Blairite Lord Adonis attacks MPs who send their children to private schools – and Mehdi Hasan calls for the banning of private education altogetherPosted: September 7, 2012
The issue of the apartheid-like education system we have in the UK has come to the fore in the last two years. One factor influencing this was the election of a new government so blatantly dominated by men from the top public schools, together with efforts on the part of Nick Clegg to downplay his own very privileged background (and the public schoolboy handshakes which led to the formation of the coalition in the first place) by talking a lot about social mobility. This rhetoric has however not been backed up with any concrete policies, nor the blocking of Tory policies which have precisely the reverse effect. Nonetheless it has had the effect of making many aspects of our class-ridden society part of public debate again, in a way which they were not either during the Major years, with the empty promise of a ‘classless society’ on his part, nor during the Blairite New Labour era. One exception was the intervention on the part of Gordon Brown in 2000 concerning the non-admission of Laura Spence to Oxford, for which he was roundly attacked both by some of the public school tendency in the Labour Party, and especially by the overwhelmingly privately educated British media. So it is a real surprise, and most refreshing, to see former Blairite guru and now advisor to Ed Miliband, Lord (formerly Andrew) Adonis, attacking MPs who educate their children privately but still want to have their say in state education . The left-wing columnist Mehdi Hasan goes a stage further, drawing upon the idea of US billionaire philanthropist Warren Buffet in calling for the complete abolition of private education . This is a radical but correct idea, which could bring about a fundamental transformation of the nature of British society. When the ruling and middle classes actually have a stake in state education, the political pressure for better schools, resources, and so on will be far greater; as it stands in large measure their fate is determined by an elite who have no personal interest in the matter.
Private education (speaking as one who was himself privately educated) is an archaism and a shocking reminder of a fundamentally divided society. The privately educated, only around 7% of the population, are disproportionately represented at Oxbridge and the Russell Group Universities. It may be some time before a radical proposal like that of Hasan is seriously contemplated, but in the interim, I would propose something more modest: that universities in the UK have quotas of students they can admit, no greater percentage of the privately educated than exist in the nation as a whole – thus no more than 7% privately educated. With some will and imagination, a similar policy could perhaps be implemented in the workplace as well?