No 10 attempts to defend Cameron over state school comments

Cameron was “empathising” when he claimed he was “terrified” of finding a good state school.

No 10 has been attempting to explain why David Cameron claimed he is "terrified" of trying to find a good state school for his children.

At this morning's lobby briefing, the PM's spokesman said:

What he's doing was empathising with the issues that many parents face where they are concerned about whether or not there is a decent school locally that they can send their children to . . . which is why the government is committed to a range of reforms to drive up standards, increase choice and increase the diversity of provision.

It's a reasonable defence, but it doesn't make up for what was a major blunder. Not only did Cameron falsely suggest that there are no good state schools in London, he also unwittingly revealed that he plans to give his children a comprehensive education not for their own benefit, but for his.

Here are his comments again:

I've got a six-year-old and a four-year-old and I'm terrified living in central London. Am I going to find a good secondary school for my children? I feel it as a parent, let alone a politician.

If Cameron really does believe that he will struggle to find a good secondary school for his children, why is he not educating them privately? The answer is that, for a "modernising" Tory leader, this would be considered politically unacceptable.

In an apparent reversal of Diane Abbott's decision, Cameron is (at least from his own perspective) putting politics before his children. He should either admit as much or -- a far better option -- visit a few more state schools.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Donald Trump's healthcare failure could be to his advantage

The appearance of weakness is less electorally damaging than actually removing healthcare from millions of people.

Good morning. Is it all over for Donald Trump? His approval ratings have cratered to below 40%. Now his attempt to dismantle Barack Obama's healthcare reforms have hit serious resistance from within the Republican Party, adding to the failures and retreats of his early days in office.

The problem for the GOP is that their opposition to Obamacare had more to do with the word "Obama" than the word "care". The previous President opted for a right-wing solution to the problem of the uninsured in a doomed attempt to secure bipartisan support for his healthcare reform. The politician with the biggest impact on the structures of the Affordable Care Act is Mitt Romney.

But now that the Republicans control all three branches of government they are left in a situation where they have no alternative to Obamacare that wouldn't either a) shred conservative orthodoxies on healthcare or b) create numerous and angry losers in their constituencies. The difficulties for Trump's proposal is that it does a bit of both.

Now the man who ran on his ability to cut a deal has been forced to make a take it or leave plea to Republicans in the House of Representatives: vote for this plan or say goodbye to any chance of repealing Obamacare.

But that's probably good news for Trump. The appearance of weakness and failure is less electorally damaging than actually succeeding in removing healthcare from millions of people, including people who voted for Trump.

Trump won his first term because his own negatives as a candidate weren't quite enough to drag him down on a night when he underperformed Republican candidates across the country. The historical trends all make it hard for a first-term incumbent to lose. So far, Trump's administration is largely being frustrated by the Republican establishment though he is succeeding in leveraging the Presidency for the benefit of his business empire.

But it may be that in the failure to get anything done he succeeds in once again riding Republican coattails to victory in 2020.

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