Was the schools row created to keep Gordon off the front pages?
Perhaps the most extraordinary feature of this week’s news – Gordon’s first as leader-elect – has been how little coverage there’s been of him and the Labour deputy leadership contest.
For the big political story has been about Tory policy on grammar schools and the battles that Cameron has been having with his old guard.
Hasn’t the timing of this been a bit too convenient? Could all this have been deliberate? Fraser Nelson in this week’s Spectator has some interesting insights:-
For some time, David Cameron has been looking for an unpopular education policy. To be heard, he believes, one needs to be attacked. He has already been denounced for his â€˜hug a hoodieâ€™ speech and for promoting the family. The ensuing arguments, he feels, moved the party forward. So how to repeat the trick with education? He only half-jokingly rejected proposals as being â€˜not unpopular enoughâ€™. Well: if it was a fight he was after, he will not have been disappointed.
The past week in Westminster has been not about Gordon Brown or his ideas for the future, but about the Conservatives and their internal battle over grammar schools. David Willetts has had more exposure in the past week than he has in his entire career as shadow education secretary. Mr Cameron has once again slipped into his favourite role, playing St George to the dragon of the wicked Tory Right. And the fight is still raging.
And how well they have responded judging by the streams of invective on CONtinuityIDS and in the Telegraph and Mail?
At times this has reminded me of that wonderful “Yes Minister” episode when Jim Hacker, urgently needing a publicity boost, seeks to capture the headlines by manufacturing a row with Brussels to “defend the British sausage”
In this case, of course, read “Tory old guard” for “Brussels” and “grammar schools” for “British sausage“.
Whatever the merit of the education argument nobody seems to question the political impact – for it is just assumed by the supporters that this will produce more votes. The reality is that for there to be more grammar schools then you need more secondary modern schools to which the vast majority of pupils would be forced to go. Is that going to boost Tory chances in marginal constituencies?
Whatsoever in terms of interest in Labour’s election there’s has not been very much betting activity and only Â£16,000 has been traded on Betfair.