It was all about education at PMQs. Sir Keir Starmer mounted a targeted attack on Winchester College whose old boys include Rishi Sunak. The Labour leader had researched the institution that he claims to despise with the fascination of a stalker.
Winchester College has a rowing club, he gushed. It has an art collection too, he marvelled. It even has a rifle-range, he panted. And the fees, he salivated, the fees come to £40,000 per year. While evidently admiring the school, he also embraces a policy of scrapping it. Why? Personal anguish. By destroying Winchester he can deal with the deep and obsessive adoration that causes him so much torment. But he framed his private turmoil as a public good. He said that £6 million worth of tax breaks had been lavished on Winchester while state schools in nearby Southampton had failed. Two-fifths of 16-year-olds flunked their English GCSE, he told us. But then again, is mass illiteracy such a bad thing? Those lucky youngsters won’t have to read Dickens or the next Labour manifesto.
Rishi took Sir Keir’s unprovoked assault personally.
‘Whenever he attacks me about where I went to school he is attacking the hard work and aspiration of millions.’ Then he raised the temperature and hit the big red button: he brought in the seniors. ‘People like my parents felt this is a country that believes in opportunity not resentment… He doesn’t understand that – which is why he’s not fit to lead.’
Rishi was stung, clearly, and Sir Keir’s face misted over with befuddlement. He’d be wise to find a different tactic and to avoid any suggestion that he dislikes newcomers who arrive here and do well. ‘Labour hates migrants,’ would be a killer slogan from a PM of Asian descent.