October 31, 2003
"Indefensible" Abbott could have defended herself better

More on the Diane Abbott story, in the Guardian today:

The veteran campaigner for state school education Diane Abbott yesterday admitted that her decision to send her son to an independent school was "indefensible".

Commenting for the first time on her decision to send her 12-year-old son to the City of London school at the cost of £10,000 a year, the MP for Hackney north and Stoke Newington said she would not, and could not, defend the decision.

"At the end of the day, when I'm on my deathbed, would I regret having been skewered on this show at 12 o'clock at night or doing the right thing by my son?," she told the BBC's This Week programme last night.
"In my position everything you say just sounds self-serving and hypocritical, and there is no point in defending the indefensible. I know it's an indefensible position and I have spent five days not defending it – what more can I do?"

In the past, Ms Abbott has been critical of decisions made by her Labour colleagues - including the prime minister – to send their children to fee-paying schools.

Last night she said: "In Hackney schools, only 9% of black boys get five decent GCSEs against a national average of 50%. I really wasn't prepared to put my son through that system.

"I have campaigned for nearly 10 years on what happens to black children in British schools, but at the end of the day I had to put my reputation as a politician against my son, and I chose my son."

Commenting on my previous reference to this story, Paul Coulam said this, with which I agree:

The point about Diane Abbott's hypocrisy here is not so much that she sent her child to private school while arguing for state education but that she denounced both Tony Blair and Harriet Harman for not sending their children to the local comp and then went on to do precisely the same thing herself.

If I denounced you for cashing cheques from the BBC and then went and did it myself then I would certainly be a hypocrite.

But better to be this kind of hypocrite, than the kind of monster politician who sends her own child to a lousy school just to avoid admitting it. (See my first piece concerning this regularly recurring argument.)

However, before Paul Coulam says it again, she is still not getting it right. And nor is the Guardian for saying that she "admitted" that her decision was indefensible, because that implies that it was.

But Diane Abbott, in sending her child to the best school she can, is now doing the right thing, and apologising for that. Instead, she should be apologising to Tony Blair and to Harriet Harman, for having said the wrong thing about them.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 05:35 PM
Category: Politics