Monday, June 11, 2007

today : The Grammar School question

The problem : how do I talk about Tory strategy and give my considered comments without accidentally helping a party which I do not ever want to be elected. I am no Bruno Gianelli.

So I am taking quite a risk, although perhaps not. Thus far, the Tory party hasn't looked like doing anything close to what I might suggest for them and neither has anything else I've said made its way to Tory HQ to be read and considered by the haw-haw PR troupe.

The fact is that I must consider that after 10 years of Labour, some of the electorate and press might want a change. In the real world power swaps between Tories and Labour and historically the Tories have the upper hand. What I would like to see is a Tory party that is as close to the centre as possible. In fact, I kind of think that a kind of European Social Democracy is the only political model that has a credible chance of being a useful government at the moment. To have a right wing Tory mob running the place would be a disaster - they would start playing neocon with foreign policy, flat-tax with the economy and wall-building with immigration.

Cameron's climbdown on the Grammar School Question is fascinating. On this most symbolic of questions, he chose to pick a fight, and then when it started to get nasty, he ran back to his corner, issuing 'clarifications' that diluted the argument and handed the complainers an easy victory.

In political terms this was entirely predictable but also pretty stupid. I must say I was surprised. It seemed as if Cameron might be smarter than this.

If the Tories are to be sure of being elected they have an easy template to follow. This is the way that Labour dragged themselves towards electability. The difference is that Labour has managed to only make one real screw up - Iraq mainly - as well as some small stuff like The Dome, Casinos and cashpoint fines. And even then they have a very solid argument that the Tories would have done exactly the same: the same could not be said of Labour closing the mines or introducing a poll tax.

To this end, Cameron's job is to place his party in the centre ground and wait for a jaded electorate to decide that a change is what's needed. And the Labour template could provide a useful one to follow. Under Kinnockspectre of its extreme left wing and dragged the party towards the centre. When Blair came along he continued the process. What occurred was a make-over. Labour became cuddly. The 'modernisers' chose the anachronistic clause 4 as a point of attack. Deleting it from the party constitution made no substantive difference to real policy making. A commitment to nationalisation was like one of those laws that bans people from holding hands with their wives whilst wearing a blue hat on a Tuesday within fifty yards of the town well. It was meaningless but extremely symbolic. But by changing it, they swept away the old fashioned lefties who also believed in all sorts of other trouble-causing stuff.

The Grammar School issue could have been the Tories Clause 4. The Grammar school is symbolic of an ageing, backward looking Tory party - the wasn't-like-that-in-my-day brigade. Even if people believe in it, a return to a Grammar School model will never happen. How can you be a low-tax party and promise to reconstitute an entire nation's education system? Like the NHS, education is too big to tackle in anything but degrees, and the cost would be unthinkable.

That is what makes this issue the one to pick on. Because in one fell swoop Cameron would, by alienating the Grammar School lobby, also alienate the racist right wing - who are the real reason the Tories can never move to the middle. Now we know that the Eurosceptics or the anti-immigration bods would claim that they aren't racist and we could talk for a long time about this. But lets face it they are.

I did have some hope that Hague would do this, but he didn't. Then Howard looked like he might do it, but he didn't. I wonder if Cameron has the guts to grasp the nettle and not end up as a Kinnock-style nearly man?
and Smith Labour expunged the

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