Willy's free and easy with ideas

28th July 2000 at 01:00
IT SEEMS incredible to report, but the Tories are actually fighting over who gets the credit for Free Schools idea.

After wee Willy Hague's epoch-making speech a few weeks back, here comes a paper from the Centre for Policy Studies - Freedom for Schools, by Sean Williams, a stalwart of John Major's policy unit at the fag end of his administration.

The barmy ideas are all there - private-sector take-overs? Check. Pay free-for-all? Check. Mass expulsions? Check. In fact the similarities are remarkable - so which came first?

The CPS is in no doubt: "The radical and comprehensive inspiration to William Hague's recent speech", trumpets an accompanying press release.

Not so, says a Haguespokeswoman, telling the Press Association - apparently without irony - that it's all based on the success of grant-maintained schools.

A miffed CPS suspects that Willy or his pals saw an early draft and suffered a sudden burst of inspiration. "Filched" is the word being bandied around. Willy's magpie tendencies are not new - other parts of his speech picked up on ideas from Chris Woodhead's recent musings.

The CPS would apparently have liked a bit of notice of Willy's speech so they could rush their paper out in a bizarre

version of those movie-book tie-ins.

Oh, and a bit of credit wouldn't have gone amiss. But a source sighs: "One never expects gratitude in politics."

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