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Who is really to blame when a smoker dies?

JENNY HJUL


IN ONE corner there is the Ayrshire widow, a gentle-looking, blameless woman out to avenge her husband’s untimely death. In the other corner there is Imperial Tobacco, the multi-billion-pound cigarette manufacturer.

Margaret McTear, egged on by the anti-smoking group Ash, is suing Imperial for £500,000. Part of Imperial’s defence is that it didn’t force Alf McTear to smoke 60 cigarettes a day.

Alf, a John Players man, died of lung cancer ten years ago at the age of 48, and his dying wish was that someone should be held responsible. Now brave Margaret is having her David-versus-Goliath moment in court.

I once worked with a 60-a-day man and he only found the will to kick the habit after he realised he was smoking in the shower. "I knew it had gone too far,’" he told me, and never smoked again.

I also knew a John Players man - my dad - but his daily fix was capped at about 40. He gave up when I was 15 to discourage my sister and me from copying him, and although we soon unearthed his duty-frees, he never smoked again.

I quit nearly three years ago, the same time as my husband, a nicotine worshipper of long standing. I still miss it, like to sit next to smokers at dinner for the vicarious thrill, and even think smoking is glamorous, God help me. I persevere with my abstinence for my children’s sake.

Alf McTear took up smoking before cigarette packets carried warnings. I have great sympathy for his family and contempt for the companies that peddle such dangerous wares yet have been so slow to acknowledge the risks.

Margaret McTear wants young people to get the message that smoking kills. But whose fault was it that Alf smoked, if not Alf’s?

He continued to smoke years after the consequences of smoking became common knowledge, and he smoked, it would appear, without moderation.

If young people are to get a message from Alf, it is that they should take charge of their lives.

I can’t see how Imperial owes Mrs McTear a penny, and if the case follows American and French precedents, she will lose her claim, but hopefully not her house. No doubt, Ash, whose cause she is publicising, will contribute to any costs she incurs.

KRISPY Kreme doughnuts arrived in Harrods this week from the US, and immediately divided the country. In Scotland, the very independent MSP Margo MacDonald condemned the "more-ish" sugary treats as disastrous for the nation’s health and called on the Scottish Executive, Edinburgh City Council, Lothian Health and local school boards to object to any application from the company that makes them if they ever dared open a franchise here, which is mooted.

"Can we ignore the sale of foods which, when eaten in large quantities, are linked to obesity?" she asked.

In the south, however, folk are mad for them. Alexandra Shulman, editor of Vogue, goes as far as to say they are "chic junk food", the "must-have, favourite import". When a huge box arrived at Vogue HQ, the slinky voguettes demolished them within five minutes. "The dough is incredibly light, the topping is addictively sweet and crunchy, and the whole experience is terrifyingly indulgent."

Yum, yum. In small doses, Krispy Kremes are benign. Are we to be denied such pleasure because a few greedy pigs don’t know when to stop?

As Shulman said: "One is never enough, two is too many." The eater decides.

CLARISSA Dickson Wright looks like a two Krispy Kreme doughnuts woman, maybe three (she confesses to an addictive nature), but that shouldn’t do her career as a television cook any harm. More damaging is the BBC’s "dithering’, as she calls it, over commissioning a new series from her. She claims she "hardly earned a thing last year" and has had to file for bankruptcy because Beeb bosses decided in the end not to go ahead with a new Clarissa and the Countryman series.

"It’s all the BBC’s fault," she moaned, deftly sidestepping any responsibility for what some may see as her lack of talent and lack of appeal post-Jennifer Paterson and Two Fat Ladies fame.

WHY did Newsnight Scotland lead its programme on Tuesday night on depleted uranium clean-up rates in Iraq? Has it finally tired of Scottish yarns and committed itself to doing stories on their own merit, whether they have Scottish content or not?

I do think BBC viewers in Scotland will be overjoyed if this is the case - stories being run because they’re interesting rather than because they’re Scottish - but it does rather confirm the majority opinion that the opt-out itself is a stinker.



IT'S PUMPKIN 'BYE FOR ALF

HALLOWE'EN thieves have stolen 82-year-old veg-grower Alfred Shacklady's pride and joy - a 150lb pumpkin!

He planned to give it to Children In Need for a guess-the-weight contest.

The monster - 25 times the weight of a normal pumpkin - was lifted from his garden in Astley, Lancs.

Alfred, who fears it was stolen to make a giant Halloween Lantern, said: "It was a corker. It was already 22 inches across and I reckon I could have got it even bigger."

Exam pass mark was lowered, says inquiry By Liz Lightfoot, Education Correspondent (Filed: 25/10/2003)


A sharp improvement in primary school English results during Labour's first term of office has been called into question by research which showed that the pass mark was substantially lowered for two years.

The study was commissioned by the Government's curriculum advisers in 1999 after The Daily Telegraph reported that the pass mark had been secretly dropped for the English test taken by 11-year-olds so that more children would pass. It went down from 51 out of 100 in l998 to 44 out of 100 in 1999.

The Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) denied at the time that the test had been made easier, saying the pass mark had been dropped because the questions had proved harder for the children to answer. It was exonerated by an independent inquiry but was told to carry out a thorough review of its procedures to ensure the safeguarding of standards.

Later that year it was announced that the proportion of children reaching the level expected for their age in English had jumped from 65 per cent to 71 per cent.

In 2000 it went up to 75 per cent where it has stayed. The performance of children in the last year of primary education formed a key target for the Government. David Blunkett, the then Education Secretary, said he would resign if the target of 80 per cent reaching the standard in English and 75 per cent in maths was not reached by 2002.

In the event, despite the steep rise in l999 and 2000, progress stalled and the targets were missed. The research, which has remained unpublished, is said to have found that the reduction in the pass mark in l999 and again in 2000 had not been justified because the papers were not significantly harder.

The £300,000 study was carried out for the QCA by a team led by Alf Massey of the University of Cambridge Local Examinations Syndicate which set versions of the English tests to 11,000 pupils in Northern Ireland.

Prof Peter Tymms, the deputy director of the curriculum, evaluation and management centre at Durham University, said the unpublished study added to other research evidence that the performance of children in English had been overestimated.

"This adds to growing evidence that suggests standards over time are not reliably measured by the system," he said.

The QCA said Mr Massey's report would be published in December. "The work has been completed and we are talking to the author about getting it into a form which can be published," said a spokesman.

"The QCA has maintained the standard of the national curriculum tests over time. A child reaching level 4 in 1999 underwent as rigorous assessment as in any previous or subsequent years," he said.

9 October 2003: Labour misses its target for GCSE results  
20 August 2003: One child in three misses school targets 


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Animal rights activists target farmer

Breeder of guinea pigs used for testing subjected to campaign of threats

Alok Jha, science correspondent Monday October 27, 2003 The Guardian

At Darley Oaks farm in the Staffordshire village of Newchurch, Chris Hall has bred guinea pigs for use in animal experiments for more than 30 years. It may come as no surprise, then, that he has been targeted by local animal rights activists, who claim not only that the guinea pigs are housed in appalling conditions but who are also resolutely against the use of animals in research anyway. But what started as regular peaceful demonstrations outside the farm four years ago has escalated into violence and intimidation against the Hall family and many of their associates. Police said that that there has been a string of criminal activity - from vandalism to arson - in the name of a campaign that is rapidly becoming the new front line in the UK's animal rights movement.

"The shift has moved from peaceful protest towards this more criminal way of protesting," says Inspector David Bird of the Staffordshire police force. Last week, one of the Halls' unused houses was the target of an arson attack believed by police to be the work of local activists.

The Halls have never spoken publicly about the activists, and would not speak to the Guardian about the latest events. The campaign against them, however, has been recorded in detail on a web site run by Save the Newchurch Guinea Pigs (SNGP), which has protested outside the farm every week for the last four years.

The site talks proudly about the group's past marches and protests and even publishes contact details for the Hall family, encouraging members of the public to call the farmer with their comments on his work. "At one point they [the Halls] complained that they were getting up to 400 phone calls a day from people who care about animals!" says the site.

The SNGP has also targeted anyone who does business with the Halls. Among the "collaborators" (as they are called by the group) who have pulled out of their dealings with the Darley Oaks farm recently are First Milk and Lloyd Fraser, dairy services companies that were due to buy milk produced by the farm. Even the Halls' solicitors have severed links after SNGP protesters paid a noisy visit to their Birmingham offices with placards and banners.

But loud and intimidatory though these protests may be, there is an even darker side to the campaign against the Halls.

"The more sinister side has seen explosive devices placed near to the homes of employees on four occasions," says Mr Bird. "It's seen the electricity supply lines to an entire village cut off. There has been quite an intense hate mail campaign against those same people - threatening letters, invitation cards to their own funeral, this type of activity. There are those that have a genuine care for animal rights and animal welfare issues. [But] there are also criminals who hide behind the genuine people."

Those in the shadows are believed to be mainly members of the Animal Liberation Front, famed around the world for its illegal activity in defence of animal rights and very active in Newchurch. Last week's arson attack is believed to be the ALF's work; as is the destruction this year of parts of a golf course used by members of the Hall family.

According to the police, despite many criminal acts being claimed by either the SNGP or ALF prosecutions are difficult because neither organisation officially exists. "There are people who will tell you they affiliate themselves to those campaigns but when you try and find out who is SNGP, nobody will come forward and say, that's me," said Mr Bird.

Andrew Davidson, a local supply teacher and a regular at SNGP's peaceful protests outside Darley Oaks farm, confirmed that the SNGP is a loose-knit organisation. "It really operates democratically from suggestions from all sorts of people," he said. "There isn't a spearhead pulling people along, it's very organic."

Crime associated with the campaign against the Halls has increased so much that Staffordshire police had to apply for an extra £250,000 from the Home Office this year to deal with the problems.

And the police can expect the problems to continue, according to Dr Mark Matfield, executive director of the pro-animal research group the Research Defence Society, who said that the local activists have learnt the tricks behind their relentless campaigning after noting its effectiveness in work of other animal rights campaigners who managed to close down facilities such as Consort, a dog breeding company in Hereford, and Hillgrove Farm, a cattery near Whitney by week in, week out protests and so-called "secondary targeting" of business associates.

By far the highest profile of these campaigns so far has been the work of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (Shac) in response to what it claims is the maltreatment of animals at Huntingdon Life Sciences, a pharmaceutical and chemical testing facility in Cambridgeshire. After years of intimidation, however, in which some members of HLS staff were assaulted and had their cars destroyed by arson, Shac's campaign was stalled earlier this year when the high court established 50-yard "exclusion zones" around HLS premises and the homes of its employees. The government has even stepped in to provide banking services for HLS after the Royal Bank of Scotland pulled out.

According to HLS, the number of regular protesters has dwindled in recent months. Indeed, the campaigners may be facing a losing battle as the prime minister, Tony Blair, and the science minister, Lord Sainsbury, have publicly stated that they fully supported not only HLS but research using animals, and would take all necessary steps to ensure its protection.

Perhaps buoyed by the government's support, the Halls have told colleagues that they will not cave in to the demands of the protesters. "On one or two occasions when there have been the odd rumour flying around that he [Chris Hall] might chuck the towel in, he has written round-robin letters to people saying we are staying in this business, we're not going to be forced out," said Dr Matfield.

Experiments cut by half

· There were 2.75 million scientific procedures using animals in 2002. The annual number of experiments has halved in the past 30 years

· Animal research and testing makes up about 10% of all biomedical research

· Animals used: 84% rats, mice and other rodents; 12% fish, amphibians, reptiles and birds; 1.5% small mammals other than rodents (mostly rabbits and ferrets); 2.1% sheep, cows, pigs and other large mammals; 0.3% dogs and cats. 0.1% monkeys, (marmosets and macaques). Use of chimpanzees, orangutans and gorillas is now banned in UK

· Guinea pigs have been used in research for more than a century for medical reasons, including development of blood transfusion, diphtheria vaccine, anticoagulants, kidney dialysis, replacement heart valves, drugs to treat mental illness, and asthma treatments

· The Save The Newchurch Guinea Pigs campaign argues that animal research is not necessary because of the existence of non-animal methods such as computer modelling and tissue culture. The Research Defence Society says scientists use animals in research only "when absolutely necessary" and all the research methods have their place

· Members of SNGP say animal testing is unreliable, since drugs react differently depending on whether administered to people or even to different animal species. The RDS maintains that information is needed on how chemicals react in a whole body, and so it has to be living animals that are used for safety and efficacy tests

Special reports Animal rights Hunting Foot and mouth disease BSE crisis What's wrong with our food?

Weir passes away

The world's oldest Test cricketer, Gordon Weir, has died in New Zealand aged 95.

The honour of being the oldest Test player now passes to MJ Gopalan, 94, who played one Test for India in 1933-34.

Weir, known as "Dad", was born on June 2, 1908 and been in declining health over the past year and died in Auckland late on Friday.

He was 21 when he played his first international for New Zealand against the MCC in 1930.

When his 11-Test career ended against England at the Oval in 1937 he had amassed 416 runs at an average of 29.71.

Weir's highest score was 74 not out against South Africa in 1931-32.

He was dismissed in his final Test by England fast bowler Alf Gover, the player he succeeded as the oldest Test cricketer in 2001.



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Ex-public school? It's all about confidence (Filed: 25/10/2003)


Researchers have exposed the trust fund myth of "privileged youth", writes Becky Barrow


The first research into Britons in their twenties who went to public school dispels the myth that they all have huge trust funds, no jobs and an addiction to country pursuits.

But they do earn more than most in their age group, are more likely to own a home and very likely to drive a Volkswagen, according to Ledbury Research, the market research company behind The Privileged Youth report.


Andrew Cumming, 28, who attended Canford school in Dorset, works for USB Bank The research, which investigated 350 ex-public school pupils aged 20 to 29, shows that they earn an average salary of £30,000, almost double the average amount earned by workers in their early twenties.

James Lawson, the co-founder of Ledbury Research, which advises companies which want to target the wealthy, said: "Investigations into the lives of privately-educated twentysomethings have so far been limited to stereotyped portrayals of aristocratic brats, most recently in television programmes such as Young, Posh and Loaded.

"No one has ever really taken an objective look at this group so, despite their size and spending power, they have been ignored by marketing professionals, retailers and financial institutions."

The report sheds some light on the sort of person who goes to Britain's public schools, either for a year or for their whole education.

They are unusually confident about their abilities, with 98 per cent saying that they do not worry that their financial situation will deteriorate over the next 10 years.

This confidence does not necessarily come from a huge family fortune that they have inherited.

Contrary to the perception that a place at public school goes together with the key to a large inheritance, fewer than a quarter have a trust fund.

Almost 50 per cent have assets of £20,000 or more, with assets classified as anything from a pension to an individual savings account.

About 10 per cent of them have assets of £500,000 or more from a mixture of parental generosity or their own entrepreneurial success.

One of the biggest differences is that they are much more likely to own their own home, something that has become impossible for most people in their twenties.

While the average age of a first-time buyer has risen above 30 in most parts of Britain, 34 per cent said that they owned their own home, with the majority valuing it between £250,000 and £499,000.

More than 40 per cent received help from their parents or another source to buy the property, and their mortgages tend to be for about 50 per cent of its value.

They do not confess to liking soap operas - but 97 per cent who did watch them said they preferred EastEnders to Coronation Street - and country sports is ranked at number 16 as a leisure activity, below watching sport and above going to concerts I'd beg on the streets to avoid using my local state school, says Letwin By Andrew Sparrow, Political Correspondent (Filed: 10/10/2003)


Oliver Letwin said yesterday that he would "go out on the streets and beg" to avoid sending his children to his local inner-city comprehensive.


Oliver Letwin: accused of insulting all state schools Mr Letwin, who was educated at Eton, told a fringe meeting at the Tory party conference that he was trying to get his 10-year-old daughter Laura into a "particular public school in London" as he wanted to see his family during the week.

"Miraculously the middle-class parents with the money end up getting their children into good schools," the shadow home secretary said. "In Lambeth, where I live, I would give my right arm to send them to a fee-paying school. If necessary I would go out on the streets and beg rather than send them to the school next to where I live.

"What about the other parents in Lambeth who are forced to use the state schools because they don't have the money? We need to give them the choice as well."

Mr Letwin appeared to be referring to Lilian Baylis School in Kennington, where last year only six per cent of GCSE pupils got five or more passes at grade C and above.

At the meeting, which took place on Wednesday night, Mr Letwin said he would consider sending his children to state schools in his Dorset constituency. Yesterday Stephen Twigg, an education minister, said: "Oliver Letwin has insulted the parents, teachers and pupils of every state school in the country."

In a report written two years ago, Ofsted said: "Lilian Baylis School has a troubled history. It has suffered from instability in its leadership, a high turnover of staff, uncertainty about its future and a poor, at one time deservedly so, reputation.

"There are clear signs that the situation is improving, with well-focused and determined leadership from governors and senior managers."

Gary Phillips, head teacher at Lilian Baylis, said: "It is very upsetting for both children and parents to be told that their school is no good when they know full well that it is."

He said that according to the Government's value added indicators, which take into account factors like how many pupils speak English when they arrive, Lilian Baylis was regarded as one of the top 100 schools in the country.

"I would be much more willing to accept Mr Letwin's comments if he had ever actually been to the school," he said.

"Has Mr Letwin ever wondered if a 100 per cent record of A-C grades at a school which only accepts gifted children from wealthy homes is as much of an achievement as a 10 per cent record of A-C grades at a school where the children can't speak English when they start there? I doubt it."

A spokesman for Mr Letwin said he had not intended to cause offence. Mr Letwin's comments were intended to show why the Conservatives thought it was so important to extend choice and excellence in schools.

Mr Letwin is seen as a potential leader by many Tories. But in the past his frankness has got him into trouble and this incident will be held against him by those who consider him liable to "gaffe". He and his wife have 10-year-old twins, Laura and Jeremy. His spokesman declined to comment on their schooling arrangements.

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7 October 2003: Vouchers to buy education of parents' choice  
6 October 2003: Private school charity status 'should end'  

Vouchers to buy education of parents' choice By Benedict Brogan, Political Correspondent (Filed: 07/10/2003)


Grammar schools will make a comeback under plans unveiled by the Tories yesterday that would see all parents given a voucher to "buy" the education of their choice.

Damian Green, the shadow education secretary, said the £400 million "better schools passport" would allow parents to choose where to send their children by giving them financial independence.

The scheme, inspired by ones in the United States and Europe, would see parents given a voucher - or passport - worth the equivalent of what the state spends a year on each child's education.

Those passports, which will be tested first in inner city areas including Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and London, will be worth about £3,500 for primary school and £5,000 for secondary.

The policy confirms that education will be one of the main battlegrounds for the next election. Mr Green has already put Labour on the defensive by announcing plans to scrap university tuition fees.

Mr Green said the passports would be paid for out of the existing schools budget by scrapping bureaucracy and reallocating funds.

To ensure parents have a choice, he said the Tories would scrap the rules limiting spare capacity in the school system. He expected to create seven to 10 per cent more school places to ensure there is room for movement in the system.

Mr Green said the policy was particularly needed in inner city areas where disappointed parents appeal against one in five admissions decisions, compared to one in 10 nationally.

He said: "Quite simply, these passports will give the money that the state spends on their child's education to the parents and lets them decide in which school it should be spent.

"It will be a passport to a better school for all children. It will offer a radical extension of school choice. It will allow all children to aspire to an excellent education."

To avoid Labour accusations that vouchers would only be used by the middle-classes to subsidise private school fees, Mr Green said the passports would only apply in the state maintained sector. It would allow them to go to any school and enrol their child.

Mr Green expects the scheme to create demand for new schools run by charities, community groups and other community organisations, including schools specialising in vocational or academic subjects.

"We believe that parents know what is best for their children, not Tony Blair or Charles Clarke or me," he said. He was confident that there would be demand for new grammar schools.

"We already have 164 of these schools. They are called grammar schools and Labour and the Liberal Democrats still want to destroy them. We will support our existing grammar schools. And we will go further. Under this scheme we will see new grammar schools opening for the first time in a generation. They will provide a ladder out of deprivation for thousands of children, just like they used to."

2 October 2003: City's grammars face axe to save failing comprehensives  

City's grammars face axe to save failing comprehensives By Liz Lightfoot, Education Correspondent (Filed: 02/10/2003)


Four grammar schools are being threatened with closure by a local authority, which wants to improve the performance of two struggling comprehensives. Selective schools in Gloucester are being blamed for wide variations in performance between the 13 secondaries in the city and a "polarisation of the ability range".

It is the first attack on selection since anti-grammar campaigners forced - and lost - a ballot on the future of Ripon Grammar School in North Yorkshire, in March 2000.

Under a series of options to reorganise schools , Gloucestershire county council plans to close the four single-sex grammars, although some of the proposals issued for consultation allow for the creation of two much smaller, co-educational, grammar schools to replace them.

The schools - Sir Thomas Rich's, Crypts, Gloucester High School for Girls and Ribston Hall - are some of the highest-performing in the country and have vowed to fight the plans.

"We are a highly successful school which has been awarded Beacon status, Language College status, Sportsmark and the Government's achievement award which is now being threatened by a local authority found by Ofsted to be failing," said Ian Kellie, the headmaster of the boys' grammar school Sir Thomas Rich's.

"One of the reasons they give is disparity in school performance but if two struggling schools aren't doing very well then the best thing would be to look closely at them," he said. "What the authority has put out for consultation is a disgrace. There is so little evidence for the closures that the only conclusion I can reach is that the real agenda is to get rid of selection."

The council, which is controlled by the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties, says it wants to tackle wide variations in school performance in the city, which has one failing and one struggling comprehensive school, seven other comprehensives and the four grammars. The two schools have continued to lose pupils despite millions of pounds being spent on them through their inclusion in an Education Action Zone.

A report by the council's working party published yesterday suggested that over the next seven years the grammars would increase their proportion of pupils from 22 to 26 per cent while the less popular schools would suffer falling rolls, threatening their viability. To achieve more balance between schools, the target should be to remove a minimum of 300 and up to 1,800 places of selective provision, it said.

The plan is being strongly opposed by the grammar schools and by Conservative councillors. "This is a breathtaking party political attack on some of this city's best schools," said Jackie Hall, the Tory education spokesman. "How can they claim to consult when every single option involves closure?"

The closures might be illegal without parental ballots, said Mr Kellie, who was a member of the working group on the review of secondary education but resigned in protest at the limited options under discussion.

16 July 2000: No backing for ballots to abolish grammars  

No backing for ballots to abolish grammars By Martin Bentham, Education Correspondent (Filed: 16/07/2000)


THE first year of the Government's campaign to abolish Britain's grammar schools is to end in total failure after activists in the remaining areas seeking a ballot on an end to selection admitted defeat.

Pro-comprehensive groups in Birmingham and the London borough of Sutton say they will be unable to collect the required number of signatures to trigger a vote before the July 31 deadline set by ministers expires. Their admission means that after Ripon, where parents voted overwhelmingly to retain the grammar school, there will be no further votes on ending selection until at least next year.

Supporters of grammars responded by calling on the Government to scrap the ballot legislation to save schools having to expend time and money fighting for their survival. Brian Wills-Pope, the chairman of the National Grammar Schools Association, said: "The people have spoken very clearly and it is time that this ideological campaign against grammar schools was stopped.

"If those who want to abolish grammars cannot even get enough signatures to trigger a ballot, it proves that they do not have the public's support. The Government should repeal the ballot legislation so that everyone can get on with raising standards, which is what grammar schools are all about. Allowing this process to begin again next year, when the public obviously wants to keep grammar schools, will simply be destructive and pointless."

Under the rules set by the Government, those seeking to abolish grammar schools must gather the signatures of 20 per cent of parents eligible to vote before a ballot can be held. Campaigners in Trafford, Greater Manchester, announced last week that they had fallen short of the target. Activists in Kent and Barnet admitted defeat several months ago.

Dr Vin Sharma, who is organising the pro-comprehensive campaign in Sutton, said: "We are not rushing around collecting signatures because we realise that with July 31 approaching we are not going to get there." Dr George Parfitt, who is leading the campaign in Birmingham, where six grammars are under threat, also conceded defeat. "We are now viewing this year as a dummy run for next year, when we will be better organised. But it is not going to be easy."

Left-wing activists are now hoping that the Government will amend the rules governing ballots to make it easier to trigger a vote on the future of the remaining 164 grammar schools. Among the problems which they believe have prevented sufficient signatures being collected are delays in issuing lists of parents eligible to vote and restrictions on gathering signatures on local authority premises, including schools.

Whitehall officials insist that there will be no significant changes to the rules next year, although they also warn that calls for the legislation to be repealed will be rejected. The position adopted by David Blunkett, the Education Secretary, on grammar schools has fluctuated. After the Ripon ballot, he told The Telegraph that he was no longer interested in "hunting grammar schools" and that his famous 1995 pledge to end selection had been "a joke".

Since then he has sent a message of support to pro-comprehensive activists in Trafford, while last week he predicted that grammars would disappear by 2011 as improvements in other schools made selection an "anachronism".