Walden found office unedifying

July 28, 1995

Retiring Conservative MP George Walden's disillusionment with party politics began during his spell as minister for higher education.

Mr Walden, who this week announced his decision not to stand again as Conservative candidate for Buckingham - where he has been MP since 1983, was higher education minister from 1985 to 1987. He unexpectedly chose to leave the Government after the 1987 general election - a precedent followed after the 1992 poll by a similarly independent-minded successor in the post, Alan Howarth.

At the time Mr Walden cited a desire to spend more time with his young family: "That was not the only reason. I was beginning to feel unhappy about the sort of things one was expected to do as a minister".

Mr Walden's successors in Government are, he says, ducking the issues: "The Labour Party and even, God help us, the National Union of Students are taking a more radical view of how the system should be funded and talking about graduate taxes".

He was sceptical about the speed of expansion: "I remember horrifying academic audiences by saying that one reason why our higher education was arguably the best in the world was that it was selective."

He now intends to campaign for closer links between the state and private school systems.

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