David Cameron has just been on the Today programme to defend the party’s education policies. He said that the policy change on grammar schools was not politically motivated but was part of his determination to ensure that the party focused on raising educational standards for every child. He repeated his insistence that it was "delusional" to believe that a large number of extra grammar schools could be created and sustained. Citing the experience of Sweden and Holland the Conservative leader said that he wanted parents to choose schools for their children and not schools choose children. He also set out his thinking on education in an op-ed piece for this morning’s Times.
During the interview there was a slightly testy exchange about the large number of privately-educated people who sit around the Conservative Party’s top table. David Cameron insisted that he was working hard to build a much more representative party by encouraging women and people from black and ethnic minority communities to become Tory candidates.
Radio 4’s John Humphrys asked David Cameron about ConservativeHome.com’s finding that 73% of Tory members opposed the Tory policy on grammar schools. Mr Cameron said that he would not follow the party but lead it. You can hear my own 7.16am interview on the Today programme by visiting the Listen Again page. As I said during that interview I believe the last few days have been very important for the Conservative blogosphere. The opinion of the grassroots Tories who work so hard for our party’s success can no longer be ignored because of discussion fora like this. I’m grateful to shadow cabinet ministers like David Willetts (yesterday), Alan Duncan (today) and Theresa May (last week) who understand that and are enthusiastic about engaging with you through this site. We’re currently planning how to respond to the findings of the policy review process as they are unveiled throughout the summer. A mixture of comment threads and online votes will be held to ensure that Oliver Letwin and the party leadership get a sense of your reaction to recommendations by the policy groups. How ConservativeHome does this will be supervised by the new accountability board that we announced yesterday. It’s absolutely true that David Cameron is the leader of our party and deserves loyalty. But the current leadership doesn’t own the party – the members have a massive stake in it, too. As we get closer to the election there must be less and less debate and more focus on the need to get rid of Gordon Brown but with the policy review process still underway the internet provides the grassroots with more power than we have ever enjoyed. We must use that power.
David Cameron and William Hague are holding a press conference this morning on Iran. Sam Coates will be there for ConservativeHome and will be filing a report later.