One of the Conservative’s fiercest grammar advocates has said the policy is not only the morally “right thing” to do but is also a “winning formula” for gaining voters.

Speaking at a fringe event on Monday at the Conservative party annual conference, MP Dominic Raab said that meritocratic principles would help restore the public’s belief that the government could be trusted with their “hopes and dreams”.

He added that ideas such as grammars were also a “winning formula for retail politics” – that is, a type of politics that appealed to a wide number of voters on the doorstep.

Grammars are there to be spread beyond the middle-class preserve

In 2014, Raab published the “Meritocrat’s Manifesto” in which he pushed for a wider reintroduction of grammar schools, but on Monday he said the first tranche ought to be placed within disadvantaged communities.

“Our message does need to go out that grammars are there to be spread beyond the middle-class preserve to the kids on the council estates or the rural backwater who want the chance their parents never dreamt of.”

But he admitted the plan was not a silver bullet and needed to work with other policies for meritocracy, including a “radical” idea for opening access to elite universities.

“Why not allow anyone to take an Oxford or Cambridge degree course if they are willing to be paid for it be marked, without having to go to university, pay the tuition fees let alone amass all the student debts?”

“I wonder how many people going through would actually get 2.1s or firsts? I think the results would shock people.”