Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
12 July 2010

No 10 attempts to defend Cameron over state school comments

Cameron was “empathising” when he claimed he was “terrified” of finding a good state school.

By George Eaton

No 10 has been attempting to explain why David Cameron claimed he is “terrified” of trying to find a good state school for his children.

At this morning’s lobby briefing, the PM’s spokesman said:

What he’s doing was empathising with the issues that many parents face where they are concerned about whether or not there is a decent school locally that they can send their children to . . . which is why the government is committed to a range of reforms to drive up standards, increase choice and increase the diversity of provision.

It’s a reasonable defence, but it doesn’t make up for what was a major blunder. Not only did Cameron falsely suggest that there are no good state schools in London, he also unwittingly revealed that he plans to give his children a comprehensive education not for their own benefit, but for his.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

Here are his comments again:

Content from our partners
How automation can help telecoms companies unlock their growth potential
The pandemic has had a scarring effect on loneliness, but we can do better
Feel confident gifting tech to your children this Christmas

I’ve got a six-year-old and a four-year-old and I’m terrified living in central London. Am I going to find a good secondary school for my children? I feel it as a parent, let alone a politician.

If Cameron really does believe that he will struggle to find a good secondary school for his children, why is he not educating them privately? The answer is that, for a “modernising” Tory leader, this would be considered politically unacceptable.

In an apparent reversal of Diane Abbott’s decision, Cameron is (at least from his own perspective) putting politics before his children. He should either admit as much or — a far better option — visit a few more state schools.

Subscription offer: Get 12 issues for just £12 PLUS a free copy of “The Idea of Justice” by Amartya Sen.