Cameron's 'breathtaking hypocrisy' in race row

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The Independent Online

David Cameron was accused of "breathtaking hypocrisy" yesterday over the ethnic composition of the Conservative Party as the dispute between the Prime Minister and Oxford University over the recruitment of black students continued to simmer.

Mr Cameron's office was unrepentant for drawing attention to the issue. He had said it was "disgraceful" that only one black student had been admitted to a course last year at Oxford. The university had countered by saying the figure was "misleading" because 41 had been recruited and the number Mr Cameron had cited referred to UK-born students of Afro-Caribbean origin.

Last night critics pointed out that, while ethnic minorities formed 22 per cent of Oxford's student population, just 4 per cent of Conservative MPs were non-white after last year's general election.

Yasmin Qureshi, Labour MP for Bolton South-East, said: "David Cameron's hypocrisy is breathtaking. With a lower proportion of his own MPs being ethnic minorities than Oxford's students, he should get his own house in order before lecturing others."

Sources, meanwhile, claimed that the correct figures for Oxford's admission figures were "nothing to celebrate".

Wendy Piatt, the director general of the Russell Group, which represents 20 of the country's leading higher-education research institutions (including Oxford and Cambridge), said of the row: "It is... really important that politicians understand the facts behind access for students from non-traditional backgrounds.

"The most important reason why too few poorer students even apply to leading universities is that they are not achieving the required grades at school. Too often an individual's life chances are reduced at a very early age – well before they might even think of applying to university."