Throughout the grammar schools debate there has been an underlying suspicion from many that the Eton-educated Tory leader is denying others the kind of elite education that grammar schools traditionally provided poorer parents. A leader in today’s Sunday Telegraph argues that that the idea of a privileged Tory leadership has been reinforced by the last two weeks. David Cameron, who was questioned by John Humphrys on his Etonian background during Tuesday’s Today programme interview, addresses the issue directly in an article for today’s Mail on Sunday:
"As a leader, I may be a white, fortysomething old Etonian, but that doesn’t constrain what I do. No previous leader of the Conservatives has done as much, for example, to bust open the selection of Parliamentary candidates to include more women (now over a third) and more black and minority ethnic candidates. After the next Election, the Conservative parliamentary party will have a far wider and more diverse pool of talent – and quite right too.
As an individual with three children aged five or under, I worry more about finding good state schools than almost anything else. I want a special school for my son that will meet his particular needs. I want state schools for the other two where they will be not just happy and safe, but challenged and inspired.
My loathing of experimental teaching methods that failed generations of children, my fear of disruptive children wrecking the education of those who want to get on and learn, my contempt for the ‘all must win prizes’ mentality – whether in sporting or academic endeavour – is not just political, it’s personal."
Mr Cameron also uses his article to list some of the practical policies that the Conservatives will adopt to help raise educational standards.
The Conservative leader is right to say that he has invested a lot of political capital to bring more women and minority candidates into the party (and he is succeeding in doing so) but ConservativeHome remains disappointed that little has been done to address the financial exclusion issues involved in candidate selection. The average cost of becoming a Tory MP has been calculated by this website at over £40,000 and ConservativeHome has yet to hear of any coordinated proposals to support lower income people in their parliamentary ambitions. A ConservativeHome page dedicated to this issue can be accessed here.