"I want them to be available to the whole community – open to all children and not just the privileged few. I want them to be part of a school system that releases opportunity, rather than entrenching it. "They must not be the preserve of the privileged few, creaming off the best pupils while leaving the rest to fend for themselves, causing problems for and draining resources from other nearby schools. So let me give you my assurance: I would never tolerate that."I believe that Liberal Democrats should welcome diversity in educational provision. And that we should welcome it particularly in areas where the schools currently provided to those who cannot buy their way out of the system are not very good.
Perhaps there are ways of providing this within the sate system, but we don't talk about those much. Instead, despite having been out of power for 90 years, many of us seem determined to die in the ditch defending the status quo.
As to the profit motive... A common view on the left, and amongst Liberal Democrats, is that anyone who works in state education - even superheads on six-figure salaries - is selfless and motivated solely by a wish to the best for children. By contrast, anyone who works in business is motivated purely by money.
But the truth is that we are all moved by a wide variety of motives, both noble and base. I suspect that allowing free schools to make a profit would not make much of a difference to the way those schools are run.
Which is why the making of profits is a far less important issue than ensuring that free schools are open to all.