Consider, if you will, the Tories as termites. These much misunderstood insects live in loose, decentralised (though hierarchical) communities and use what is called ‘swarm intelligence’ to get their way. There are the workers, soldiers and reproductive termites (they would be the activists, councillors, golf club bores, Tory backbenchers, that sort of thing), the semi-mature nymphs (misguided students, parliamentary researchers, Conservative Future, etc), and of course a handful of egg-laying queens (the Leadership).
As with termites, the Tories are, as Wikipedia puts it, “very weak and fragile insects. They can be easily overpowered by ants and other predators when exposed. To avoid these perils termites cover their tracks with tubing made of faeces, plant matter, and soil.”
That happened last week with the hastily disowned commentary on the NHS by Daniel Hannan MEP, a politician David Cameron was happy to see re-elected to the European Parliament but who was last week described by Dave as “eccentric”.
Dave had better be careful with his treatment of Hannan, for it seems the MEP is very popular with the Tory worker and soldier termites, the ones who carry the torch of unrestrained Thatcherism. Some of them (Hannan, Tebbit, others) don’t see a need to temper their views for Cameroonian public consumption. But most of them are keeping their heads down and hoping that if they win the next election, they will again be able to step on the faces and chances of the people they don’t want to be part of British society.
And that’s the interesting thing about what happened today in the London Borough of Bromley. The workers and soldiers, who are really the ones to watch and listen to in any community, had their say – in this case on using public money to subsidise private school fees for those parents who may have lost their jobs. It was not what the Leadership wanted to be heard outside the termite mound. So the workers and soldiers were thrust into a u-turn and then silenced.
Early in the day, with gathering interest in the Bromley Tory proposals from the Evening Standard et al, Gillian Pearson, the director of Bromley’s children and young people’s services, thought she was saying the right thing on behalf of her borough’s political leadership by uttering the following:
“We are at the early exploration stage in considering this issue as part of our overall annual review of school places and school organisation. As with any proposal of this type, we will give full consideration to all the key factors which would include the educational case, the need in terms of place planning, the associated costs, the legal framework and other local authority practice.”
That failed to calm things down, so no doubt a message was sent from higher up the termite mound to urge Bromley’s chief termite, Cllr Stephen Carr, to say: “I would like to make it perfectly clear that Bromley Council has no plans to introduce such a scheme, but quite rightly, as a result of a question put at a full council meeting at the end of June, officers felt duty bound to consider this, as is good practice. As I have already stated, there is no suggestion that this will be pursued.”
But it seems the Tories in Bromley (and maybe elsewhere) have not given up on the idea. Cllr Neil Reddin, on his blog, states that: “As a Conservative Bromley Councillor, I can see merit in this idea. None of this is official Bromley Council policy at present – at this point, we are just looking at the legal niceties and practicalities.
Cllr Reddin goes on to say that his “friend and colleague Cllr. Ernest Noad, cabinet member for Children and Young people, has said, ‘The idea is that we might be able to earmark money to keep a child in a private school. At the end of the day what matters is that each child gets a good education,’ Quite right.”
Reddin lays into teaching unions for being “sanctimonious” in criticising the idea that public money could be used for private school fees. Sanctimonius to defend state education and not allow funding for it poured into private schools? I think not. Reddin ends his blog post by saying: “All that though, is not half as “immoral” – indeed, dare I say it, “socially unjust” – as parents having to pay twice for education, once through their taxes and again to an independent school, as well as leaving a place open in the state sector for another child.”
There you have it. The real vibe from the termite mound. The real Tory vibe Cameron doesn’t want you to hear, as he tries to cover his party’s tracks yet again.