Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner has sparked debate over “anti-Etonian prejudice” after her “scum” comment on Saturday night.
Rayner made headlines when, speaking of Conservatives, she said: “We cannot get any worse than a bunch of scum, homophobic, racist, mysoginistic, absolute pile …of banana republic…Etonian…piece of scum.”
Eton College costs almost £45,000 per year and since first opening its doors in 1440 by King Henry VI, it counts 20 prime ministers amongst its alumni, including Boris Johnson.
Eton is also the alma mater of the current Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, writer George Orwell, and adventurer Bear Grylls.
Since making the comments on Saturday night, Rayner doubled-down and today tweeted that she would be happy to sit down with Boris if he withdraws his problematic comments, too.
Although the most emphasis has been placed on the “scum” comment, the Eton remark has also struck a nerve.
Sign up to our new free Indy100 weekly newsletter
Twitter has been ablaze with people debating the remark, with some comparing anti-Etonian sentiment to racism.
In an article forThe Spectator, Sam Leith wrote that whereas being homophobic, misogynistic and “other forms of horridness” are a choice, going to Eton is “an accident of birth”.
He wrote: “You no more choose to be Etonian than you choose to be black, or gay, or or a cervix-haver. So snarling at Etonians like that… it’s, like, racist, yeah?”
The Guardian also published an opinion piece on Rayner’s comments today, with Zoe Williams writing that Tory ministers are weaponising “fake hurt” and “victimhood”.
Commenting on the notion of anti-Etonian prejudice, Williams wrote: “If you ever find yourself even scoping in your head the parameters of an argument with someone who thinks Etonophobia is as bad as racism, that is a catastrophic waste of both your own and the world’s time.”
People took to Twitter to weigh in on the Eton prejudice debate, with former footballer and pundit Gary Neville tweeting “wtf” along with a blushing shocked emoji.
Not everyone agreed however, with some comparing Rayner’s comments to “student politics”.
In 2018, a survey by Sutton Trust found that Oxbridge offered more places to alumni of the same eight top schools than 2,900 other schools put together.
Eton and other elite institutions may be losing their grip on Oxbridge, however.
In July the Financial Times reported that the number of Oxbridge offers received by Eton students dropped from 99 in 2014 to 48 this year.
Remarking on their decision to send their son to Eton, one parent told the Financial Times that when children attend top independent schools, you receive “a label that stays with you for life and it’s not a good label.
It clearly means that when they are applying for university or jobs, they are at a disadvantage unless they are truly brilliant.” Another parent said that in their place of work, privately educated candidates are treated with a “certain amount of stiffness” and may be overlooked for “someone hungrier” who wasn’t privately educated.
Regardless of where you stand on Eton College and it’s alumni, the fact that so many prime ministers throughout British history were educated at the same school does raise an eyebrow.