Sayeeda Warsi with her mock frontpage on ITV's The Agenda tonight.
Show Hide image

Tory class war continues as Sayeeda Warsi calls for end to "Eton Mess"

The Tory Foreign Office minister backs Michael Gove and produces mock frontpage with the headline "Number 10 takes Eton Mess off the menu".

Two days after the FT published its interview with Michael Gove in which the Education Secretary described the number of Old Etonians in David Cameron's inner circle as "ridiculous" and "preposterous",  the Tory class war shows no sign of ending. David Cameron is reported to have given Gove "a right royal bollocking" over his comments and it looks as if he'll also have to have a stern word with Sayeeda Warsi.

On tonight's edition of ITV's The Agenda, the Foreign Office minister will join Gove on the barricades when she produces a mock frontpage (featuring OEs Cameron, Jo Johnson, Oliver Letwin and Ed Llewellyn)  with the headline "Number 10 takes Eton Mess off the menu". Even by the standards of Warsi, a minister renowned for going off message, it's a remarkably provocative intervention. She will tell the programme: "Michael was making an incredibly serious point that it can’t be right that the 7 per cent of kids who go to independent school end up at the top tables, not just of politics, but banking, and law, and every other profession, and that what Michael wants to create is a first class, world class state system which means that in future years you will have more pupils from state schools, people like me, around the cabinet table, and in that I fully support Michael Gove."

The more one reads Warsi's headline, the worse it gets for Cameron. How is he supposed to take "Eton Mess" off the menu when he's part of it? Resign? If Warsi was a New Labour minister, I expect resigning is precisely what she'd be ordered to do tomorrow morning.

As Ed Miliband prepares to respond to George Osborne's Budget by declaring that this is a recovery "for the few, not the many", it's hard to think of a worse possible backdrop for the Tories. By denouncing Cameron's "Eton Mess", Warsi has done Labour's spinners work for them. There couldn't be a more perfect attack line for Miliband to store for Wednesday afternoon.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Emmanuel Macron can win - but so can Marine Le Pen

Macron is the frontrunner, but he remains vulnerable to an upset. 

French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron is campaigning in the sixth largest French city aka London today. He’s feeling buoyed by polls showing not only that he is consolidating his second place but that the voters who have put him there are increasingly comfortable in their choice

But he’ll also be getting nervous that those same polls show Marine Le Pen increasing her second round performance a little against both him and François Fillon, the troubled centre-right candidate. Her slight increase, coming off the back of riots after the brutal arrest of a 22-year-old black man and Macron’s critical comments about the French empire in Algeria is a reminder of two things: firstly the potential for domestic crisis or terror attack to hand Le Pen a late and decisive advantage.  Secondly that Macron has not been doing politics all that long and the chance of a late implosion on his part cannot be ruled out either.

That many of his voters are former supporters of either Fillon or the Socialist Party “on holiday” means that he is vulnerable should Fillon discover a sense of shame – highly unlikely but not impossible either – and quit in favour of a centre-right candidate not mired in scandal. And if Benoît Hamon does a deal with Jean-Luc Mélenchon – slightly more likely that Fillon developing a sense of shame but still unlikely – then he could be shut out of the second round entirely.

What does that all mean? As far as Britain is concerned, a Macron or Fillon presidency means the same thing: a French government that will not be keen on an easy exit for the UK and one that is considerably less anti-Russian than François Hollande’s. But the real disruption may be in the PR battle as far as who gets the blame if Theresa May muffs Brexit is concerned.

As I’ve written before, the PM doesn’t like to feed the beast as far as the British news cycle and the press is concerned. She hasn’t cultivated many friends in the press and much of the traditional rightwing echo chamber, from the press to big business, is hostile to her. While Labour is led from its leftmost flank, that doesn’t much matter. But if in the blame game for Brexit, May is facing against an attractive, international centrist who shares much of the prejudices of May’s British critics, the hope that the blame for a bad deal will be placed solely on the shoulders of the EU27 may turn out to be a thin hope indeed.

Implausible? Don’t forget that people already think that Germany is led by a tough operator who gets what she wants, and think less of David Cameron for being regularly outmanoeuvered by her – at least, that’s how they see it. Don’t rule out difficulties for May if she is seen to be victim to the same thing from a resurgent France.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.