Abbott's son denies his mother is a hypocrite over private school

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Indy Politics

The son of the Labour MP Diane Abbott defended his mother yesterday by insisting on a radio phone-in that she was not a hypocrite for sending him to an independent school.

While Ms Abbott has not commented on the issue, James, 12, told LBC Radio that it had been his choice to attend the City of London School. "She's not a hypocrite; she just put what I wanted first," he said.

"My mum didn't force me to go to private school. I took the test for the schools I wanted to go to and I chose the school I wanted to go to. If I wanted to go to a state school then my mum would have let me go to a state school," he added.

The borough of Hackney, where Ms Abbott lives as MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, has been named as one of five boroughs with the worst education standards in the capital.

The City of London School in central London is an all-boys establishment with extensive sporting facilities, high academic rankings and annual fees of around £10,000.

Ms Abbott, who became the first black woman MP in 1987, has been accused by teachers' unions of having double standards. Only last month, speaking after Labour's defeat in the Brent East by-election, she said: "The people of Brent East, like others elsewhere in Britain, need education on the basis of merit, not ability to pay."

Seven years earlier, she publicly criticised Harriet Harman, now the Solicitor General, when it came to light that she was sending her children to the grant-maintained London Oratory school. "She made the Labour Party look as if we do one thing and say another," Ms Abbott said at the time.

It was not clear last night if Ms Abbott had known of her son's plans to publicly defend her actions.