A socialist newspaper has received calls to apologise after it ran an article claiming that the recent mauling of an Eton schoolboy on an Arctic expedition was “another reason to save the polar bears”.
Horatio Chapple, 17, was sleeping in his tent on an adventure holiday to the remote Svalbard islands when the starving animal ripped it open and dragged him out, inflicting deadly injuries to his head and torso.
An inquest is currently underway looking into the circumstances of the boy’s death – and the Socialist Worker ran the news under the headline: “Eton by bear? The inquest begins”.
Screenshots of the article with its “incredibly tasteless headline” were shared by incredulous users on Twitter.
Yet to make matters worse, the last two paragraphs of the story read: “Troublemaker has long supported campaigning for the environment.
“Now we have another reason to save the polar bears.”
Adrian Weale, a writer and officer with the Army Reserve whose son was in the same year as Horatio at Eton, described the teenager as “a well-liked and successful boy” and called the Socialist Worker’s conduct “despicable”.
He told The Independent: “As a parent, I can only imagine the pain his death must have caused to his family. That the Socialist Worker thinks the violent death of a child is a fit subject for humour indicates a level of depravity and insensitivity to the suffering of others which is surprising.”
“The Socialist Worker should, at the very least, make a full and unreserved apology to the family and the Socialist Workers' Party should immediately disassociate itself from this article and its author.”
Incredibly tasteless headline in Socialist Worker: pic.twitter.com/vDbAXNvtAt— Rhoda Buchanan (@RhodaBuchanan) July 10, 2014
The article appears all the more shocking given the fact that the Socialist Workers Party’s own national secretary, Charlie Kimber, is himself reported to be an Old Etonian.
And Mr Weale said: “Who knows how Horatio's life would have turned out? There are more than few ex-public schoolboys and girls in the ranks of the SWP and I doubt that many of them would think that the killing of one them or their siblings by a sick animal had anything much to do with their supposed class war.”
Angry social media users described the article as “vile” and “a horrid celebration of young man's death”, and the author and broadcaster Bobby Friedman accused the Socialist Worker of “thinking it's ok to laugh at a child dying because he went to Eton”.
The writer and musician Sean Fleming tweeted the Socialist Worker saying: “The Troublemaker (column) piece about Horatio Chapple is beyond appalling. As a socialist and a worker, you don't speak for me.”
A spokesperson for the Socialist Worker was not immediately available for comment when contacted by The Independent.