Cameron and Clarke attack Brown over 'politics of envy' as poll shows Tories are leading Labour by 13 points

Kenneth Clarke today joins the battle against Gordon Brown’s ‘class war’ tactics, accusing him of ‘base political mudslinging’ in attacking David Cameron’s background.

Writing in The Mail on Sunday, the Tory business spokesman condemns the Prime Minister for his jibe in the Commons last week that Conservative policies were dreamed up on ‘the playing fields of Eton’.

The remark, made during Prime Minister’s Questions, was the first time Mr Brown has directly used the Tory leader’s schooling for political reasons.

Class war

Class row: David Cameron went to Eton, George Osbourne attended St Paul's School for boys and Kenneth Clarke went to Nottingham High School. The shadow business secretary has accused Gordon Brown of playing the politics of envy

Mr Clarke writes: ‘Gordon and his dwindling band of advisers have turned their backs on grown-up politics and settled on the politics of envy as a last resort. This decision is a major blunder which Gordon and the others will soon come to regret.

It marks the definitive end of the New Labour project.’

The intervention of the Tory grandee, who returned to the party’s front bench in January, shows how seriously the ‘class’ matter is being taken.

The plainspeaking 69-year-old is a powerful weapon in the Conservatives’ battle to appear in tune with ordinary voters.

Mr Clarke points out that Harriet Harman, Labour’s deputy leader, went to St Paul’s Girls’ School – the sister institution of St Paul’s School for boys, which was attended by Shadow Chancellor George Osborne, often called a ‘toff’ by Labour.

Mr Clarke says he went to Nottingham High School, the same private school as Schools Secretary Ed Balls. But while Mr Clarke’s fees were met by the State after he passed the 11-Plus, Mr Balls’s were paid by his parents.


Mr Brown brought up Zac Goldsmith, left, when he claimed the Tories economic policy was 'dreamed up on the playing fields of Eton'. It was also revealed last week that multi-millionaire Goldsmith, a prospective Tory MP, is non-domiciled in France for tax purposes

‘Modern electors aren’t concerned about what school a politician went to. They are concerned about what would-be leaders will do about the the state of the country,’ Mr Clarke writes.

Mr Cameron enters the row today on the BBC’s Politics Show. He will describe Mr Brown’s attacks on his education as ‘a petty, spiteful and stupid thing to do’.

The Conservative leader, himself an Old Etonian, warned the Prime Minister and First Secretary Lord Mandelson that their 'class war' tactics would put off voters.

In a pre-recorded interview, Mr Cameron said he was 'not in the slightest bit embarrassed' about his private schooling.

'I never hide my background or where I'm from or anything about my life like that,' he said.


Privileged: Deputy Leader of the Labour Party Harriet Harman attended the private St Paul's School for girls

'My view is very simple... that what people are interested in is not where you come from but where you're going to, what you've got to offer, what you've got to offer the country.

'Now if Gordon Brown and Mandelson and the rest, if they want to fight a class war, fine, go for it. It doesn't work.

'It's a petty, spiteful, stupid thing to do but if that's what they want to do, you know, go ahead.

'Frankly I think the country is more interested in who are these people, are they any good, have they got the right ideas, will they take the country forward, have they got the energy and vigour and dynamism that we so badly need?


Exclusive education: Schools Secretary Ed Balls' parents paid for him to attend Nottingham High

'And the answer to those questions I believe is yes. But the best way to test it, you know what? Have an election.'

Other Tories who went to Eton include Mayor of London Boris Johnson and the shadow leader of the Commons Sir George Young.

Zac Goldsmith, the millionaire environmentalist and prospective Tory MP who last month admitted he had non-domicile tax status, also attended the school.

At Prime Minister's Questions last Wednesday, Mr Brown said the Tories' plans for inheritance tax cuts would help millionaires but cost £2 billion of investment in public services.

'I have to say, that with you and Mr Goldsmith your inheritance tax policy seems to have been dreamed up on the playing fields of Eton,' he jibed, to cheers on the Labour benches.

Mr Cameron stressed today that there were many members of his shadow cabinet who attended state schools.

They included shadow foreign secretary William Hague, shadow defence secretary Liam Fox and party chairman Eric Pickles.

Mr Cameron said: 'If you look at the people in my top team, if you look at William Hague, if you look at Eric Pickles, if you look at Liam Fox... it's not true to say that all the people at the top of the Conservative Party were privately educated. They weren't.'

David Cameron remains on course to secure a Commons majority at the next general election, according to a new poll.

The YouGov survey for The Sunday Times gave the Tories a 13-point lead, enough to form a government but still down on the 14-point advantage they had in the same poll last month.

It will give the Conservatives some comfort after recent polls suggesting their lead had fallen to 10 points or less, pointing to a hung Parliament in the election expected next spring.

Support for the Tories was down from 41 per cent to 40 per cent, but Labour failed to improve on 27 per cent and the Liberal Democrats also stood still on 18 per cent, according to YouGov.

The poll also found that 52 per cent of voters thought the Tories were still the part of the rich, compared with 31 per cent who did not.

That finding might embolden Labour attempts to highlight the privileged upbringing of Tory leader Mr Cameron and other shadow ministers.

:: YouGov interviewed a representative sample of 2,095 voters online, across Britain, on December 3 and 4.

A further poll, by ICM for The Sunday Telegraph, also gave the Tories a big enough lead to obtain a majority.

It put the Tories on 40 per cent, 11 points clear of Labour on 29 per cent. The Lib Dems were on 19 per cent. If repeated in an election, the Tories would have a majority of between 20 and 25 seats.

But ICM found that Labour had significantly closed the gap on the Tories since a similar poll taken by ICM in late October.

The Tories were down two points since then, while Labour were up four. The Lib Dems were also down two.

:: ICM Research interviewed a random sample of 1,001 adults by telephone on December 2 and 3, weighting results to the profile of all adults.


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