Johnson: read my lips, no less selection


Alan Johnson has recently spun much of his opposition to selection in an attempt to get his leadership campaign off the ground.

But The Daily can exclusively reveal his full thoughts on the matter, as expressed to a Labour Students gathering at Stoke Rochford this weekend.

When one of the young hacks put to him David Blunkett’s famous promise of “no more selection” and asked about progress, Johnson started by denying that Blunkett had ever said this.

In case Johnson has been having problems with his memory – Blunkett told the 1995 Labour Party Conference “Read my lips – no selection, either by examination or interview, under a Labour government.” Just in case he doesn’t believe us, he can ask the House of Commons Library. Blunkett subsequently said that he meant no more selection on top of the existing grammar schools.

Johnson, of course, has made a similar statement, telling the Observer that, “I’m against selection, full stop.”

But Johnson clarified this weekend that, although he personally doesn’t like selection, he did not of course mean that he was going to do anything about it. On the contrary, attacking selection would “lose us middle class votes in places like Slough” and, while he’s Education Secretary, it “isn’t on the agenda”.

(Slough, of course, is where Johnson brought up his children, one of whom failed the Eleven Plus, which he said left him “bitter” about selection.)

Johnson went on to say that he also  personally disagrees with faith schools, but that do anything about them would also be a vote loser and seen as an attack on Muslims.  Being seen to attack Muslims hasn’t seemed to be a big problem for government ministers lately, but that isn’t Johnson’s point.

We are told that even amongst the ferociously Blairite hordes in Labour Students, including people who stayed up in the bar until the small hours chanting “ten more years for Blair”, these comments did not go down too well, particularly coming from the minister who was quite happy to introduce top-up fees without pause for concern at their impact on middle-class voters in Slough or anywhere else.

Update: Latest news on this here.


19 Responses to Johnson: read my lips, no less selection

  1. Adele says:

    Those comments certainly didn’t go down too well. I thought it was unprincipled, unpragmatic crap. And thats coming from someone that is new labour to the core. Grammar schools are fundamentally wrong and give people an unequal start in life. It wouldn’t lose us that many votes, I think it is worth the risk.

    Apart from that I thought he was pretty good!

  2. Nick says:

    This does seem to be an extraordinary re-working of collective ministerial responsibility – you’re now allowed to disagree with government policy so long as you say that you won’t do anything!

    It’s a bit difficult for Johnson personally to say that whatever he believes he wouldn’t annoy the middle classes, when he was the Minister who introduced top-up fees. He seems to be saying that he wouldn’t do anything left-wing that would lose us votes, but anything right-wing he’s happy to compromise on.

  3. Benjamin says:

    Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough!
    It isn’t fit for humans now,
    There isn’t grass to graze a cow.
    Swarm over, Death!

    Come, bombs and blow to smithereens
    Those air -conditioned, bright canteens,
    Tinned fruit, tinned meat, tinned milk, tinned beans,
    Tinned minds, tinned breath.

    Mess up the mess they call a town-
    A house for ninety-seven down
    And once a week a half a crown
    For twenty years.

    And get that man with double chin
    Who’ll always cheat and always win,
    Who washes his repulsive skin
    In women’s tears:

    And smash his desk of polished oak
    And smash his hands so used to stroke
    And stop his boring dirty joke
    And make him yell.

    But spare the bald young clerks who add
    The profits of the stinking cad;
    It’s not their fault that they are mad,
    They’ve tasted Hell.

    It’s not their fault they do not know
    The birdsong from the radio,
    It’s not their fault they often go
    To Maidenhead

    And talk of sport and makes of cars
    In various bogus-Tudor bars
    And daren’t look up and see the stars
    But belch instead.

    In labour-saving homes, with care
    Their wives frizz out peroxide hair
    And dry it in synthetic air
    And paint their nails.

    Come, friendly bombs and fall on Slough
    To get it ready for the plough.
    The cabbages are coming now;
    The earth exhales.

    Slough, John Betjeman (please note: 1937, its probably improved since then!)

  4. Nick says:

    Well, I’m not sure what Alan Johnson would say to that!

  5. Polygraph says:

    You’ve really got to check the small print with some of these guys haven’t you! I’m glad we’ve got a long campaign to pin them down on this sort of stuff.

  6. Alan Johnson’s odds have lengthened to 4/1 this morning, though we’re not claiming the credit for that!

    For those interested, Harman is down to 9/1 and Cruddas 5/1, Hain is on 7/2 and Benn is still favourite but at slightly longer odds of 3/1. Straw is still the outside bet at 12s.

  7. Is Benn going to run? I’d assumed he wasn’t.

  8. HenryG says:

    I have a lot of respect for Benn (Hilary that is!) but I haven’t seen any signs that he is up for joining a potentially crowded field. Of course… if Cruddas wins as Deputy Leader and Brown is free to choose his DPM, then Benn could get the number 2 job without actually contesting an election. It would be hard for the likes of Hain, who may come 2nd or 3rd to Cruddas to then argue that they should be the DPM. On the other hand Gordon could abolish the post of DPM which I feel really is only worth having for special circumstances.

  9. Is Cruddas actually refusing to be DPM or just saying that DPM shouldn’t have a portfolio. It’s not the same, is it?

    I’m not sure have a Deputy Leader, with someone else as DPM, would really work.

    Congratulations on the headline, by the way. Very droll!

  10. Adele says:

    Johnson and Cruddas with Gordon as chancellor. How about that 4 a dream team!

  11. Nick says:

    I’ll let you put that idea to Gordon! 😉

  12. Andrea says:

    HenryG…Tom Watson is reporting on his blog that there’re rumours about Benn running for the deputy position

  13. Tom has beaten us to the post, but (to mix our metaphors horribly) may also have jumped the gun. We will post on this shortly…

  14. el tom says:

    Hmm. No ‘more’ selection? That will be why the Compass group of MPs had to scupper the blatant selection measures introduced by Ruth ‘I’m not incompetent’ Kelly last year then…

    No forgetting.

  15. “Johnson and Cruddas with Gordon as chancellor. How about that 4 a dream team!”

    I think there’s more chance of McDonnell winning than of GB serving as anyone else’s chancellor.

  16. Adele says:

    Alright Johnson can choose a new chancellor then!

  17. Annoymous says:

    Johnson also said that it would be seen as an attack on religion.

  18. Annoymous says:

    Furthermore I was at the event last week and Johnson said that the only way he could justify faith schools was with a quota system that made it fair! What a complete joke. Johnson you should be ashamed of yourself.

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