The more the Tory leadership contenders try to demonstrate that they don’t come from privileged backgrounds, the more ridiculous it gets.
While Penny Mordaunt and Liz Truss are forced to trot out lines about being grammar school kids, poor Tom Tugendhat has the handicap of being an old boy of one of the top public schools, St Paul’s.
It’s really quite something listening to all the Oxbridge and public school-educated TV interviewers spitting out accusations about the candidates’ education as if they are accusing them of paedophilia.
Rishi Sunak is contending with a double whammy of privileges. His principal albatross is having been head boy at Winchester (another top public school).
While Penny Mordaunt and Liz Truss are forced to trot out lines about being grammar school kids, poor Tom Tugendhat has the handicap of being an old boy of one of the top public schools, St Paul’s
There’s a small amount of damage limitation in the fact that he attended as a scholarship boy of immigrant parents. But he went on to marry Akshata Murthy, the multi-millionaire daughter of one of India’s most fabulously wealthy men.
In years past, Rishi’s backstory might have been considered inspirational. A perfect demonstration that a weedy-looking child of Indian descent can climb to the top of the tree in this country. Not now.
Which is why any parent entertaining the notion that their child would stand a better chance of being World King (as Boris Johnson aspired to be) if they can get them into a top private school must be thinking again.
Rishi Sunak is contending with a double whammy of privileges. His principal albatross is having been head boy at Winchester (another top public school)
Certainly, I am wondering whether it was necessary to pay the enormous Westminster School fees I did for years. I imagined it was a place with wonderful teachers where my child would to learn how to learn and how to use that knowledge.
Westminster is the alma mater of political thinkers including Nigel Lawson, Tony Benn, Nick Clegg and John Russell, the Whig Prime Minister. But by the time my son got there, it had lost any claim to encourage political opinions – he was nearly expelled by his uninspiring headmaster for taking part in the student tuition fees marches of the time.
Fortunately for both him and me, my son has never had political aspirations. So the scar of such an eminent public school education isn’t as damaging as it might be.
The race to prove you haven’t benefited from privilege is not only happening in politics. But right now it’s turning out to be one of the more ludicrous factors in deciding who is going to lead this country.
Liz and Kemi can’t give heels the boot
I feel a smidgin of sympathy for the female Tory leadership candidates who have chosen in this heatwave to squeeze themselves into body-hugging dresses and high heels as if they’re lining up in Alan Sugar’s boardroom on the The Apprentice. Kemi and Suella in blue, Liz trussed up in red.
I find that hot weather makes me hoard water like a camel, requiring the loosest clothes, which are generally hugely unflattering. Flowing dresses and flip-flops, however, are not really an option when you’re under the lenses of the country’s media.
Is Gary worth more than fearless Lyse?
THE annual release of BBC salaries always provides hours of bathtime fun. Gosh, is Gary Lineker really worth more than a million pounds a year? Is Lyse Doucet, who has been risking her life to bring news from Ukraine, worth less than a fifth of the money the Match Of The Day presenter gets?
And how do we feel about the £5,000 pay rise for Question Time host Fiona Bruce?
I’m sure there would be equally fascinating and ludicrous inequalities if other institutions were to make public their employees’ pay. After all, while the desire to make money is something that motivates many of us, as a nation we like nothing more than to criticise those who achieve it. Even if they have been state-educated like the top two names on the BBC’s list, Gary Lineker and Zoe Ball.
Childbirth guru who pushed us all
Catherine Hill, who died recently, was a fashionable childbirth guru in the 1980s and 1990s, and more recently gave the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge personal antenatal classes.
For those of us who paid for our weekly gathering all those years ago, she was a reassuring guide through the nerve-racking later days of pregnancy. In her small, glass-sided Chiswick conservatory, we learnt how to huff and puff in labour and crucially what (and what not) to expect from our partners. During my days at Vogue magazine, time off to cross the city for classes by this benign Jean Brodie was never questioned.
Unlike Miss Brodie’s students in Muriel Spark’s brilliant novel, Catherine Hill’s ‘girls’ were not hers for life.
But we do have a nostalgic fondness for each other. Although I can’t claim to have become firm friends with any of my classmates, when we run into each other we are all eager to know how the new-born babies we brought in in their car seats to introduce to each other are getting on 27 years later.
Airlines perfect the last-minute letdown
We were due to travel to Athens at the end of August for a wedding. But surprise, surprise, the flight has been cancelled.
Looking at rebooking options, I was amazed to see how many flights there were from Heathrow to Athens on the same day. Surely that’s the problem: there are just too many flights in the first place.
Isn’t the solution to shrink the schedules, rather than cause pandemonium by cancelling flights on an ad hoc basis?
It sounds like common sense to stop travellers booking seats on flights that may never take off. But airlines are so terrified of having to give up their prized landing slots at Heathrow that they’d rather offer the flight, take our cash – and let us down at the last minute.
A French favourite crosses the Channel
PETANQUE, long the cherished game of French provincial town squares, has become newly popular on this side of the Channel.
As a recent convert, I’m here to say it beats mindfulness as a relaxation technique. On a summer evening under the trees, the plop of the boules on the sandy pitch just needs the clicking of cicadas to give you that holiday feeling.
ALEXANDRA SHULMAN’S NOTEBOOK: Now Tories are damned by their old school ties