Thursday, 29 March 2012


In 1998, both Coalition parties voted in favour of the Government Bill that banned the creation of any new grammar schools. In any case, no such thing had ever happened during 13 years of Margaret Thatcher, a veteran destroyer of such institutions, and of John Major, who had promised one in every town but who had delivered precisely none. So what has been approved today for Sevenoaks is merely a new "campus". Course it is.

Three cheers for Kent County Council, truly the heirs of Eric Hammond, whom I was once told by a once-frequent but now apparently vanquished critic below the line was "obscure" because he himself had never heard of him. So Google him. If you have to. In which case, though, you know absolutely nothing about this debate, and therefore ought not to pass comment in it.

But if you do know what you are talking about, then you will also know that in this the councillors of Kent are the heirs of Sidney Webb who wrote the old Clause IV, of "Red Ellen" Wilkinson who led the Jarrow Crusade, of George Tomlinson, of R H Tawney, and of all the Labour councillors and activists who resisted Thatcher as Education Secretary when she closed so many grammar schools that there were not enough left at the end for her record ever to be equalled.

They are standing with the public that, as soon as the Wall came down, successfully demanded the restoration of Gymnasien in what is still the very left-wing former East Germany, and which more recently saved them in the Social Democratic heartland of North Rhine-Westphalia.

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