LETTER: UKIP still has much to do

Messrs Hillman and Ellis wonder how much of the 50 per cent increase in membership of the local Conservative Party has come from UKIP [Letters, September 30]. I feel sure they will be waiting with bated breath to learn that I for one have no intention at this stage of relinquishing my membership of the party.

Before the UK Independence Party campaigns itself out of a job, a great deal remains to be done. We now know from Theresa May’s initial speech to her party conference that Article 50 will be triggered by next March. Then will come the Bill to repeal the Act that took us into what became – though wasn’t at the time – the European Union in 1972. It remains to be seen how many MPs of whatever parties might have the brass neck to disregard the will of the people and vote against it.

UKIP will be keeping a watchful eye on proceedings. After that it could be two years before we finally shake off the chains of Brussels and Strasbourg. UKIP could be kept extremely busy throughout that time, as they will be in respect of the debate concerning grammar schools, which Messrs Hillman and Ellis also raise.

Much alleged evidence has been cited to suggest that grammar schools produce little social mobility. It is based on a false premise. Today there are only 164 grammar schools in existence, and they are in predominantly middle-class areas. I grew up in the wicked old Fifties, at a time when there were nearly 1,300 grammar schools throughout the land. I went to one of four of them in the borough of Hackney, decades before the district became fashionable with bistros and wine bars.

As the son of a factory worker living in a dark old house off London Fields with an outside lavatory, I doubt I would have been considered ‘middle class’. The vast majority of the boys who attended Hackney Downs Grammar were in similar situations.

Our parents would never have thought of obtaining extra tuition for us when still at primary school, even if they could have afforded it. All our parents, no matter how financially disadvantaged, had aspirations. They wanted us to do well.

I remember all too clearly the words of my bluff, gruff, marvellous old Director of Education at Hull University more than 40 years ago, Professor Tom Bamford. Addressing a tutorial one morning he said in his thick Yorkshire, “Don’t go roonin’ away with the idea that grammar schools were got rid of because they were a failure. Grammar schools were got rid of ’cause they were too mooch of a sooccess.”

I do not advocate a return to the largely rigid system we once had. Nor have I heard of anybody who does. But if every district were represented by grammar schools in the way Kent is, and as all areas once were, rural and urban, then we would be a in a valid position in the matter of the social mobility debate to begin comparing like with like.

While UKIP continues to make such a case, I shall continue to hang on to my membership card.

Edward Thomas

Collington Close

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