There were two striking things about today’s urgent question on grammar schools. The first was that MPs were told far less by Education Secretary Justine Greening than the 1922 Committee of backbench Conservative MPs was told by the Prime Minister last night. As James revealed yesterday, Theresa May explained the policymaking process for new grammars to her MPs, but today Greening would merely say that:
‘We are looking at a range of options, and I expect any new proposals to focus on what we can do to help everyone go as far as their individual talents and capacity for hard work can take them. Education policy to that end will be set in due course’
The second was that only one Tory MP made negative comments about the proposals, and even those comments weren’t designed to make Greening and her colleagues break into a cold sweat. Neil Carmichael, who is the chair of the Education Select Committee, asked:
‘Does the Secretary of State agree that it is absolutely vital that any discussion about grammar schools does not distract us from our fundamental task of improving social mobility and ensuring that we make the best use of all the talent across the whole country and do not just talk about the few?’
Other than that, a swathe of loyal and ambitious backbenchers asked helpful questions which either praised their own grammar school experience, or helped Greening dodge the issue entirely in her answer. Clearly the whips and the minister’s PPS had been busy before the session to ensure it didn’t feature an uprising on the Tory benches. But that doesn’t mean there won’t be one.