Don't play Eton class game, says headmaster

Warning for Labour over attacks on public school background of Tory leader

The headmaster of Eton College has spoken of his surprise and dismay that his school is expected to be used as a political football in this year's general election.

Gordon Brown has already fired the opening shots of a campaign to highlight the privileged backgrounds of old boy David Cameron and other senior Conservatives, mocking opposition tax policies for having been "dreamed up on the playing fields of Eton".

Tony Little, who has been head of the £9,617-a-term school for seven years has criticised politicians who have used its name to score points.

In an interview with The Independent, he insisted Eton worked hard to provide places for boys from a variety of backgrounds.

Mentioning the Eton connection is a line of attack Labour is expected to pursue in the election. Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, has also protested that too many of Mr Cameron's close allies are "public schoolboy millionaires".

Mr Cameron, in turn, has been trying to play down his schooling in an attempt to boost his credibility with the general public and avoid being dismissed as an out-of-touch toff.

Mr Little said "one might have hoped" such tactics had been left behind in the last century, but added that he and the school tried to rise above them.

"Depending on where you stand, [Eton] can mean a whole variety of different things. What we focus on is simply doing the best in making the school as good as it can be for as many people as we can," he said.

He insisted that the political squalls affecting the school would play themselves out: "When you are an institution that's been around for 569 years, it does give you a sense of deep-rooted purpose and not bending to whatever the current winds might be. We're here for the long run."

He said caricatures of Eton, the country's largest boarding school, with 1,300 places, failed to take account of its history of offering scholarships to less well-off children since its foundation in 1440. Twenty per cent of boys at the school received financial help, averaging 60 per cent of their fees, he added.

He said he was not surprised so many old Etonians, including the Mayor of London Boris Johnson, Lord Douglas Hogg, Oliver Letwin and the shadow Leader of the House, Sir George Young, were prominent in public life.

"What [pupils] are aware of is that some really interesting people have gone to Eton and made a mark in the world. That does encourage a kind of confidence in you – if others have done it, why not you?"

Toff target: Attacks by Labour

"It's the Eton mob, isn't it? They used to fight their wars on the Eton playing fields. Now they win elections on the Eton playing fields."

John Prescott, 2005

"I don't want to start a class war, but do we really want our country to be run by 20 people who went to Eton?"

Hazel Blears, 2006

"The two Davids [Davis and Cameron] – what a pair they make. While one was on manoeuvres with the Territorial Army the other was plotting midnight raids on Eton's tuck shop."

Jacqui Smith, 2007

"David Cameron's love for Eton knows no limits. He has removed good professional politicians like [former shadow Commons leader] Alan Duncan and replaced them with southern constituency public school millionaires."

Denis MacShane, September 2009

"I have to say, that with him and [Zac] Goldsmith, their inheritance tax policy seems to have been dreamed up on the playing fields of Eton."

Gordon Brown, December 2009

"If they were to win the election, you would have a mayor of London, chancellor of the exchequer and prime minister all coming from a tiny clique who went out trashing restaurants and left large wodges of money to pay for the damage."

Alan Johnson, December 2009

News
Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
people
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Sport
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Sport
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
football
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
Sport
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Sport
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
News
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
News
i100
News
i100
Sport
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
boxing
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Primary Teacher

£90 - £145 per day + travel expenses: Randstad Education Newcastle: Primary Su...

Service Delivery Manager - Software Company

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Service Delivery Manager Kingston Up...

Year 3 Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Year 3 Primary Teacher in HullA f...

Drama Teacher - Hull and Grimsby

Negotiable: Randstad Education Hull: The JobRandstad are currently in need of ...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments