Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

Down with public school

Sir: It was startling to hear Douglas Hurd, when presenting The Search for Peace on BBC 2, lapse from political correctness by saying of Anthony Eden, `An Etonian, and none the worse for it!' Eden would have been a lot the worse for it today, in fact he might not even have got into Parliament. Not a single Harrovian was elected last May, and such Carthusians and Wykehamists as get in keep a very low profile. After Lord Hurd's elevation there survive, with a few others, two prominent Etonians, Tam Dalyell and Alan Clark. Tony Blair never mentions Fettes, but William Hague is grateful for the very good education he received at a comprehensive school, and, to his credit, is without hostility to independent schools. It is the anonymous constituency selection committees who deprive the people of the chance of voting for many potential Attlees, Gaitskells or Macmillans who never get their foot on the bottom rung of politics. Oxbridge openly discriminates against independent schools, and Robin Cook has announced he wants to keep their candidates out of the Foreign Office. It is commonplace for job applicants to omit the name of their school - just writing `secondary school' and the dates. We have not yet reached the rigid castes of Stalin's regime, when a dedicated Communist could be demoted or sacked if an enemy accused him of being `of unreliable bourgeois origin'.

Sooner or later, someone who has been victimised because his employers found out where he was educated many years ago, will initiate a test case for compensation for educational discrimination.

Gordon M.L. Smith 9 Greenfield Way, Storrington, West Sussex

A lot of bottle

Sir: Toby Young (`First smokers, now drinkers', 15 November) would have relished being present at the bar in the Main Press Center in Atlanta at the start of the Olympic Games, when Ian Wooldridge of the Daily Mail earned the undying gratitude of all the British journalists and PRs present.

Noting, as we all had, that an order for one alcoholic drink was met with hesitation, and a request for a repeat led to huddled consultations, the great Wooldridge rapped on the bar top and told the bar staff to gather round. He then gave them a talk, describing the hours that he and his colleagues were working, and comparing them to the much easier work pattern of American opposite numbers. From now on, he wanted no more nonsense. When he or any of those present ordered a round, it was to be served double quick and no hesitation. We never had any trouble after that.

One member of the IOC told me that for him to vote ever again for a United States city, it would not be enough for it to prove that it had muzzled commercialism and mastered security and public transport, it would also have to prove to him that, when he took his wife to dinner at a $60-a-head restaurant and ordered wine, the maitre d' would not be heard muttering as he walked away, `Jesus Christ! That guy just ordered a whole bottle.'

Osman Streater Savile Club, 69 Brook Street, London W1

Notes from smaller islands

Sir: Mark Steyn's allegation (`The appeal Louise lost', 15 November) that `you Brits have become emotionally incontinent' may well be right. But the reason for it is the Americanisation of Britain. I love my visits to America and value my American friends enormously. But what is right for that vast country is not necessarily correct for export to a small island.

The enormous growth of American-type supermarkets, cash machines, fast-food cafes, soft-drink machines, television programmes, all result in the terrifying loneliness of individuals. It breaks up families and family values and replaces them with a life where you do not need to meet and talk with another human being. All your needs are provided by machines - no local shops, no bank clerks, no local pubs, no theatres....

This is what has resulted in the amazing reaction to Diana's death and Louise's conviction. …

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