I would never apologise for the honesty of my anger and despair when commenting immediately on this blog about Theresa May’s proposals to re-introduce grammar schools widely into the state education system. On reflection, my lengthy angst was probably unnecessary, though its expression was at the very least cathartic for me, and I would hope of interest in contributing to the argument against her proposals to anyone interested.
I say ‘unnecessary’ in as much as I increasingly feel she will not achieve her ambition, but also because the wider public backlash and arguments against, much from within her own Party, will have more impact in making sure she does not achieve that goal.
As the weeks have passed, it does seem that May has made a huge political mistake in laying so bare a highly personal idea [and as I said at the time, an ideological and dogmatic one] before the public, exposing poor judgement as a leader. At an immediate and pragmatic level, this meant she performed poorly against Jeremy Corbyn at the most recent Prime Minister’s Question Time, and in the longer run it has generated a widely publicised debate on education which has ironically for her exposed significant evidence against her claims that grammar schools can provide social mobility and justice, especially for students from ‘poor’ backgrounds.
Perhaps one of the more comically loathsome outcomes has been the backing for her views by Michael Gove, former Secretary of State for Education and now publicly notorious back-stabbing Machiavellian MP. It is the most naked demonstration of his desire to resurrect some political favour from the ignominy of his current Tory banishment, and it will, one hopes, cast an inevitable sickly shadow over May’s poor judgement when she can really only muster support from the likes of this has-been.
The fact that George Osborne has spoken out against May’s grammar school ambitions to establish, for him, a polar position for a future Tory Party leader election, adds more weight to the sense that all of it – her introduction of the proposal, Gove’s slimy support, and Osborne’s public disagreement – always were and will be simple acts of political posturing and ambition with little regard for the actual education of the majority of young people in this country.