It looks like Ben Wallace had sugar on his cornflakes today. The Defence Secretary has gone 'full tonto' this morning at the Sunday Mirror over a story in today's newspaper about the amount of cash his department is spending to send the kids of top army officers to leading public schools. The paper says that last year some £1.5 million was handed over by the Ministry of Defence to schools like Eton, Harrow and Ampleforth, as part of the long-standing Continuity of Education Allowance. This covers 10 per cent of boarding school fees for forces parents so spouses can accompany them on overseas postings.
But what really seems to have riled Wallace is the insinuation that he has somehow played a part in £668,000 being given by his department to his old school Millfield in Somerset. It takes around £42million a year from rich parents and charges boarders £43,830 a year – something that the Mirror contrasts with nearby state run Crispin Academy which receives taxpayer funding of just £5,682 per pupil. Wallace, the son of a soldier in the 1st King's Dragoon Guards, attended the school in the 1980s and is clearly proud of his education which is listed on the government website.
Taking to Twitter this morning, he lambasted the 'pathetic' and 'desperate' story, writing that 'my mother was a teacher at the local Crispin school and I attended a mix of private and local schools while living in Somerset.' Wallace, himself a former Scots Guards' officer, dismissed suggestions that 'the Secretary of State sits there dishing out allowances as implied.' He then added the final kicker to his critics in the Labour press, writing:
“Of course when I was at Millfield I sat in class next to the daughter of the Mirror groups' managing director! Funny how it is alright for the champagne socialists media to send their kids to Millfield but not son of teacher –"do as i say not as I do.”
Ouch! And you thought the war in Ukraine was turning nasty....