Cristina Odone

Journalist, novelist and broadcaster

Rory Weal wowed the Labour Conference. But if they’d known about his grammar …

September 28, 2011 @ 12:03 pm

Rory Weal at the Labour Party Conference. (Photo: PA)

Rory Weal at the Labour Party Conference. (Photo: PA)

I really don't want to knock young talent. A fresh-faced eager politician, whether left or right, should be welcomed by everyone. So it is in the gentlest possible way that I venture to point out that Rory Weal has overlooked a fundamental tenet of his new-found Labour religion. Namely, comprehensive education.

As he wowed the party conference with his beautifully constructed arguments and perfect oratory, the wannabe politician expressed his gratitude to the welfare state. But surely Master Weal should have thanked his teachers at Oakwood Park Grammar School in Maidstone. They had saved him from the ignoramus's fate which awaits most school-leavers today, who can barely write or do a sum.

But if Rory Weal had applauded his school, those cheers would have turned into hisses. Because his is precisely the kind of selective education Labour abhors. At 16, Rory is a testament to the talent-promoting grammar school that selects pupils on their ability. Not on who they are, or where they live, but on natural talent. This is meritocracy. But in the equality-obsessed Labour Party, merit is a weasel word for privilege. The party cannot stomach the fact that there are some youngsters who are brilliant and deserve to be taught to their high academic standards. They cannot bear the thought of picking out these bright students, and sending them to a different kind of school from the one the rest attend.

No, everyone must be lumped together. Labour wants every child in the same mediocre melting pot. Because that is equal, even if it's not fair. (Although, let me point out that not all Labourites are created equal either: Harriet Harman and Diane Abbott are among those party big cheeses who have sneaked their children into private schools. There's one rule for the unwashed, and another for their leaders.)

Rather than "discriminate" against the dimmer pupils, the party prefers to deny the brainy their chance to shine.  After 16 years of this kind of mentality in power, Britain's education system is in a sorry mess. This is a country, as Michael Gove, the Education Secretary, points out today, where talent is not fostered except in small pockets of aspiration (ie private schools, faith schools and grammars).

Whether  Master Weal was wittingly or unwittingly concealing his Grammar school education we'll never know. But he should learn that the party he champions would shut the door of opportunity on people like him.


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