Could Open Britain be the beginning of a new political party?

If you have been following the aftermath of the EU Referendum then you may have heard of an ostensibly new group Open Britain, a cross-party group made up of politicians who backed the losing remain campaign.

Open Britain was officially launched with a article in yesterday’s Sunday Times written by Conservative MP Anna Soubry, Labour MP Pat McFadden, and Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb, whilst the group is also backed by several other high profile MPs including Nick Clegg, Dominic Grieve, and Chuka Umunna. Effectively, it is a relaunch of the Stronger In campaign and is aiming to pressure Theresa May into a deal which puts the UK as close to the EU as possible, without actually being members.

In their article in yesterday’s Sunday Times; Soubry, McFadden, and Lamb argued strongly that the referendum result didn’t reflect a desire to shut Britain off from the rest of Europe:

We do not believe that a vote to leave the EU was a vote for a closed Britain. We believe that we are at our best when we are open — open-minded, open for business, open to trade and investment, open to talent and hard work, open to Europe and the world. That is what we are campaigning for.

It had already been suggested in early July that senior pro-Europe figures across the three main parties were openly debating the idea of a new pro-Europe and pro-business political party, a so-called ‘party of the 48 per cent’. However, this was back when there was still a chance of Andrea Leadsom becoming leader of the Conservative Party, which would have led to both major parties being in the position of having a leader with views at odds with the majority of their party’s MPs. Since the ascension of Theresa May to the office of Prime Minister, talk of a split in the Conservative Party has calmed significantly. However, there is little doubt that the Prime Minister made some enemies in the process of her Cabinet reshuffle, with most of the Conservative modernisers sacked from government. Although all is calm at the moment, who knows what could happen once the Brexit negotiations properly begin. As for the Labour Party, when Corbyn wins in September (clearly Owen Smith has absolutely no chance), the splits in the party will simply be exacerbated further, and it is difficult to see the current Labour Party ever properly reunited.

Potential rebels from these parties would have little appetite for simply joining the Liberal Democrats. Many Labour MPs have particular animosity for the Liberal Democrats following a series of bloody by-election fights over the years. In any case, the Liberal Democrat brand remains significantly tainted following the five years of the Coalition Government and despite Tim Farron’s best efforts, the party look to be making little headway in changing this. Therefore, the only option would be to form a completely new party.

Although Open Britain has been launched simply as a grassroots campaign to get a good deal for Britain in the upcoming Brexit negotiations, there seems a decent chance that it could develop into something much more. There were stories during the referendum campaign of how progressive politicians from all the main parties had enjoyed working together during the campaign, and that the prospect of further cooperation in the future had been mooted.

With Jeremy Corbyn set to remain as Labour Party leader, it looks inconceivable that the Labour Party will avoid a split. Whilst although the Conservative Party is currently relatively calm, Theresa May has the unenviable task of balancing the Brexit negotiations so that they aren’t seen to favour the Remain or Leave side of the debate. If the deal she negotiates favours the Leave side, then don’t bet against some of the keener pro-EU Conservative MPs to defect to a new pro-EU grouping in the House of Commons. The UK political system is somewhat unique in that all of the parties are relatively big tents, with the effect of this meaning that there is always potential for defections.

Ultimately, although Open Britain begins as a grassroots campaign group, it may yet morph into a new political party.

Theresa May should call an early election, but she won’t.

As soon as Theresa May became the last person standing in the Conservative leadership race and therefore the Prime Minister, the calls for her to call an early election began in earnest from opposition parties. The Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party, and Ukip all suggested that she had no real mandate and should therefore call an election in order to resolve this. However, May held firm and stated that with her as Prime Minister, there would not be an election until 2020. However, given the current circumstances, this would be misguided.

Currently the Conservative Party have a working majority of just seventeen in the House of Commons. However, in opinion polling they are far further ahead than this. In recent polling by YouGov, the Conservative Party held a lead of eleven percent over the Labour Party in terms of voting intention. When you factor in that Ukip are still polling at thirteen percent, and many Labour constituencies voted Leave in the EU Referendum, then the current situation looks perfectly poised for Theresa May to hugely increase her majority if an election was held in the near future.

In addition, polling has shown that the public do not believe that Jeremy Corbyn would be a viable Prime Minister. The recent Traingate fiasco has eroded public support for Corbyn even further, with polling showing that the public doubt Corbyn’s story regarding him being forced to sit on the floor by a margin of almost three-to-one. This incident has greatly damaged Corbyn’s desired image of authenticity. Proving that he likes to ‘spin’ just as much as any other politician, but he just happens to be rubbish at it. With the main opposition party being led by a leader who it can surely be agreed is unelectable, then it makes sense for Theresa May to attempt to increase her majority as soon as possible.

May should also attempt to hold an early election in order to gain a personal mandate to serve as Prime Minister. Technically, given that the UK has a Parliamentary system, there is no obligation upon May to hold a general election in order to gain a personal mandate. There have been five occasions since the Second World War where the Head of Government has changed mid-way through a Parliament. In 1957, Harold Macmillan succeeded Anthony Eden, and was then succeeded by Alec Douglas-Home in 1963. James Callaghan succeeded Harold Wilson in 1975; John Major succeeded Margaret Thatcher in 1990; and Gordon Brown succeeded Tony Blair in 2007. In none of these five cases was a general election held in order for the new Prime Minister to gain a fresh mandate. This is because in the UK we elect a Parliament and then the Government is formed from this Parliament, rather than the Prime Minister being directly elected.

However the increasing personalisation of politics, in part through the increased media coverage which comes with the 24-hour news cycle and the internet, means that although it is not constitutionally necessary to call an election, it may still be deemed necessary in the eyes of the public. In 2007, there were strong calls for Gordon Brown to call an election, with many people stating that he needed to gain a personal mandate. Interestingly, one such person was Theresa May who stated that Brown was, ‘running scared of the people’s verdict’. Ultimately, Brown chose not to call an election and served as an unelected Prime Minister until 2010. Although this was constitutionally allowed, the decision dogged him during the 2010 General Election campaign with continued assertions that he had served as Prime Minister against the will of the British people, having failed to seek their approval through the holding of an election.

Therefore, if May has any sense, she will attempt to call an early election soon in order to secure her personal mandate. This is the sensible option given the state of the opposition parties. The ongoing soap-opera in the Labour Party means that they will surely struggle to run an effective election campaign, and although Jeremy Corbyn is certain to defeat Owen Smith in September, who knows who will be leading the Labour Party come 2020. May should strike now, whilst she knows that she is guaranteed victory and an increased majority.

However, there are several difficulties inherent in the calling of an election at this time that mean May might decide against it.

The Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011 means that the Prime Minister can no longer just dissolve Parliament when he or she chooses. The act set the date for the 2015 General Election as 7 May 2015, and then set an election every five years after. There are however, two ways to get around the act.

If two-thirds of the House of Commons vote for an early election to be held, then the Fixed-term Parliaments Act can be bypassed. Now, this may seem easy given that the leadership of most of the opposition parties sitting in the House of Commons have called for an early election. However, those calling for an early election in the Labour Party are those who still hold the misguided view that it is possible for Corbyn to win an election and become Prime Minister. The moderates who don’t support Corbyn will surely be loath to vote for an early general election as they will be worried about losing their seats due to the unpopularity of the party’s leadership. Similarly, although Nigel Farage called for an early general election, he has since resigned as the leader of Ukip. With Ukip poised to elect someone who nobody has ever heard of as leader, they may not be too keen on an early election either. At least until their new leader has settled in. The Green Party are in a similar situation of leadership flux, whilst the Liberal Democrat brand is surely not yet strong enough to fight another election. Seemingly, the only party who would be organised enough to fight an early general election would be the SNP. Therefore, it is difficult to see opposition parties voting in the House of Commons for an early general election to be held. It seems likely that the opposition leaders calling for an early general election after May succeeded David Cameron, were simply trying the give the new government a bit of a bloody nose.

The second way in which the Fixed-term Parliaments Act can be bypassed is through a vote of no-confidence in the government. This requires only a simple majority vote. Following a vote of no-confidence, there would then be a period of fourteen days where new governments MPs could attempt to form new governments and try to command the support of the House of Commons. May’s supporters would have to vote these proposals down in order to secure an early election. The danger of his option is firstly that the Prime Minister appears incompetent as a result of seemingly not being able to command the support of her own party following a vote of no-confidence. This would hardly be good for her electoral prospects. Secondly, in creating the situation for a vote of no-confidence, there would be the danger that Theresa May comes out of the process looking slightly Machiavellian. The public popularity of politicians and the Westminster elite remains very low, and therefore it would be hard to get them to buy into a scheme like this. Witness the unpopularity of Michael Gove after he stabbed Boris Johnson in the back in the race for the Conservative Leadership, as an example of the public’s dislike of Machiavellian politics. Therefore, a scheme like this wouldn’t do much for May’s popularity.

Therefore, there are serious difficulties inherent in the calling of an early general election, that make it somewhat unlikely that we will have an election before 2020. In addition to the constitutional difficulties, May’s original decision to say that she was ruling out an early election was likely to give the economy some sort of certainty following the repercussions which came as a result of the Brexit vote. It seems unlikely that May will want to increase this uncertainty.

Overall, it seems unlikely that an early election will be called. May seems content with the mandate earned by the Conservative Party in the 2015 General Election, whilst the constitutional requirements for calling an early election make it a very difficult task.

However, by not calling an early election, May is throwing away a golden opportunity. An opportunity to increase her Parliamentary majority hugely, and therefore guarantee the passing of her legislative agenda; whilst also potentially gaining a majority large enough to keep the Conservatives in power for many years.

But, although Theresa May should attempt to call an early general election, she probably won’t.

Could this be the Presidential election where the political map is totally redrawn?

During Presidential elections, the states of Arizona and Georgia have come to be seen as Republican strongholds. In the last fifty years, Arizona has only voted Democrat once, when Bill Clinton won the state during the 1996 Presidential election. In Georgia, only three Presidential elections have been won by Democrats since 1960, Bill Clinton won in 1996, whilst Jimmy Carter won in 1976 and 1980 (which was mostly because he had previously served as the Governor of Georgia). In the most recent presidential elections, both states have been dominated by the Republican candidates. In 2008, Republican nominee John McCain won Arizona by almost nine per cent, and won Georgia by over five per cent. Whilst in 2012, Republican nominee Mitt Romney won Arizona by almost nine per cent, and won Georgia by almost eight per cent.

Given these figures, it is not hard to see why Arizona and Georgia tend to be seen as Republican strongholds, and therefore states that you would expect Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump to win with ease in the upcoming presidential election.

However, opinion polling figures suggest that Donald Trump is falling behind in these states which, given their status as Republican strongholds, are absolutely critical to his chances of success in the upcoming Presidential election. The latest polling in Arizona by CBS News and YouGov gives Trump a lead of just two percentage points. In Georgia the picture is even more dire for Trump with the latest polling indicating that Clinton holds a lead of seven percentage points. Nearly all of the analysis on the upcoming election suggests that if Trump is to have any chance of winning, he must win all of the states won by Mitt Romney during the 2012 Presidential Election as well as winning states such as Ohio and Virginia which were both won by President Obama. This data suggests that he is a long way from doing that.

One of the issues for Trump in Arizona is the state’s high Hispanic population. Gallup polling during the Republican primary campaign indicated that Trump had a net-favourability rating amongst Hispanic voters of -65%, and this has only got worse in recent months. With voter registration amongst Arizona’s Hispanic population soaring, it is fast becoming a state which will be extremely difficult for Donald Trump to win. Trump’s problems in Georgia stem from the changing demographics of the state, with a growing constituency of educated suburban voters who aren’t enamoured with Trump’s divisive policies and rhetoric. This could allow Clinton to swoop in and claim the state for the Democrats.

Recent polling has also put Trump and Clinton neck-and-neck in Utah, a state won with ease by Mormon Mitt Romney in the 2012 Presidential Election. This creates another headache for Trump. In the 2012 Presidential Election, Republican candidate Mitt Romney won 206 electoral college votes, 64 away from the 270 required to win the Presidency. This means that Trump already ostensibly has 64 votes to make up over the Republicans 2012 performance. However, if he were to also lose Arizona (11 electoral college votes), Georgia (16), and Utah (6); then this would give him a total of 97 electoral college votes that he would have to gain from the states won by Obama in 2012. Surely this is an insurmountable task?

Trump has long been outspoken about how he believes he can win states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, and even Democratic stronghold New York. However, the polling does not reflect his optimism. In PennsylvaniaTrump is 11% behind Clinton. In Ohio Trump is now 5% behind Clinton. InMichigan Trump is 10% behind Clinton; and in New York, perhaps the least likely of these four states to break for Trump, the deficit is even worse, with Clinton leading Trump by 12% in the latest polling, and even as high as 23% in some polls. This doesn’t paint a picture of this being an election that Trump is likely able to win. For starters, Ohio is considered a state that must be won if a candidate is to win the Presidency. For Trump, he wasn’t even able to win the state during the primary campaign (losing to Governor John Kasich) and so it is difficult to see how he will be able to turn around his deficit and win the state in November.

With Trump unable to win these key swing states, he starts to get to the point where he needs to win states which are as solidly blue as California, which hasn’t voted Republican in a Presidential election since 1988. This just doesn’t look likely, meaning a probable victory for Hillary Clinton in November. But actually it potentially means a lot more than that, a complete redrawing of the political map.

This is something which perhaps began with the ascendency of the Tea Party faction in the Republican Party around 2008 and 2009. This loud minority ended up setting the national tone for the Republican Party, which became more interested in arguing within themselves as to who was more pro-gun or more anti-abortion than actually winning power. This erosion of the traditional values of the Republican Party (small government, strong national defence, free market capitalism, family values) to instead focus on peripheral social issues which are considered settled by the vast majority of swing voters, is what led to Donald Trump being capable of winning the Republican nomination, and is what will lead to the Republicans ceasing to become a credible party of government for the foreseeable future.

This election gives the Democratic Party the chance to steal the march on the Republicans and claim states like Arizona, Georgia, and Ohio as their own for the foreseeable future. The damage that has been done to the Republican brand amongst swing voters in these states following the candidacy of Donald Trump will surely put the Republicans out of Presidential office for a number of years.

It is no surprise that some Republican congressman facing reelection havereleased advertising promising to stand up to Trump. Whilst other Republicans have refused to endorse Trump, of even said that they will be supporting Clinton instead. For some Republicans facing reelection, their only way to survive is to distance themselves from Trump to as great an extent as possible. Take Republican Senator for Illinois Mark Kirk for instance. Kirk faces an extremely tough reelection fight against Democratic member of the House of Representatives Tammy Duckworth, in a state that strongly leans Democrat — current polls show Hillary leading Trump by 25% in Illinois. Therefore, it is no surprise that Kirk has been vocal about not supporting Trump, as this is really the only chance he has of re-election. Indeed, the most recent polling shows Duckworth leading Kirk by 7%. This illustrates the extent to which Trump is harming the electability of the Republican Party, potentially for decades to come.

So although this election will end in November, it seems sure to have ramifications that will be felt long afterwards, and may end up defining electoral politics in the United States for the near future. If this election leads to states like Ohio becoming Democratic strongholds, with Arizona and Georgia moving from Republican strongholds to swing states, then it is difficult to see how the Republicans can win any future Presidential election, at least without undergoing a dramatic alteration of the platform upon which they stand. In any case it will surely be interesting to see what happens, but I have a suspicion that senior Republicans will seriously regret not taking Trump more seriously during the early stages of the primary campaign. This was an election that they were surely capable of winning given that Hillary Clinton is not universally loved, but instead it has resulted in the Republican Party potentially becoming unelectable at Presidential level for a generation.

It’s right to wag the finger at Russia, but ‘clean’ countries must also accept their own failings in the war against doping.

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American swimmer Lilly King reacts to Yulia Efimova’s semi-final victory. 

Given what has been uncovered about the state-sponsored doping programme run by Russia, it is no surprise that the faith of spectators in sportsmen and women is waning. However, although Russia have clearly broken the rules and deserve more punishment than they have received, other countries also need to stand up and accept their share of the responsibility for the doping issues which are permeating elite sport.

In terms of Russia, it is a travesty that any of their Olympic team is allowed to compete given the evidence against them. Although there will be a number of clean Russian athletes, the sheer fact that Russia was undertaking state-sponsored doping on such a large scale means that the whole team should have been banned. To have done otherwise is a huge cop-out on the part of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). The IOC have been put to shame by the Paralympics who, on Sunday, banned the entire Russian team from competing in this year’s Paralympic games.

But whilst it is right to throw the book at Russia, other countries (the so-called ‘clean’ countries) should not make the mistake of thinking that this is all that needs to be done. If countries such as the US and UK want to be seen as leaders in the fight against doping, then they should also be throwing the book at any of their athletes who are found to have violated doping regulations.

Take the case of British cyclist Lizzie Armitstead for example. Between 20 August 2015 and 9 June 2016 Armitstead missed three drugs tests. The regulations state that an athlete who misses three drugs tests within a twelve month period is liable to be banned from competing for up to four years. The response to the possibility of Armitstead potentially facing a lengthy ban was that British authorities threw huge amounts of money at the problem, hiring expensive lawyers in order to fight any potential ban. Lo and behold, Armitstead got off scot-free. Many fans also reacted as if the whole thing was nothing but a witch hunt. However, former Olympic rowing champion Zac Purchase had it right when he tweeted: “Imagine what we would be saying if she was Russian.” The answer to this is simple. If Armitstead was a Russian who had missed three drugs tests then there would have been absolute horror that she was allowed to compete in Sunday’s road race, irrespective of the fact that she has never tested positive. I am sure that Armitstead is a clean athlete, however she clearly broke the rules and so should face the consequences. Given the reaction of the British Olympic Association to Russia not being totally excluded from the games, it was rank hypocrisy that they then acted in this way when it was one of their own athletes who had violated doping regulations. If other countries want to be seen as credible on the issue of doping, then they have to throw the book at their own athletes just the same as with Russia. Unfortunate as it is, the only way to ensure clean sport is to make examples of those who transgress.

There is also the problem of what to do with individuals who have previously been caught for a doping offence but now profess to being clean. In the spirit of rehabilitation it seems fair that those who have tested positive once but are now clean are allowed to compete. For instance, Spanish cyclist Alejandro Valverde who served a two year ban after being caught up in the Operacion Puerto doping case. Valverde has now been back in competition for four years and hasn’t been linked to doping in any way.

However, the same cannot be said for those who are admitted back into competition following a failed test and are then subsequently caught for a doping offence once again. This brings us to the cases of Yulia Efimova and Justin Gatlin. Efimova failed a test in 2014 for the banned steroid DHEA, serving a nine month ban. A year after her return to competition she then tested positive once again, this time for meldonium (the same substance which recently earned Maria Sharapova a two-year ban from competitive tennis). I’m all for giving someone another chance, but for them to then test positive again, that should be the end of it. There is no way that Efimova should have been allowed to swim at the Olympic games.

The same can be said of Justin Gatlin. The American sprinter has also tested positive twice: first he was banned for two years in 2001 after testing positive for amphetamines; and then in 2006 he was banned for eight years (later reduced to just four) after testing positive for a form of testosterone. Gatlin is now back competing and is running the fastest times of his career, meaning that he has a very real chance of winning a medal in the 100m in Rio. The American team were strongly in favour of a mooted ban for any Russian athletes who had tested positive in the past, so why on earth are they allowing Gatlin to compete? If the United States want to be seen as credible on anti-doping then they should have given Gatlin a lifetime ban after his second positive test, and he should not have been selected for this Olympic Games as a result. To be fair to most of the other athletes it seems that they would be in favour of this sort of action, American swimming gold medalist Lilly King said on Wednesday that she felt athletes previously banned for drug offences, such as Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay, should be kicked off the American team. The fact that they haven’t been is rank hypocrisy, and suggests that the United States aren’t truly serious about confronting the scourge of doping in sport.

One of the biggest issues when it comes to preventing doping is the length of bans handed out to those who violate the rules. Efimova, who has tested positive twice, has served cumulative bans of only around one year. The same is true of Chinese swimmer Sun Yang who tested positive for banned stimulant trimetazidine in 2014, he was banned for just three months. If sporting bodies want to win the battle against doping then the only option is to make an example of those who break the rules. For those found guilty of using performance enhancing drugs then a four year ban (a full Olympic cycle) should be the bare minimum. For an athlete that has previously served a ban, then it is fair to allow them back to compete once again. But if they then have the temerity to break the rules again, a lifetime ban is the only option.

Ultimately, if countries that pride themselves upon being seen as ‘clean’ competitors want to eradicate the scourge of doping then they must throw the book at anyone who transgresses, whatever country they happen to represent. In the case of missed drugs tests it is all very well saying that it was simply an error, but to make that error three times is poor and it should be met with a ban, the same as it would be if the violator was Russian. Likewise, it is wrong for the United States to welcome back the likes of Justin Gatlin into the Olympic team. He has been caught for doping offences twice, and to allow him back into the team sets a terrible example for young athletes as well as being a huge step back for the fight against doping in sport.

The government’s support for new grammar schools is misguided.

Whilst proponents of grammar schools argue that they increase academic attainment and social mobility, this is not really the case.

On Saturday, The Telegraph reported that Theresa May was set to reverse the ban on new grammar schools first introduced by Tony Blair in 1998, with the change possibly being announced as early as the Conservative Party conference in October.

Such a change in policy will delight Conservative backbenchers who grew frustrated throughout David Cameron’s time as Prime Minister over his refusal to budge on the issue, as he focused on the expansion of the existing academy system instead. It also seems as though the public would support an end to the ban on new grammar schools with polling conducted by ORB for The Sunday Telegraph finding that 49 per cent of adults agree that the ban on new grammar schools should end, whilst 23 per cent disagree.

The proponents of grammar schools argue that selective schools increase academic attainment. Graham Brady, the Chairman of the Conservative Party’s 1922 Committee quit David Cameron’s shadow frontbench in 2007 over the then-Leader of the Opposition’s opposition to the expansion of grammar schools. Upon news that the current government planned to end the ban on new grammar schools, Brady stated that this move would ‘raise standards in state education’. However, is this really the case?

Whilst it is true that in areas with selective education, those who get into the selective schools do better, there is little evidence that educational attainment improves across the board. Indeed, whilst those who get into grammar schools tend to do better academically, those who miss out on a place at a grammar school tend to do considerably worse. A study for The Centre for Market and Public Organisation at the University of Bristol found that: “Overall there is little or no impact upon attainment, but those educated in grammar schools do substantially better (around four grade points more than pupils with the same Key Stage 2 points in similar, but non-selective areas). This is equivalent to raising four GCSEs from a grade ‘C’ to a ‘B’. Other children within selective areas who do not gain a place in a grammar school are disadvantaged by a little under one grade point.” This suggests that in areas with selective education, those who fail to make the grade for a place at a grammar school are subsequently left behind by the system. This is reinforced by a 2013 article by the Financial Times where data suggested that overall attainment is lower in areas with selective education systems.

The issue of the attainment of students in selective areas who study at non-grammar schools, isn’t helped by the fact that in areas with selective schooling, non-grammar schools find it difficult to recruit high-quality teaching staff. This means that those who fail to pass the 11-plus and gain entrance to a grammar school, face a far harder task when it comes to future educational achievement. Therefore, the introduction of new grammar schools would be hugely at odds with our current educational orthodoxy of equality of opportunity. And, given that selective schools seem to have little positive effect upon overall attainment, is there really much point in introducing new grammar schools?

Another favourite argument of the proponents of grammar schools is that they are a vehicle for social mobility. Their argument is that as a result of grammar schools, poorer children are able to access a quality of education which would otherwise only be available in a private school. However, although in theory this is true, it remains the case that poorer children are far more likely to miss out on a place at grammar school than wealthier children. The reasons for this are twofold. Firstly, by the time of taking the 11-plus exam, there is already a significant educational divide between children from poorer families and children from wealthier families. Children from poorer families are more likely to be behind at the age of eleven, and consequently are less likely to gain a place at a grammar school by passing the 11-plus. Secondly, the 11-plus is not an appropriate way for selecting who gains a place in a grammar school as it gives an unfair advantage to those from wealthier families. Parents living in selective schooling areas have been known to spend huge amounts of money on tutors who can coach their children to pass the 11-plus and gain a place at a grammar school. This option is not available for those children from poorer families, meaning that the tests are further skewed against them. Ultimately, this means that grammar schools contain a disproportionate amount of children from wealthier families, at the expense of those from poorer families for whom the tests are rather unfair. Although it is true that some children from poorer families are successful, the majority are hindered by the system and miss out on any benefits. This is illustrated by the fact that so few grammar school pupils are eligible for free school meals when compared with the national average. Overall grammar schools are clearly not the vehicle for social mobility they are often heralded as.

Ultimately, grammar schools do little to improve overall academic attainment and do little for social mobility. Therefore, there seems little reason for the current ban on grammar schools to be overturned by the government. As well as the fact that grammar schools offer little gain in terms of attainment and social mobility, in the modern world it is wrong to make a judgement on who will likely be academically successful and who will not be, at the age of just eleven. Under a grammar system, the academic talents of those who fail an exam at the age of eleven are wasted, rather than allowing late developers more of a chance to develop and find their academic niche. Rather than select at eleven, academic streaming within a comprehensive school is a far better system.

Grammar schools were originally scrapped because they did not work, and the result following their reintroduction would only be more of the same. All that would happen is that the existing problems of the education system (those of children from wealthier families doing disproportionately better than children from poorer families) would be exacerbated.

Theresa May and Justine Greening should not fall into the trap of pandering to Conservative backbenchers by ending the ban on new grammar schools. To do so would only serve to worsen inequality in education and reduce attainment overall. Instead, they should focus upon improving standards in existing state schools. Over the past few years many state schools have been pulling ahead of private schools in terms of academic attainment (which raises questions over whether the aim of grammar schools to provide private school quality, is desirable any longer), and continued investment can ensure that this continues. In addition, the government needs to work out how to reverse the worrying trend of people not wanting to become teachers, with it being crucial to ensure the brightest and best are around to teach the next generation.

Overall, for our education system, grammar schools are not the answer.