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  1. Politics
5 May 2010

Core Vote Cameron makes two more rightward turns

Supposedly “modernising” Tory leader reassures traditionalists that he was wrong on grammar schools

By James Macintyre

I have long argued, as I reiterated in my column for this week’s magazine, that David Cameron has failed to seal the deal with the electorate, not because he has changed the party too much, but too little.

Unsurprisngly, Cameron, however, appears to disagree. Today, his lurch to the right during this campaign continues as he chooses an interview with the Daily Mail to row back on his attempt to limit the expansion of grammar schools and on whether he is the “heir to Blair”. Of the latter, he says:

If I used that phrase, I regret it. The point I was trying to make is this: that if you are going to succeed in changing your country for the better, you have to know where it’s come from.

And on schools:

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I will accept that I got it wrong in the row on grammar schools. Did I use the right language? No. Did I upset people in a way I shouldn’t? Yes. I do accept that in the language I used I didn’t show enough sensitivity to people who’d been to grammar schools, who liked grammar schools, who thought they were great agents of social mobility.

There is an interesting link to those two topics. He is right that he is not the “heir to Blair”, because when Blair picked a fight with his party, he never backed down. Nor, incidentally, would Kenneth Clarke, had he and not Cameron won the leadership in 2005. As I wrote in a piece in February entitled “Cameron’s conjuring trick is failing”:

Clarke would undoubtedly have waged war with his party to show the country it was changing, but he would not, for example, have pulled out of the EPP. He wouldn’t have backed down over a policy of no new grammar schools, as Cameron did in 2007, when faced with a small backbench rebellion.

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