Today is day sixteen of the grammar schools row and it’s marked by thoughtful articles against the Tory leadership’s position from Graham Brady MP (in The Daily Telegraph) and Nadine Dorries MP (in The Independent –
Graham and Nadine are two of the most liked members of the parliamentary party. They cannot be easily dismissed. One of the things that the leadership needs to do now is make peace, not war, with its critics. The whips are currently behaving like bulls in a china shop. They have been particularly antagonistic to the Cornerstone Group. They do not seem to appreciate that a handful of MPs are close to following Graham Brady’s example if they continue to be pushed around. But it is not just the whips who are misjudging the situation. Iain Murray left a short but all too accurate comment yesterday – responding to David Cameron’s letter to Graham Brady:
"This is not a letter to a colleague. It is a press release, and a pretty poorly drafted one at that."
The letter added insult to the injury of the spinning against Mr Brady.
But enough has now been said about grammar schools policy and the mishandling of the aftermath of its announcement. We decided to wind down our coverage of the story a couple of times already but the debate kept rolling on, so unless there is really major development it is not ConservativeHome’s intention to post again on this subject for some time. Later today we’ll be uploading the May survey of membership opinion. 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. George Osborne made that clear yesterday.
David Willetts has repeatedly interacted with this site and he appeared to reassure many readers with his answers to your recent questions. What we now need to do is focus on the strands of our education policy that unite the party. I would highlight synthetic phonics at primary schools, enforceable home school contracts, opposition to further closure of special schools, ‘grammar streaming’, a lifting of restrictions on City Academies and mechanisms for parents and other social entrepreneurs to open new schools. David Willetts has chosen to be "progressive on access in order to be a traditionalist on discipline and curriculum" (his words). It is now time for us to welcome a hard-headed approach to discipline and curriculum and heal the wounds of the last fortnight.
Two years ago ConservativeHome launched its ‘Manifesto for a 44% Conservative Party’ (PDF here). We’ll be spending most of tomorrow examining the extent to which that manifesto is still relevant to the Conservative Party. We’ll also be using the manifesto’s five main themes to point the way to the next few stages of this site’s development.