Keir Starmer kicked off PMQs with: “Winchester College has a rifle club, a rowing club an extensive art collection and charges over £45,000 in fees. Why did he hand them £6 million this year in what his Levelling-Up secretary called “egregious state support”.
He didn’t mention that Winchester also instils in its pupils wounds that never heal. That it produces more heretics, eccentrics and suicides than any other school in the world and that its alumni are all crazed by cleverness – being either not clever enough, or so clever that their brains actually stick out of their heads. By these criteria, Rishi Sunak – our sensible prime minister – is only a Wykehamist in the sense he embodies the motto of the ancient College: Manners Makyth Money.
Starmer went on: “Just down the road in Southampton, four in every 10 pupils fail their English or Maths GCSE.” He proposed taking Winchester’s £6m “state support” and giving it to Southampton’s schools, unaware that the effect would be that five out of every 10 pupils would fail their Maths or English GCSEs.
To explain the mysterious “state subsidy“: public schools, or private schools, have charitable status and therefore don’t charge VAT on fees. Keir Starmer calls this a “handout“, and further, that Winchester had “£6 million of taxpayer’s money”. That is a true socialist’s view of who owns what.
Rishi Sunak looks at the world through an equally distorting lens. Thanks to Gove’s reforms, he said, 90% of British schools were now either ‘Good’ or ‘Outstanding’. These are technical terms – the former meaning ‘Not Good’ and the latter ‘Barely Adequate’. In the same lexicon, ‘World-class’ means ”Excluding India and South-East Asia’.
‘Whenever he attacks me for where I went to school, he is attacking the aspirations of millions of hard-working people in this country.”
Is he? Really? “Attacking aspirations” is a funny way of putting it. How many of us gross £80,000 a year to send a boy to Winchester? And it’s not just the fees, you know. That sum doesn’t include the costs of the coke and ketamine the lad will need to keep up with his peers.
Rishi also said that Britain didn’t believe in “resentment” – what a subtle sense of humour he has – and that Keir “doesn’t understand that, and that’s why he’s not fit to lead!”
That got a great cheer from his backbenches. They are longing for a bit of meat and perhaps are feeling the dietary lack. Gallery Guido has observed a curious détente between the two main sides over the last few weeks. The class war is still being fought, but in the manner of a Civil War recreation – with style, reasonably good humour but no fatalities. Maybe we’re still settling in for the two-year haul to the next election.