will usually be better at working the system than others. Quite often it will be the middle classes.

The idea of 11+ is harder to get around than the other hidden forms of rationing.

That's why a similar system is sometimes argued for Universities - i.e. the equivalent of the US SAT scores, to avoid discriminating in favour of private educated and those who had better schools but less ability.

If people want more grammar schools they should have them.