No brownie points for grammar

Adam finds that the Tory turn around on grammar schools has not gone unnoticed in the blogosphere th

With all the ‘hoorah’ of Gordon Brown imminently taking over as Prime Minister, it was smart thinking for the Tories to introduce a significant change in education policy this week. But bloggers far and wide were not all convinced by the recent shift in attitude towards grammar schools.

Last Ditch got down to the nitty gritty of the arguments. Concluding, he wrote: “To compete in the world, we need to maximise the potential of every pupil. Even the Socialists know it in their hearts. Even as they ranted against us, they would be secretly, guiltily glad that we had saved their grandchildren from Crosland's evil legacy.”

And then the flood gates opened across the blogosphere as partisan bloggers from the main parties got in on the action.

At Labour of Love, Chris Paul, said: “Ha ha ha. The Tories are in trouble on this one. Our great grammar schools and (now) independent schools were in many cases set up expressly to educate the ragged underclasses. Their world has turned upside down.”

Never one to miss out on a good debate, Iain Dale was sharp and to the point on this one. He said: “This is an argument we didn't need to have. Instead of attacking the concept of grammar schools we should be encouraging diversity in education - and grammar schools are a part of that diversity.”

At Liberal England, there were some musings from a Lib Dem representative who seems to have got stuck when everything got a little difficult. Two years ago, he tells us that he said: “There is a need for new thinking in education: a need to go beyond the unthinking defence of the comprehensive principle. And the Liberal Democrats should be leading it.” So are the Lib Dems now leading the debate on the future of our education system?

It might just be the case that the Conservatives have the upper hand looking towards the next General Election. But unveiling such policy directives as this will do little to spur the momentum that David Cameron has instilled in the party.

And Ellee Seymour has devoted one daily post on her blog to missing children in the light of the huge media attention surrounding the kidnapping of Madeline McCann in Portugal. She said: “I am doing my little bit to remind everyone about the missing people in our world who have simply vanished without trace, perhaps in the clutches of evil people, their fate unknown. This is the cruelest agony for families to endure.”

But I leave you with news this week that the social networking site Facebook now has 71,726 people who have joined together, saying Jeremy Clarkson should be the next Prime Minister. Perhaps Gordon does have some competition after all.

Adam Haigh studies on the postgraduate journalism diploma at Cardiff University. Last year he lived in Honduras and worked freelance for the newspaper, Honduras This Week.
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What Jeremy Corbyn gets right about the single market

Technically, you can be outside the EU but inside the single market. Philosophically, you're still in the EU. 

I’ve been trying to work out what bothers me about the response to Jeremy Corbyn’s interview on the Andrew Marr programme.

What bothers me about Corbyn’s interview is obvious: the use of the phrase “wholesale importation” to describe people coming from Eastern Europe to the United Kingdom makes them sound like boxes of sugar rather than people. Adding to that, by suggesting that this “importation” had “destroy[ed] conditions”, rather than laying the blame on Britain’s under-enforced and under-regulated labour market, his words were more appropriate to a politician who believes that immigrants are objects to be scapegoated, not people to be served. (Though perhaps that is appropriate for the leader of the Labour Party if recent history is any guide.)

But I’m bothered, too, by the reaction to another part of his interview, in which the Labour leader said that Britain must leave the single market as it leaves the European Union. The response to this, which is technically correct, has been to attack Corbyn as Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland are members of the single market but not the European Union.

In my view, leaving the single market will make Britain poorer in the short and long term, will immediately render much of Labour’s 2017 manifesto moot and will, in the long run, be a far bigger victory for right-wing politics than any mere election. Corbyn’s view, that the benefits of freeing a British government from the rules of the single market will outweigh the costs, doesn’t seem very likely to me. So why do I feel so uneasy about the claim that you can be a member of the single market and not the European Union?

I think it’s because the difficult truth is that these countries are, de facto, in the European Union in any meaningful sense. By any estimation, the three pillars of Britain’s “Out” vote were, firstly, control over Britain’s borders, aka the end of the free movement of people, secondly, more money for the public realm aka £350m a week for the NHS, and thirdly control over Britain’s own laws. It’s hard to see how, if the United Kingdom continues to be subject to the free movement of people, continues to pay large sums towards the European Union, and continues to have its laws set elsewhere, we have “honoured the referendum result”.

None of which changes my view that leaving the single market would be a catastrophe for the United Kingdom. But retaining Britain’s single market membership starts with making the argument for single market membership, not hiding behind rhetorical tricks about whether or not single market membership was on the ballot last June, when it quite clearly was. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.