The Blog of
Nadine Dorries
Death By A Thousand Words
Posted Thursday, 17 May 2007 at 09:34

There is a process which surrounds shadow minister speechwriting. I remember a particular speech Oliver delivered when I was working for him,

 

We knew months before hand when and where it was going to be given. Oliver, Robert Halfon, then Oliver’s Chief of staff, and I wrote a few hundred words each and put the speech together. Oliver then took it to Dorset for the weekend and completely re wrote it.

 

That didn’t matter. The fact was that when delivered, everyone could understand what Oliver was saying.

 

Before speech day, it was sent to Michael Howard's office for approval. Michael made a few ammendments and the final draft of the speech was then approved, delivered, and greeted with much acclaim from the press.

 

I think about two sentences of what I had written survived.

 

If Oliver had tried to deliver the speech he gave last week, I would have locked him in a dark room and hidden the key until the urge to deliver an incomprehensible speech had passed him by. You don’t use words like 'paradigm' and 'socio-centric' if you want any more that a handful of people to listen, and understand what you have to say.

 

The speech Oliver gave last week would have gone to the top to be approved just as it did before.

 

David Willetts caused uproar within the party yesterday as a result of his speech on grammar schools. I still cannot understand why he said what he did. I haven’t seen MPs this angry since I arrived.

 

To describe grammar schools as the preserve of social advantage is ludicrous. Private school and public schools are the preserve of social advantage. As Mark Field MP pointed out, if that is to be our reasoning for not having any more grammar schools, do we say there can’t be anymore private schools too?

 

David's speech would have been approved and amended from the top.

 

Now, if you think about a Conservative government in the future, what does it look like? Well there won't be anyone who was within a whiff of government in1997 and associated with our worst ever failure anywhere near the front bench.

 

There has been talk surrounding  the future role for Oliver and David. A conundrum? What to do with two previous high profile shadow ministers. One who supported David Davis all the way through the leadership contest (Willetts) and one who is gaffe prone (Oliver). How do you completely break form the past?

 

I think they were both hung out to dry with the speeches they have delivered over the last two weeks.

 

Death by a thousand words.

 

So maybe a re-shuffle is on the way. But no body will be wondering what happened to Willetts or Letwin, everyone will know, it was because of those awful speeches they gave.

 

Click Here To See This Issue On Iain Dales Blog

 

Education, education, education.

 
 
 
richard bailey said:
Responded: Thursday, 17 May 2007
Fair point, Nadine, but surely a Leader and a Party has to be able to trust its (senior) shadow cabinet members to be able to write and deliver a speech without having their hand held all the way to the podium. I worked at CCO in 2001 and part of the problem was the laborious way in which everything was drafted and cleared 15 times before it could be uttered. The Leader, whoever it amy be, most certainly should put his team on the spot and see what happens. He or she must have trust in their judgement and capability. You can only be hung out to dry when you are left un-defended by the person who made you do something on their behalf. Are you saying that Willets and Letwin were forced to make those speeches?
 
 
Carl Cross said:
Responded: Thursday, 17 May 2007
So true Nadine. It did baffle me how this was allowed to happen. PR own goal? Decapitation of shadow ministers? Not sure, but there was some decent stuff hidden away in the speech but the stupid comments about grammar schools have taken over. I know this has been discussed at (great) length elsewhere but as you say, arguing that grammar schools are the preserves of social advantage is ludicrous! I had the luck to attend the Liverpool BlueCoat School, now an excellent grammar, but in my day, a great voluntary aided school built into a great school by an exceptional headmaster and dedicated teachers. Entry to this oversubscribed school was based on reports from primary school and a pretty basic interview of child (at 10 years old remember) and parents. My friends were children of doctors, lawyers, barristers and businesspeople; plus children of labourers, postmen, factory workers and the unemployed. We all gained an excellent education and it probably did more to create social cohesion than any of today's 'social engineering'. As Mark Field MP says: the only problem with grammar schools is that there aren't enough of them.
 
 
malcolm said:
Responded: Thursday, 17 May 2007
I certainly hope that you are wrong Nadine. Whilst I was unimpressed with both speeches their is no doubt that both Willetts and Letwin are highly intelligent men and are assets to the Conservative party. After after more than 15 years of divisions plaguing Conservative Cabinets and shadow cabinets to the obvious detriment of our electoral success I thought we were beyond this. My hope is that Olivers unintelligeble speech and Willets statement of our education policy were mistakes that will not be repeated.
 
 
LJH said:
Responded: Thursday, 17 May 2007
I fear you are right Nadine. Loved the video either or bit on the show last night.
 
 
Anonymous said:
Responded: Thursday, 17 May 2007
Mark Field is my MP and his comments are on Conservativehome yesterday, and he is absolutley right.
 
 
Anonymous said:
Responded: Thursday, 17 May 2007
Nadine i fear you are working too hard and need a rest. I don't think Oliver is going anywhere soon, except for a promotion after the policy commissions are finished. Is the grammar schools issue not just a side issue, when was the last time one was built? Aren’t the real issues facing us today that of setting within all schools, regaining discipline so a Head has the right to expel disruptive pupils and maintaining special schools, that the current government has been all to quick to get rid of.
 
 
Anonymous said:
Responded: Thursday, 17 May 2007
I agree absolutely with your comments and congratulations for having the 'balls' to say so. It seems we have wimps in the shadow cabinet who refuse to say anything constructive or worth listening to. Letwin and Willetts are supposedly the brains within the party. If this is true then we are in a real sorry state. The logic of the argument for not supporting grammar schools is utterly absurd. What Willetts is saying is lets dumb down for now (until we improve standards in year 2020) so everyone is on a level playing field except of course those who can afford to go private. Do these people not realise what an awful mess our schools are in or do they believe the tripe that Labour puts out each year saying standards are going up? If we are going to ditch all our 'Conservative' policies and are going to ape new labour, what is stopping an ex candidate like me from joining the Labour Party??
 
 
Anonymous said:
Responded: Thursday, 17 May 2007
You do have balls Nadine. Don't let the dead hand of the whips get you, we need brave people like you.
 
 
Anonymous said:
Responded: Thursday, 17 May 2007
Is this the strategy now then? Hack of the activists who have just worked their socks off during the local elections to make Dave look a hero, and then smack them in the face with this?
 
 
An MP who's not as brave as you said:
Responded: Thursday, 17 May 2007
Since when have we announced policy to the CBI?
 
 
Aunt Sally said:
Responded: Thursday, 17 May 2007
Political dogma should not get in the way of our children's education. Well done Nadine for telling it as it is.
 
 
Anonymous said:
Responded: Thursday, 17 May 2007
I hope you're not going to get a detention for this.....
 
 
Mike H said:
Responded: Thursday, 17 May 2007
Are things really that Machiavellian at Conservative Central Office? If 'someone' wants to remove two senior people or, by some devious means, engineer their downfall, surely there are better ways of achieving those ends? All this has done is upset many Conservative voters and, of course, the press are having a field day. I'm against the binary selection process that categorises people in the way that the 11+ did. I attended a Grammar school, but my two brothers both 'failed' and initially went to local secondary schools. The standards there were so poor that my parents eventually sent them both to a fee-paying school. What's really important is everyone is offered chances in education that allow them to achieve their full potential. That means having well-funded schools that can afford to maintain and develop their buildings. It means strong leadership from the head teacher and governors. It means having highly competent, committed teachers who are not hog-tied by numerous new initiatives, the imposition of untested teaching methods, a general mass of red tape and other state meddling. It means streaming in the majority of subjects so that the level of teaching is right for the abilities of each child. It also means the need for real discipline in the classroom. If these were available at all schools, there would be no need for the creation of City Academies, or any of the other 'new ideas' that merely attempt to apply a sticking plaster over the deeper problems in our education system. I have two highly experienced teachers in my immediate family. They both love teaching, but hate the current teaching environment. Both of them want to leave the world of education and do something else. That really should tell us something. The Grammar school issue is a red-herring. Sure, I can understand why so many people want to keep them - it's because some of the alternative offerings are so poor. Sort that problem out, and the Grammar school debate will go away.
 
 
Barry Garston said:
Responded: Thursday, 17 May 2007
Has the irony not been lost on anyone that David Willetts MP when to a Grammar School - and Cameron of course went to Eton. What right do they have to tell the rest of us about what's best for our children? This 'comprehensive school boy' takes no lessons from those who have no first hand experiences as to the failings of our present education system. You don't strengthen the weak, by weakening the strong.
 
 
Anonymous said:
Responded: Thursday, 17 May 2007
Willetts may be clever, but he has no political judjement or he wouldn't have done this. He looks like an idiot today, not the clever bloke he really is.
 
 
Andy said:
Responded: Thursday, 17 May 2007
cameron come come, the place is falling apart .
 
 
Mary, Shefford said:
Responded: Thursday, 17 May 2007
I would love to send my boys to a grammar, I want the best for them but I can't afford the best. Just to have the chance for them would be nice. I bet David Willets and David Cameron had to sit entrace exams for the schools they went to, so what's wrong with our kids having to sit them.
 
 
Anonymous said:
Responded: Thursday, 17 May 2007
How else was David Cameron going to justify not having the two brightest brains in his cabinet of old Etonians? Something had to happen
 
 
Anonymous said:
Responded: Thursday, 17 May 2007
Carl, Couldn't agree with you more. What we need is a grammar school in every town. Something for every family to aspire to.A reason to be proud.
 
 
MATT said:
Responded: Thursday, 17 May 2007
If they wanted to talk about improving education for the poorest kids, why didn't they do just that? Why even mention grammar schools. Why bring it up all? What was the point.
 
 
Anonymous said:
Responded: Thursday, 17 May 2007
It's not 'social engineering' to focus on helping the vast majority of schools to improve. Maybe we can forget about a 'Conservative government in the future', for the moment. Reactionary conservative commentators might have just killed it for us. There is little point of the policy reviews if we just come out at the end with exactly the same policies. I wholly agree with David Willets and Oliver Letwin's speeches. Chill out.
 
 
Westminster lad said:
Responded: Thursday, 17 May 2007
Haven't you missed something anon< the policy groups haven't reported yet, so how do you know what the findings are? Are you on the 'inside' then, Willetts office maybe? What is the point of having the policy groups if Willetts makes speeches like this?
 
 
Anonymous said:
Responded: Thursday, 17 May 2007
Westminster Lad I only mention the Policy Groups as I first heard of David Willetts' recommendations at http://www.conservatives.com/pdf/socialmobility2.pdf (It might have been the Powerpoint version, anyway....) I read this several days before he made THE speech. I agreed with 'Two Brains' then and I still do, in the post speech environment. Nope I'm not an insider to that degree. I work for a Parliamentary Candidate.
 
 
Anonymous said:
Responded: Thursday, 17 May 2007
Well said, Nadine, someone set them up as sure as eggs is eggs. I bet you know who it was too. Auntie Flo'
 
 
Carl Cross said:
Responded: Friday, 18 May 2007
Anonymous, it is social engineering to obsess about whether sufficient numbers of children entitled to free school meels attend grammar schools. This is a crass piece of analysis by any standards. And of course there's nothing wrong with seeking to improve the majority of schools. That's just what we should be doing. But it isn't achieved by denigrating the schools which have been proven to work. Willetts didn't even need to mention grammar schools if improving other schools was his focus. By specifically including them in his speech in a negative manner, he has scored a massive PR own goal.
 
 
Anonymous said:
Responded: Friday, 18 May 2007
If the tories agree to abolish private education, even I might vote for them
 
 
Anonymous said:
Responded: Friday, 18 May 2007
Willetts's speech on grammar schools, and Cameron's pronouncements are outrageous, as is the timing before the Policy Group Reports. Worse, they are intellectually vacuous - if grammar schools are not the solution (or a part of it), why not go the whole hog and close the existing grammar schools? Even more saddened to see an intention to open more "faith schools". When on earth are senior politicians going to wake up to the fact that 90% of the adult population of this country isn't actively religious, and a large % of those believe religion is behind many of the world's greatest problems? We secularists and atheists would like our voices heard for once!
 
 
Anonymous said:
Responded: Saturday, 19 May 2007
We've been hearing much from secularists and atheists since the 1960s. Education is in crisis in this country. Action must be taken swiftly. We saw from David Cameron's vids from Birmingham a muslim sending his kids to a jewish school. Its not about religious brainwashing. It is about having a school with a strong ethos and proper standards of behaviour. It doesn't follow that we close Grammars. Banning things is Labour territory. I must have missed the outcry by thousands of parents demanding new Grammar schools in the 80s 90s and 2000s. This might have been media bias though.
 
 
Ralph Lucas said:
Responded: Sunday, 20 May 2007
The truth is uncomfortable sometimes, and what David said was the truth. Since Grammar schools became so few in number, we the middle classes have learnt how to work the system. We help with homework, we tutor, we send our children to private prep schools, we take charge of local primary schools so that they prepare our children properly for the tests. The result has been that we dominate Grammar School intake, to the exclusion of those less fortunate. If we devolve decisions over the pattern of school provision to local communities, it may then be that some new grammar schools will emerge to satisfy those of us who are having to playful private schools because local state schools are not up to scratch. But such a sectional interest should never be the focus of national policy. As a party, we have to focus on helping those who need our help most. What we need to do, and what the CTC/Academy program seems to offer, is to build good schools in areas of deprivation, to make them open to all, and to focus their curricula on the needs of their pupils. This is exactly day of its policy, and has my complete support.
 
 
 
Contact Nadine
Nadine Dorries MP
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA
via e-mail at: nadine.dorries.mp@parliament.uk
or Telephone on 020 7219 5928

 
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