Today's suggestion by Sandy Bruce Lockhart, the Tory head of the Local Government Association, that state schools should introduce ethnic quotas to try and break down segregation has brought a wary response from the government.
Indeed, this is not the first time Sir Sandy has ventured the need for the more accurate counting in matters of race. In a widely publicised letter to the home secretary John Reid in August he blustered that the goverment was failing to keep proper figures on the number of working immigrants in the country. 'Working migrants have become an invisible population,' he warned ominously. Council tax, he went on, might have to 'rise disproportionately' in the future to cope with the additional burden on public services, thus neatly linking middle England anxieties over tax and immigration.
But Lockhart's stance against segregation is perhaps a little more surprising given his past record on minority issues in education. As leader of Kent County Council in 2000 he notoriously defied the government's repeal of section 28 by introducing his own local version of the hated law, ensuring that the council did not 'publish, purchase or distribute material with the intention of promoting homosexuality'. It remained on the council statute books until January 2005, shortly after which he stepped down as leader to become full-time chair of the LGA. How wonderful, therefore, to see Lockhart using his position to continue to spread the message of tolerance and integration in schools.