Politicians – as we all know – often travel extraordinary lengths to demonstrate that they live in the same way as “you and me”. Where David once rolled up his sleeves and opted for Dave, Alexander de Pfeffel today titles himself as Boris. The most common – and the most shallow – trick, however, relates to politicians sending their children to “state” schools. Some recent twittering acts as a demonstration of this trickery.
Earlier today, Alastair Campbell took to Twitter to jibe at the privileged nature of the current Conservative Party cabinet;
Can anyone name a member of the Cabinet whose children are educated in a State school?
— ALASTAIR CAMPBELL (@campbellclaret) May 18, 2020
Clearly, he had hoped the answer would be a resounding ‘NO!’. But Michael Gove (Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, no less…) responded, quite simply, ‘Yes’. A gotcha moment, if ever there was one, so it was clear Mr. Gove had hoped. Well, not really.
There was quite a bit of hype when Mr. Gove, then the Education Secretary, sent his daughter to a state school, but this was misplaced.
His daughter attended the Grey Coat Hospital School – a single-sex, former grammar which is highly subscribed to (with 1,104 families applying for 151 places in 2011), and is highly selective (by wealth, for a start, since not everybody can afford the local housing costs…).
Of course, there is no problem with this in and of itself (though it would be ridiculous to brand this as on par with the nation’s other state schools, which bear no resemblance). The catch is that, in listing this school – some distance from his home – as the first (and eventual) choice for his daughter, Mr. Gove turned down a far-more standard state school (Burlington Danes Academy) which was within walking distance of his front doorstep. Not any old school, but one which he personally championed as ‘a model of autonomy and strong leadership’; the headteacher of which was invited to talk at Tory conference. The type of school which, in other words, Mr. Gove and his Party urged members of the public to send their children to.
Mr. Gove had every right to send his child to this school of his choosing. To shine a light on another, far more ideally-located school, the likes of which the general public should hold in high regard, and then to have sent his own child to a school which – in his wife’s words (journalist Sarah Vine) – ‘is not exactly Sinkhouse High’, is an act of great, and condemnable hypocrisy. To further boast about having sent his child to a “state” school is an act of spin, which does discredit to his profession.
Don’t think Mr. Campbell gets off well here. His former boss, Tony Blair, is just as guilty of all this. He was praised for sending his child to a “state” school, overlooking the fact that this too was highly selective and subscribed to – unlike any other normal state school. As Peter Hitchens was so right in saying; ‘London Oratory is a comprehensive school – but in the same way that 10 Downing Street is an inner-city terraced house.’
Photo by Policy Exchange on Flickr.