Sir Keir’s School Alumni Reminisce About Their Old Shooting Range

At PMQs last Wednesday, Sir Keir went on the attack over Rishi Sunak’s Winchester education:

“Mr Speaker, Winchester College has a rowing club, a rifle club, an extensive arts collection”

Guido’s already pointed out the hypocrisy of Labour’s anti-private school campaign given Starmer’s own posh, home counties, private education. Questions still remain about who paid for his years at the school after it switched from grammar to independent…

Looking at the specifics of Starmer’s attacks on Rishi’s alma matter, however, the hypocrisy becomes even more heightened. Guido’s managed to pin down the details of Sir Keir’s school’s own rifle range, which was up and running during his time there, in the library attic.

Earlier this year a Facebook group for Reigate Grammar School (RGS) alumni saw fellow ex-pupils wistfully reminiscing about the shooting team:

A recent RGS magazine also revealed that “during some recent renovations in our school, we were lucky enough to uncover a goldmine of memorabilia – panels from the old rifle range, which are covered in names and dates from former pupils.” Guido’s had a look and can’t see Sir Keir’s graffito…

While RGS doesn’t have an art collection, kids from Sir Keir’s college have recently enjoyed school trips to Italy, Greece, Moscow, St Petersburg, Washington, New York, and Belize. Sports and music clubs have also done tours of Jersey, Ireland, Italy, Belgium, Canada, South Africa, Dubai and Barbados. He’s rather shot himself in the foot with this latest attack on aspiration…

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Who Paid Starmer’s Sixth Form (VAT Free) School Fees?

As Labour continue to lead the fight against the injustice of… good schools operated at no expense to the state, Guido can shed yet more light on their leader’s private school days. A report from the Surrey Mirror in 1974 explained that Surrey Council “agreed to spend £289,000 to protect the futures of all pupils entering the Grammar School up to September 1975”. Sir Keir joined Reigate Grammar in 1974.

Which puts the VAT exemption on school fees which he himself is trying to scrap in the shade; Sir Keir benefitted from a taxpayer-funded private school free-ride. To put Starmer’s schooling costs into context: £289,000 then would be worth £2,500,000 today…

In a new development, a former schoolmate of Starmer got in touch to say that, like Starmer, his fees were paid by Surrey Council, though only up until he finished his O-Levels. His parents had to stump up for his fees when he started his A-levels in the sixth form. This would be consistent with this contemporaneous report from the Surrey Mirror:

By Guido’s calculation Starmer was only in the third form when the school became independent. This raises the question of how after he completed his O-levels in the fifth form, his (VAT free) fees for his sixth form A-level years were funded. In the past when Guido has raised questions about Starmer’s school years the Labour press office has become noticeably evasive. Some clarity on this from Sir Keir is required if he is going to make the status of independent school fees a political issue….

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Private School-Hating Labour Candidate Works at Private School

As Labour leads the charge against fee-paying schools, Guido’s attention was drawn to one particularly brash intervention. Labour’s candidate for Hartlepool, Jonathan Brash, claimed on Twitter that private education was not charitable, adding there is “no justification” for tax incentives which “should be abolished”. This intervention may come as a surprise to those who know Jonathan. For not only was he educated at £5,000 per term Yarm School, he now teaches there…

Labour claims to be ready for government, though once again they’re showing an inability to practise what they preach. Fellow Yarm alumnus, Simon Clarke wrote Jonathan this report:

“It shows scarcely believable hypocrisy for Jonathan Brash, who teaches at Yarm School, to attack the very sector in which he is happy to be employed… Labour candidates like Mr Brash deserve A*s for double standards.”

You’d expect a keener sense of political awareness from Jonathan, he used to teach the subject after all…

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Shadow Ministers’ Elite Education Cost A Packet

Given Sir Keir spent most of PMQs trying to hammer the government over tax benefits for private schools – “trickle-down education” is apparently the soundbite of the day – Guido thought it was worth taking a look at those sitting on Starmer’s own frontbench. After all, the parents of 600,000 kids struggling to pay fees might be entitled to think it is some cheek to put VAT on the schools they themselves attended…

  • Keir Starmer attended Reigate Grammar School, which, as Guido reported, became a fee-paying independent school whilst he was studying there. When Keir joined in 1974, the school had been a state grammar for 30 years. In 1976, however, it went private – and according to their website of ‘notable Reigatians’ Starmer remained a student there until 1981. Today his old school charges £20,000 a year.
  • Party Chair Anneliese Dodds attended Robert Gordon’s College. The independent Aberdeen school currently charges fees of almost £14,000 a year…
  • Shadow Defence Secretary John Healey went to Guy Fawkes’ alma mater, St Peter’s School in York. St Peter’s School is an independent school where fees currently cost almost £20,000 a year…
  • Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary Louise Haigh was a student at Sheffield High School. Fees are currently almost £15,000 a year…·
  • Shadow Leader of Commons Thangam Debbonaire went to two independent schools – Bradford Girls’ Grammar School and Chetham’s School of Music. Bradford Girls Grammar School didn’t end its fee-paying status until 2011…

The backbenches are also packed with those more than familiar with private education: John McDonnell skirts over his days at St Joseph’s College. Jeremy Corbyn, the independent Member for Islington North tries to forget he went to a prep school until he was 11. Diane Abbott, Emily Thornberry and Shami Chakrabarti in the Lords all sent their children to independent schools. Still, “trickle-down education” is a nice headline…

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Sir Keir’s (Private) School Days and Old Boys’ Club Dinners

The descent of Labour leadership elections into the Four Yorkshiremen Sketch – with each candidate vying to show off their working-class credentials – is fun to watch. Keir Starmer has one of the toughest jobs, given his dad was a Surrey-living, Aga-owning, Buckingham Palace-attending businessman and he himself is constantly trying to remove references to his millionaire status from his Wikipedia profile.

The BBC recently wrote of the contenders’ class statuses:

“The “posh school” reference is harder to pin down – Jess Phillips and Sir Keir went to state grammar schools, but none of the contenders was privately educated.”

Other profiles of Keir also mention his passing of the 11+ before going to university. However, this overlooks a crucial fact: Keir Starmer’s Reigate Grammar School was a fee-paying independent school in his third year. When Keir joined in 1974, the school had been a state grammar for 30 years, however in 1976 it went private and according to their website of ‘notable Reigatians’ Starmer stayed on at the fee-paying school until 1981. Starmer is happy to leave journalists with the impression that he went to an ordinary state grammar school. The local council is thought to have paid his fees, whereas his better off classmates’ fees will have been paid by their parents. Today his old school charges £20,000 a year…

Whilst he might now like to downplay his posh upbringing – playing violin with Norman Quentin Cook (better known as Fat Boy Slim) and acting in school plays on the same stage that David Walliams first learnt his trade – Guido can also reveal Starmer is still very active in the Reigatian Old Boys’ Club. A co-conspirator passed Guido this picture of Starmer attending the ‘Chairman’s Amicable Dinner’ for former pupils, held at the gilded Reform Club in St James’s. Sir Keir held court after having someone get an emergency bow-tie for him because he had just “hot-footed it from Heathrow in a cab”.

He attends old boy reunions regularly. The picture below was taken at the 2017 dinner at the men’s-only East India Club – the St James’s private members’ club of which Nigel Farage is a member.

He also returned to his school in 2014 to talk to law students and, as of 2016, continues to be an “Ambassador for the [Reigate Grammar School] Foundation”. Clearly he’s very proud of his posh school…

He returned to the private school once again in 2016 for the funeral of his former headmaster, where Sir Keir led the final champagne-fuelled “fitting toast” of “silly sod!”. Rah, rah, rah!

Appropriately, five days ago Rebecca Long-Bailey called for an end to “gentlemen’s club” politics. Unfortunately for her, it seems Labour are about to elect their second posh, male, privately-educated leader in a row…

Guido has contacted Starmer’s office for comment…

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Fraser Burns Polly

Zinger from Fraser Nelson as Polly Toynbee went after Toby Young’s record on free schools:

Polly: “He wanted to create a school for his kids.”

Fraser: “Yes, it’s better than sending them private like some columnists I could mention.”

Remember Polly sent two of her children private. Zing…

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