IS it that David Cameron is too young to know about the 11-plus? Or that his Eton education shielded him from the reality of an examination that divided youngsters at the age of 11 into the kind of education that would determine their future careers and life-style? At Prime Minister's Questions yesterday, in a second attempt to embarrass Mr Blair over the government's latest educational reforms, Mr Cameron again overlooked the emotion that the prospect of “academic selection” at the age of 11 still generates decades after it was abolished by a previous Labour government. Mr Cameron proposes to give secondary schools much greater freedom from national government and local authority oversight; yet twice in interviews in the last week, on the BBC Today programme and in the London Evening Standard, he was asked whether such freedom would not enable schools to choose their pupils by ability. On each occasion he acknowledged that it would amount to “academic selection”. Mr Blair quoted the unambiguous answers Mr Cameron had given in those interviews and invited him to respond. But the new Leader of the Opposition remained in his seat until later, when he rather pointlessly twice asked Mr Blair to agree on the importance of the objectives of the World Trade Organisation's meeting in Hong Kong. The Prime Minister was more than happy to do so. It was a disappointing performance by the new Leader of the Opposition; William Hague, sitting next to him for the first time, would have done better. PP Sir Peter Tapsell is always greeted with ironic cheers when his question is called because he does cut a rather blimpish figure. On this occasion, however, his question was a good one. Why had the Prime Minister not taken the trouble to receive the Congressional Medal of Honour awarded to him in 2002 by the US Congress for his support over 9/11 and Iraq? Mr Blair said he had been very busy but if the question implied that he was ashamed of the award, that was not true. Indeed, he said, this week's elections in Iraq showed that his policies had been right all along.


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