Labour last night moved to avoid an outbreak of "class war", after a shadow minister spoke in support of a call to abolish private schools during a university debate.
Opposition front-bencher Kevin Brennan issued a statement insisting that neither he nor his party wanted to see the end of fee-paying schools, after he appeared at a debate on education at the Oxford Union.
The MP was accused of taking the party "back to the 1980s" after appearing as a "Speaker in Proposition" to the motion: "This house would abolish private schools".
The schools minister Nick Gibb said: "This will be of extreme concern to all parents who aspire for the best for their children." However, Mr Brennan claimed speakers could not choose the wording of the motion in a student debate. Labour later claimed the row was a Tory "stunt".