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For a Civic and Constitutional Republic 


Issue No 113 Sunday 16 December 2012

This Week

Royal Baby Will Have Flight Attendant DNA

The Case for Grammar Schools

News Stories

Highlighting news stories important to the Civic Republican view, particularly those that are overlooked or little covered in the main media.

Read more latest Republican stories on Democratic Republican Party Facebook Page


Royal Baby Will Have Flight Attendant DNA

Peter Kellow gives a personal view

Andrew Neil’s This Week is always worth a look. It is about the only programme on politics where the participants have a debate in order to get some sort of meaningful take on the situation. All the others are combative in format.

On the Thursday before last the Mirror columnist and author, Tony Parsons, was given a slot to talk about the Cambridge’s expected baby and inequality in general. This is a transcript of the discussion with comments inserted by me.

Tony Parsons: This week most of us rejoiced at the news of the new royal baby

The best thing about a royal baby is that they guarantee the survival of the monarchy for another 100 years ensuring we don’t have some greedy, grasping, fly-by-night politician lording it over us as head of state

PK. This comment was delivered with a colluding grin as if he had hit on some deep insight. It is a comment you often hear from anti-republicans and its displays a gross lack of understanding of what republicanism is about. Yes we may have “greedy, grasping, fly-by-night” politicians at present but this results from the current system where democratic power is transplanted by the power of finance, corrupting practically all who reach high office. Only a republican solution with a separation of political power and a separation between the democratic system and finance and multi-nationals can solve this problem.

After this Parsons starts to make more sense

And the worst thing about a royal baby is getting all these pundits attributing social significance to the little royal mite that simply don’t exist

We are told that William and Kate’s baby will be our first classless sovereign and nothing could be further from the truth. Yes Kate comes from humble working stock, miners and carpenters and even a generation ago Kate’s mother was serving tea or coffee as a flight attendant while millions of flunkies were checking the temperature of Prince Charles’s soft boiled eggs

The Middleton family are the gold-medal winners of social mobility. And good luck to them. But the Middletons on the exceptions that prove the rule

Kate and William’s baby will be born into a country where it has never been more difficult to get ahead – a land where social mobility is not falling or dying but dead

Kate and William’s baby will be born into a land that has never been more class ridden in my lifetime, a land where the gap between the have-nots and the have-lots is getting bigger

Even the modest aspirations of the recent past, higher education for your children, buying your first home, starting a family are starting to seem like impossible dreams

This baby will be born into a realm where the people are divided by wealth, by privilege, and above all by opportunity

Our first classless sovereign when Kate and William send their children to a comprehensive

Red white and blue always looks good

PK. Now Parsons gets into some tricky territory suggesting the Victorian concept of a close relation between genes and class

It is remarkable that we have got this baby coming along that has got the blood of miners, carpenters and flight attendants. It does come from working class stock

PK. Can we really identify the DNA of miners, carpenters and flight attendants?

Within a couple of generations moved from digging coal in Cumbria to the Crown, with the things that are always the engine of social mobility, hard work, education, working class decency, charm niceness, beauty love

But I think that baby is the exception rather than the rule. I don’t think is will ever happen again

As I was growing up there were five British Prime Ministers in a row that were educated by the state 1964 to 1997 and I don’t think that could ever happen again

Andrew Neil.  What or who is to blame? Politicians kicked away ladders for bright working class kids, they must take a lot of the blame. Grammar schools are despised from David Cameron to Ed Milliband. They hate the idea of them. Education is the great driving force of social mobility.

Tony Parsons. And it is not just the working classes it is also the middle classes the people from ordinary homes. We will forever be ruled by unexceptional men who had exceptional education

Michael Portillo. The social engineering, the destruction of the grammar schools, is a really important part of it. I think another misguided policy which is the expansion of welfare, which has trapped many people into dependency and has destroyed what Tony just described as working class decency, because now it is possible for people to get onto welfare very early, to live off welfare and to create subsequent generations of people who live on welfare. For people from the very bottom of society it is nigh on impossible to get to the top

PK. Michael Portillo is a mixture. He is capable of great insight in examining what is happening in current politics but every now and then his Thatcherite centre is comes out into the open as in his comment on the“misguided policy which is the expansion of welfare, which has trapped many people into dependency”. So presumably we should withdraw welfare and allow people to suffer. The fact that the economy has been mismanaged leading to a lack of jobs and opportunity seems not to matter. (The week before he said the bankers were to blame for the current Great Financial Crisis without placing any blame for it on Thatcher's Neo-Liberalism and the City's 'big bang" of 1985, as practically everyone else does).

Michael Portillo: Jackie [Smith] put her finger on what was wrong with the idea [of comprehensive schools] in the first place, there is a an implication there that because only 20% went to grammar schools it was better that 0% went to grammar schools so congratulations, Jackie, you’re policy’s worked

Tony Parsons:  Apprenticeships have died out as well as grammar schools. At the age of 11 you are making tough choices, it is unfair. But life is tough. Life is unfair and life makes choices all the time

Andrew Neil:  it does not necessarily have to be 11

Tony Parsons: Politicians can put it all together again, but is it not going to happen. They are all against it



The Case for Grammar Schools

The fact that the This Week debate, reported above, started with the problems of inequality (albeit totally ignoring the fact that the monarchy is very much part of that) and then turned around to education is surely right, as we will never advance the cause of equality of opportunity without everyone from every background having access to the best education. There was agreement between all the participants (except Jackie Smith) in this This Week debate that Grammar schools are the best way to address this problem and that, by destroying most of them, the “ladder was kicked away” for many ordinary citizens.

In my personal view they are right, and I say this for one overriding reason. In Britain, unlike most other countries, there is a highly developed private school system. Some of the private schools, the top “public schools”, are geared up to produce people who can walk straight into Oxbridge and on to a career of their choosing. If this career is politics they will have an inbuilt advantage in all the major parties.

This happens in spite of the fact that their closeting upbringing means they have no experience of life as it is for the many less privileged and so are singularly unsuited to representing the nation as a whole in political life. As a result we have a political system that support a narrow range of vested interests and the results of this are all too clear.

In addition to the “public schools” there are a large number of private schools, most of them expensive with very few bursaries granted. These mostly provide a higher standard of education with smaller class sizes than the state comprehensive schools so giving the children of richer parents a head start over others. This situation can only lead to more inequality and less representation of people from all backgrounds in important positions.

Ideally the comprehensive system should improve itself so that its schools could provide an education equivalent to the private schools. But this is never going to happen. It could happen, as it does in other countries, if there were no strong private school sector. But the comprehensive system is simply not designed to compete in this way and cannot by its nature.

Many middle class families in, for instance, London do not like the idea of sending their children to private schools but feel forced to do so for the sake of their children's future. These are often not rich people and the burden of school fees can become almost intolerable.

However, free state grammar schools can, did and do compete. In the past, 20% attended them before the notorious destruction of them by the now Libdem peer, Shirley Williams. As much as I would like to see a comprehensive system that worked it is just not going to happen and the problems so well described on This Week will continue forever if free state education means comprehensive education.

I would propose the reinstituting of grammar schools very much on the lines as they were before. There needs to be more flexibility in the allocation of pupils to a grammar school or not. Even with the old system there was a 13 plus as well as an 11 plus exam and this did work to some extent. We need more permeability of the selection for the new grammar schools to that there is an ongoing possibility for pupils to enter them at almost any age. And 11 is probably not the right age to decide entry particularly now with far more going onto higher education. Perhaps 13 would be a better age to decide selection.

The resistence of the political classes to grammar schools in understandable. Why would Cameron and his Etonian chums in the cabinet wish to embrace a policy that allowed access by people from all backgrounds? The Labour Party is still subject in socialist dogma and cannot face up to the real world where privilege in enshrined in our education system

The new grammar schools would expressly be there in competition with private schools and when successful would absorb more and more of their pupils. Eventually many private schools would not be able to survive independently and so would be incorporated into the state system.

It would be nice to think that grammar schools could then whither away but the reality is that the public schools like Eton would always be there. You cannot ban them otherwise they will simply go abroad and in any case we should think very hard and long before we ban, i.e. criminalise, anything.

The refusal to embrace grammar schools is an instance of how the views of the political classes are dislocated from the population at large. As with membership of the EU, the views of the electorate can gain no purchase on the political processes.

I would never propose a policy only on the grounds that it would be a vote winner but let's note that the reintroduction of grammar schools certainly would be

This is a controversial subject and the above are my personal views and nowhere near approaching party policy. Please participate in the debate by using the blog in the website version of this newsletter. If you are a party member your views will be taken account of in formulating the DRP manifesto for 2015.

So speak up, for or against!

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