“So you only have aspiration if you went to private school eh?"
Rishi Sunak endured yet another bruising PMQs, as he sought to defend tax breaks for private schools, suggesting that those who can’t afford the fees lack aspiration.
In a week in which the likes of the Daily Mail have sought to make private school fees the hill to die on while millions struggle with the cost of living crisis, after Keir Starmer reiterated the party’s pledge to end the charitable status of private schools and charge VAT on fees, the topic resurfaced during PMQs.
The Labour leader kicked off by asking Sunak: “Winchester College has a rowing club, a rifle club, an extensive art collection and they charge over £45,000 in fees.. so why did he hand them nearly £6m of taxpayer’s money, in what his Levelling Up secretary calls egregious state support?”
Sunak replied that the Tories had given more funding to private schools.
The Labour leader, then quoted Michael Gove, who has also previously supported ending tax breaks for private schools. He said: “His Levelling Up secretary who after all was education secretary for four years said that you could scarcely find a better way of ending burning injustices than scrapping these handouts.
“Just down the road in Southampton 4 in every 10 pupils fail their English or Maths GCSE this year. Is that £6million of taxpayers’ money better spent on rifle ranges in Winchester or driving up standards in Southampton?”
Sunak then went on the defensive, suggesting that Labour’s criticism of tax breaks for private schools was as an attack on the aspiration of million.
He said: “Whenever he attacks me about where I went to school, he is attacking the hardworking aspiration of millions of people in this country. He’s attacking people like my parents. This is a country that believes in opportunity not resentment.”
Sunak showed just how out of touch he is with the rest of the country with his comments. Just because you can’t afford to send your children to private school, doesn’t mean you lack aspiration or don’t work hard. It shows a rather flawed understanding on Sunak’s part of what entails ‘hard work’ and what aspiration is.
His comments were seized on by opposition MPs, with Labour MP Alison McGovern tweeting: “So you only have aspiration if you went to private school eh?
“Glad we got that clear @RishiSunak.”
Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward
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