UK Politics


I’m not a huge fan of Ruth Kelly’s, but the haranguing of her yesterday and over the weekend was plain out of order. David Aaronovitch does a good job this morning of summing up why the story, which has her abused across the media as a hypocrite for sending her child to a public school, has no merit.

It’s not only been the Daily Mail, sister title the Evening Standard, the Daily Mirror and the BBC that have been banging this drum, but the usual characters from the Socialist Campaign Group, including Ian Gibson, “who specialises in friendly-fire snideries”, and Lynne Jones, whose line was: “It makes me wonder about the sort of people who achieve high office who are in new Labour”. Although it clearly doesn’t make her wonder so much about her own colleagues in the Socialist Campaign Group, namely Diane Abbott, MP who as you will remember decided in 2003 to send her son to a top private school.

Long has run the argument that if you are in the Labour Party then sending your children to public school is somethig of an anathema and that they, and their education, are pawns and should be be rightly worn and paraded as a badge of class war honour no matter how bad the local schools are. Although the fact that the Tory press is as keen on ramming this message home (when Labour has no policy of abolishing public schools or is ever likely to – and you can argue that toss as well) as parts of the left only, to me at least, highlights the preposterous nature of this debate and the case against Kelly.

While we would all like state schools to offer the best education possible (and you can argue about what Labour has and hasn’t done this last decade) that’s not always the case and so people make hard (and expensive) choices and personal sacrifices as Diane Abbott previously found out. Anyway Aaronovitch has this to say.

“By yesterday morning nearly-Dyslexogate was leading the bulletins and was top item on the Today programme (whose presenters, you have a right to know, send their children to places like Westminster and Eton). And got them going at the Evening Standard which used its spellchecker to produce the headline HYPOCRITE! Without, you’ll notice, any quotation marks, thereby suggesting that this term of abuse was a plain matter of fact, rather than a reported opinion.

“But why so bothered? Because, one: Ms Kelly’s action, “given the party’s antipathy to private education is nothing short of hypocritical”. But what antipathy would that be? The Government hasn’t sought to close private schools down, and hasn’t condemned people for attending them. Because, two: “If she does opt out, what does that tell us about the Government’s record after nearly a decade in government?” In reality? It tells us next to nothing — the point is completely rhetorical. Because, three: “Does it [Labour] produce schools to which ministers would be happy to send their own children? In 2007 the answer is plainly, ‘no.” But all of Ms Kelly’s children have — until now — gone to state schools. So the answer is plainly: “Mostly, ‘yes.””