Privately educated Labour frontbenchers accused of hypocrisy over VAT tax raid

Sir Keir Starmer and his shadow cabinet - nearly 25 per cent of whom attended private schools

Credit: Labour Party

Privately-educated Labour frontbenchers have been accused of hypocrisy over the party’s plans to impose VAT on fee-paying schools.

Nearly 25 per cent of the shadow cabinet attended private schools compared with seven per cent of children whose parents pay for their education.

They include Hilary Benn,Thangam Debbonaire,Louise Haigh and Anneliese Dodds,chairman of the Labour Party.

John Healey,shadow defence secretary,Alan Campbell,opposition chief whip in the Commons,and shadow foreign secretary David Lammy were also privately educated.

Seven of the 31 members of the shadow cabinet attended private school. Additionally,Sir Keir Starmer attended Reigate Grammar School in Surrey which became fee-paying after he enrolled. That compares with 20 of the 32 Tories in the Cabinet who were privately educated.

Labour has pledged to start charging 20 per cent VAT on private schools “as soon as it can be done” if it wins the general election.

The party hopes the policy will raise £1.7 billion,which it has pledged to spend on recruiting 6,500 new state school teachers,rolling out a new national programme for oracy – the ability to express oneself fluently – and ensuring that all state schools in England have access to mental health counselling.

The independent sector has warned that Labour’s proposals would disproportionately affect smaller institutions,while top fee-paying schools such as £50,000-a-year Eton and Winchester would probably be able to absorb the VAT cost.

Angela Richardson,Deputy Chairman of the Conservative Party said: “There is no greater show of Labour hypocrisy than Keir Starmer choosing to deny children the same opportunities members of his shadow cabinet have benefited from.

“Labour has already admitted their VAT policy would lead to larger class sizes,with stretched comprehensive schools left to cope with Starmer’s class war on schools. It’s a simple choice: vote Conservative for a plan for better schools,or vote Labour for higher taxes and larger class sizes.”

A Labour Party spokesman said: “This is more desperate nonsense from a failed Tory Party with absolutely no answers to the challenges facing the country. They only offer £4,800 heaped onto people’s mortgages.

“The next Labour government will break down the barriers to opportunity by investing in our state schools and recruiting over 6,500 new teachers and putting mental health counselling in every secondary school through ending the tax breaks for private schools. It’s time to turn the page on 14 years of Conservative chaos,and rebuild Britain with Labour.”

Rudolf Eliott Lockhart,the chief executive of the Independent Schools Association,said the sector had already seen a 2.7 per cent fall in new enrolments in the last year amid fears over the extra cost they would face from VAT plans.

He anticipates more parents will remove their children from private schools under Labour’s plans and said it was “hard to see” how there would not be more school closures as a result.

“Regardless of where they have been to school,the issue of the impact of VAT on parents and schools really matters. It will have a negative impact on the education landscape if schools delivering important education often in niche areas are forced to close,” he said.

“Irrespective of where they went to school,you would have thought Labour would want those schools to be thriving. The VAT plan is a blunt policy that will damage those schools serving vulnerable or special needs pupils.”

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