Robert Redux

I recently read a report of a speech by Robert McCartney and I found myself thinking of Steven King. You must remember dear Steven. He was an adviser to David Trimble…No, look, you MUST remember David Trimble. Ginger-haired chap, used to lead the Ulster Unionists…You’ve never heard of the Ulster Unionists? Well, they used to be a political party, only David Trimble their leader, under careful advice from Steven King, led them into a political bog where they sank with little trace beyond a few gurgles from Reg Empey and Sylvia Hermon. But the impressive thing was that nobody pointed at Steven and shouted ‘Some adviser you are!’ In fact Steven appeared regularly in public after the debacle and showed no embarrassment that under his advice, a once-dominant political party had been reduced to a couple of shell-shocked survivors.

Mind you, the UUP experience was positively rosy compared to Bob McCartney’s party. I can’t even remember the name of it now – the Really Really Unionist Party or some such. Showing the consummate leadership skills for which he’s well-known, Bob first alienated most of the people in his own party and then alienated the voter to the point where he thought it best to leave politics a couple of years ago. But there he was a short while back, appearing at the Traditional Unionist Voice (TUV) conference, explaining to them what a Marxist fool Caitriona Ruane was to try to introduce comprehensive education here. As evidence of the excellence of grammar school education, he modestly pointed to himself. One might choose to see that as an argument against grammar school education, but that’s not how Bob intended it, I would guess. He went on to point out that the North gets better GCSE and A Level results than any other part of the UK. Maybe somebody should take Bob aside and explain that it’s not what grammar schools do to the people who attend them that’s under discussion, it’s what grammar schools do to the two-thirds of the population who find the doors of said grammar schools barred to them, on the grounds that they’re not smart enough. Bob also underlined that he came from a two-up, two-down terraced house in support of his argument. Odd, to see a skilled barrister make the elementary mistake in logic of arguing from the particular to the general. Yes, some children from working-class background do succeed by taking the grammar school route. But check the figures: overwhelmingly, your best ticket to a place in grammar school is to be middle-class. But then, that’s the whole idea, really: schools that keep the scruff out. So good man, Bob. Climb the ladder and then pull it up after you. Rhodes Boyson would be proud of you.

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