Tory whips spy on Nicky Morgan as she attacks grammar schools
Two-person spy operation underlines the former education secretary’s new rebel status.
Two government whips were sent out to spy on Nicky Morgan as she addressed a fringe event at the Conservative party conference.
The whips turned up to an event hosted by the Social Market Foundation during which the former education secretary once again expressed concern over Theresa May’s grammar schools policy.
The action suggests that Morgan has cemented her status as commander-in-chief of a new Tory awkward squad that is fighting to stop the Tories from surrendering the centre ground of politics.
In recent weeks, the former education secretary has antagonised Number 10 by publicly criticising the grammar schools policy.
She has also led the charge against ‘hard Brexit’ and has even refused to say that she would definitely vote for May’s 'Great Repeal Bill'. Rather May told Sky News that she would “probably” support the legislation to end the authority of European Union law.
Morgan's increasingly rebellious behaviour has prompted Tory whips to keep a close eye on her at this week's conference in Birmingham.
As she addressed a fringe event on inequality in education, occupying a seat on the second row was David Evenett, Tory MP for Bexleyheath and Crayford and government whip.
Morgan also spotted another whip lurking at the back of the room – and decided to call the pair of them out.
“I’ve got the whips. I’ve got two whips in the room! Gentlemen, I know what it’s like... Very nice to have you here”, she said, defiantly.
One Tory insider noted that it was not uncommon for individual whips to attend fringe meetings. But the source added: "If they are sending more than one it looks like some totalitarian state where the secret police watch each other!"
As the discussion got under way, the former education secretary showed no sign of rowing back on her previous attacks on grammar schools. Instead, she re-iterated her concerns about May’s schools policy.
“I do worry that a return to selection risks undermining the progress that we have seen over the course of the last decades in our schools by throwing something else into the debate”, she said.
“Is every child in this country entitled to an excellent academic education? For me the answer is yes. And that’s why I think that a return to selection is not the right move at this time.
“I believe that an increase in pupil segregation on the basis of academic selection would be at best a distraction from crucial reforms to raise standards and narrow the attainment gap and at worse risk actively undermining six years of progressive education reform."