The ‘grammar school war’ is how a leader in The Daily Telegraph describes David Cameron’s most difficult period since he became Tory leader. After yesterday’s resignation by Graham Brady the newspaper adopts a more positive tone than was evident last week when Tory-Telegraph relations deteriorated noticeably. The leader accuses the Tory leadership of blundering and fumbling into this row but it goes on to praise the broad thrust of Conservative education policies that would deliver more competition, more discipline and ‘grammar streams’. It concludes by saying that the ‘war’ must be won by David Cameron:
"In the space of 18 months, he has revitalised the Conservative Party, giving it the confidence and élan it has lacked for a decade. For that transformation to deliver electoral victory (without which all policy wrangles become academic), he must show toughness under fire and stick to his guns. Mr Cameron has set his course against a return to grammar schools and for a broader approach to better schools: he must pursue it without flinching. If, in the course of doing so, some fall by the wayside, so be it. Mr Cameron needs to know who is with him and who is not."
If ‘Leader image’ – one point of the iron triangle of political success – has been strengthened by grammarsgate there is a risk that another point – the party’s reputation for unity – could be diminished.
The Independent’s Colin Brown is focusing on the danger to the party’s reputation for unity posed by the grammar schools row in his examination of this month’s Communicate Research poll for the newspaper. Quoting two sets of data that are not easily comparable he writes:
"Asked which leader would be able to keep his party united, 40 per cent said Mr Brown and only 37 per cent said Mr Cameron. A similar poll a month ago showed that 64 per cent thought Labour were divided, compared with only 36 per cent who thought the Tories were disunited."
In terms of headline numbers the Communicate Research survey gives the Conservatives a 4% advantage this month – compared to 9% last month.