Graham Brady, the party’s Europe spokesman, produced compelling evidence that on average all pupils in areas that have grammar schools do better than others elsewhere. Even those who fail the selection exam, and therefore go to comprehensive schools instead, do better. He refuted the Tory leadership’s argument that this is because grammar schools are found only in more affluent areas. Pupils in Trafford, where there are grammars, outperform those in Bury, where there are none, even though the cities are socially similar. Children “in leafy Oxfordshire”, wrote Brady (a dig at Cameron’s own constituents), “fail to reach the national average”. “Two brains” Willetts had been defeated on the evidence (but not necessarily the politics) by Brady, who always struck me as one of life’s plodders.
Now to the uninitiated, the 'plodders' insult will be taken at face value as just a cheap shot at Brady. It is, however, deeper than that, for it was Graham Brady who did the Conservative Party a great service and single-handedly prevented Michael Portillo from becoming its leader. It's clear that Portillo hasn't forgotten.
The story is that on the eve of the second ballot in the 2001 leadership contest Brady, who had been intending to cast his vote for Portillo, stopped Portillo in the corridor and sought reassurance that Portillo would not introduce all-women shortlists. Portillo failed to give him the assurance so Brady cast his vote for Iain Duncan Smith (I think). Portillo failed by a single vote to get into the membership ballot, which he would probably have won. And the rest, as they say, is history...
UPDATE: A reader kindly points out that Portillo did actually mention this in the next sentence in his article, but didn't give the reason...
Incidentally, Brady’s courageous defence of grammar schools, contributing
to Cameron’s limited U-turn, is at least his second decisive impact on the
history of the Conservative party. In the final hours of the 2001 leadership
campaign I failed to convince Brady to support me. I then lost by one vote to
Iain Duncan Smith.