The first in what will be a long-running series on why the Labour Party should elect anyone other than Ed Balls.
1. Does Britain really need three public-school party leaders?
There is no area of life in which English hypocrisy is on more gorgeous display than in education. The combination of an egalitarian state system and a selective private system is a rich parent's dream. If his children are bright he can pay for them to go private. If they are dim, he can still use his money to secure advantage by paying to move into the catchment area of a good comprehensive.
It ought to be clear in retrospect that the abolition of the grammars was the biggest favour Labour did to the rich in the 20th century because it knocked out schools which produced pupils who could compete with wealthy children.
To make matters worse, a view has taken hold among leftish educationalists, that anything which helps bright state school kids is "elitist" and must be stopped.
In my Observer column on Sunday, I quote a Labour minister
The left cannot be too preachy, however, and it must accept its responsibility for once. Since Labour began the abolition of the grammar schools, a politically correct bodyguard of pseudo-egalitarians has protected the rise of the new ruling class. Former ministers told me how when they tried to introduce programmes to allow the clever children of the working and middle classes to thrive, teaching unions and Department for Education civil servants, who ministers knew sent their own children to private and grammar schools, damned them for their "elitism". It was as if the headmaster of Eton had bribed leftish educationalists to nobble the competition.
All of my minister's programmes were then wound down by Ed Balls when he became education secretary. Balls is a former pupil of Nottingham High School, one of England's leading private schools with fees of nearly £9,000 a year. Now I'm sure he did not think to himself that he must do everything possible to stop working and middle class children competing with his class. Doubtless he dressed his actions up in the language of egalitarianism. But the effect was to reinforce the advantages of private schools. As the Sutton Trust has documented, in politics, the media, law and academia the former pupils of private schools are everywhere in ascendant. The great change of the last 30 years has been to wipe out the advances in social mobility.
You can see this most clearly in politics.
Nick Clegg is the son of a rich man who sent him to Westminster.
David Cameron is the son of a rich man who sent him to Eton.
George Osborne is the son a rich man who sent him to St Pauls.
David Laws is the son of a rich man who sent him to St George's College.
Chris Huhne is the son of a rich man who sent him to Westminster.
Oliver Letwin is the son of a rich man who sent him to Eton
If Labour elects Ed Balls we will have yet another son of a rich man at the top of politics. Cannot the 93 per cent of people in this country who did not go to a private school be represented at the top of politics?
Nick Cohen is a columnist for the Observer and author of You Can't Read This Book: Censorship in an Age of Freedom (Fourth Estate) and What's Left? How The Left Lost Its Way (Harper Perennial). Living With Lies, a collection of his writing for Standpoint, is available as an ebook.
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