James Delingpole

I’m proud to come out as an Eton parent

29 December 2012

I was just traipsing across the fields towards Common Lane, there to collect Boy en route to his St Andrews’ Day F-Blockers’ exhibition match of the Wall Game, when I was accosted by a splendid, Spectator-reading type who’d parked his car next to mine.

‘Are you James Delingpole?’ he asked.

I admitted that I was. We got talking. There was only one possible reason for my being there, as he and I both knew. ‘Do you think I should finally out myself?’ I said. ‘I mean I’ve been living the lie for what seems like an age. And it’s so unlike me to keep secrets from my readers. Let’s face it, fearless and frank autobiography rather is my schtick.’ My new friend agreed that perhaps the time had come. So here goes. I have become an Eton parent.

‘But why would you want to send your boy to a school where he’s going to be stigmatised for life?’ asked another friend (whose boy is going to Winchester — so, like, he can talk…).

The easy answer would be that it wasn’t my choice, it was Boy’s. His appetite was whetted at about seven when he read Charlie Higson’s Young James Bond books, many of which are set at ‘School’. Then he went to Papplewick, which is one of Eton’s feeder preps, so inevitably he was keen to go where lots of his friends are going. What it really came down to, though, was the kit.

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And I don’t blame him for this, because it was why I most wanted him to go there too. (That was also the real reason I took up fox-hunting, by the way. So I had a legitimate reason to look splendid in a black hunt coat with a stock and a gold stock pin.) As all dads will know, one’s Boy is an extension of one’s ego. (Or similar.) Watching him striding down Eton High Street like he owns the place in his tailcoat, pinstripe trousers and starched collar is a bit like owning a Lamborghini Murciélago — only better, because Murciélagos don’t contain 50 per cent of your genes.

One of the reasons you would buy a Murciélago, of course, is as what’s technically known as a ‘fuck-off gesture’. You’re perfectly aware that there are lots of begrudgers out there who want to scrape a key down the side of your gleaming toy — and this is part of the appeal. The same is true of being an Eton parent. Well it certainly is in my case.

This envy and hatred comes from all sorts of directions, not least from all those parents who’d traditionally have considered their sons a shoo-in for School but now realise they have to settle for Radley (or similar) instead because Eton has grown far too academic.

‘Eton isn’t what it was,’ you’ll hear them complain. And it’s true: it isn’t. Not only is it harder to get into but the social (and ethnic) mix is much broader. Twenty per cent of the boys are on bursaries and the school is trying to raise sufficient funds for it to become completely needs-blind. This is the reason that an impoverished oik like me can send his Boy there: it would have been quite impossible otherwise.

But the more obvious resentment is a product of the deeply ingrained inverted snobbery, blind prejudice and weapons-grade ignorance which are the hallmarks of contemporary Britain. This is what my friend was talking about when he asked ‘Why Eton?’ Sure, being an OE isn’t a total bar to success in the modern world — as the Prime Minister, the Mayor of London, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Damien Lewis, Harry Lloyd et al could testify. You only have to notice how often so many of the above spend apologising for their education, though, to realise what a poisoned chalice it is. Dominic West (out of The Wire) once described it as ‘a stigma that is slightly above “paedophile” in the media in a gallery of infamy’.

Poor Dominic. Actually, not poor -Dominic, for I’m not buying this rubbish for one second. OK, so I’ve only got one term’s experience — sorry, one half’s experience — to go on so far, and it’s not like Boy, being 14, communicates with me an awful lot. But from what little I’ve gathered about his time there so far, I’d say he’s currently among the 1,300 luckiest boys on earth.

He spends his every day surrounded by extensive playing fields and glorious architecture dating as far back as the school’s foundation in 1440, in the company of 260 sparky, multitalented, über-intelligent year mates, with unrivalled facilities, Oxbridge-class teaching, superb pastoral care, bags of gloriously arcane traditions, all in a unique atmosphere where you learn from very early on that discipline needs to come from within rather than being imposed from above. Plus, of course, all the posh birds want to get into your pinstripe trousers. Oh that any of us ordinary folk should have such troubles!

And if, at the end of his five years in paradise, Boy ends up getting a bit of stick for all that privilege — well, as his father, I say: ‘Bring it on!’ With luck, what it will mean is that Boy will learn the most important lessons I’ve learned in life, which are ‘Damn the torpedoes!’ and ‘Always stick to what you believe is right and true regardless of what the vile mob and pusillanimous chattering classes consider fashionable.’

Eton is the embodiment of all that is good and noble in the world. It has nothing to apologise for. May it flourish!

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Show comments
  • John McEvoy

    Bravo Delingpole. May he rise far above the snarky, lefty-socialist, windmill-loving, watermelon state-sector types who are bent on destroying the economy of the UK. And when are you going to really get into politics?

    • Noa

      “…the snarky, lefty-socialist, windmill-loving, watermelon state-sector types…”

      You doubtless refer to Eton’s alumni.

  • Noa

    You must have had his since down since before your own nativity James. Despite the social barriers he has to overcome we wish him well.

    Eton has not yet apologized for producing its wind loving Bullingdonians and inflicting them on us in the form of speccie editors, Chancellors and conservative ministers.

  • Jim Boyle

    It appears your son was admitted to Eton and you above advertise yourself as brave to be publically proud. That prompts two questions and a comment: what employer, advertiser or opinion leader you respect would begrudge you that? Have you – like a school boy – imagined some monsters and shared with your mates your courage in facing them? If so, you seem more rough edged and like me than that august school will likely encourage your son to be. Congratulations to you and him.

  • Alex

    This is a privilege I could not afford for my children.

    Cannot afford it.

    Such elitist education is divisive and continues, generation by generation, in some families.

    As a social conservative, but someone wedded to meritocracy, it is a disgrace that my children are educated in 30 plus classes by poor quality teachers in an inner city comprehensive, where the english language is very much secondary, and diversity issue rule supreme.

    Te years ago the pupils were mainly indigenous. I cannot escape the ghetto. The rich can.
    Thanks Labour, for allowing uncontrolled immigration; thanks Tories for permitting your children to escape the multicultural education hellhole of modern Britain.

    The truth is no one cares about the aspiring middle/working classes.

    • studio1972

      The solution is to bring back grammar schools.

      • Anonymous Untermensch


        • http://prodicus.blogspot.com/ Prodicus

          x 2.

      • SirMortimerPosh

        The problem with grammar schools is not what benefit they brought to the intellectual elite (remember, only about twenty percent were able to be admitted to them; they were selective). The problem was that a rough and ready measure, often shoddily applied at the age of ten without a care about the individual circumstances of the child, condemned eighty percent of the school population to attend down at heel, secondary modern schools which capped the life chances of their pupils by low expectations. I know. I attended one for four years. The standards were deplorable. It was a violent place with about fifty percent of its pupils acting like thugs. The staff didn’t care a hoot; the curriculum was feeble; diluted like poor house gruel, and the overwhelming assumption was that you would work in a factory and require only basic literacy, numeracy and what was called General Science. It was truly awful. God forbid that we ever venture along that road again. To do so betrays vast numbers of young people.

        • Ringstone

          They are called “bog standard” Comprehensives, and now 100% are consigned to them. Way to go, closing down the escape route to social mobility as it “only” benefited 20%.

          • StephanieJCW

            Sounds like neither option was pretty good. Can’t we aim for at lot more than offering an ‘escape route’ to only 20% of our youth?

    • SirMortimerPosh

      Alex, it is not up to others to care about the aspiring middle classes, it is up to those who belong to such a set to care about themselves and to do something about the things they find unacceptable. You seem to want someone else, or perhaps ‘the state’ to make your life better. Do it yourself; there’s a good chap.

    • nick

      Nonsense, I have a daughter at Rugby and like many others with children there (some with two, or three) cannot afford the fees. We make a contribution, means tested by the school but the Laurence Sherrif bequest pays the Lion’s share. But it also takes committment and dedication from parent and child and not a little sacrifice.

    • Metoo

      You probably could afford it (with some sacrifices), if your son(s) got in. They offer bursaries….I think you must have missed this part of the article:

      ” Twenty per cent of the boys are on bursaries and the school is trying to raise sufficient funds for it to become completely needs-blind. This is the reason that an impoverished oik like me can send his Boy there: it would have been quite impossible otherwise.”

  • sarah

    “The easy answer would be that it wasn’t my choice, it was Boy’s”

    Glad of the clarification, I thought for a minute you might have been talking about a daughter getting into one of the best schools in the country, one of the funnels to high office.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Simon-Fay/1127268875 Simon Fay

    What incredible bravery to come out so. Firemen and Aung San Suu Kyi please note.

  • john

    What a brave defence of a beseiged minority – Eton poufters. Dellers has now got full value from his pursuit of elitism – an article publicising his son’s status. Can articles backing King Chuck and Queen Camilla be far behind?
    Good old UK – heading back to 1950 asap (or maybe 1900?).

    • http://twitter.com/TheRedBladder The Red Bladder

      Why do the words vainglorious and boastful keeping slipping into my mind?

  • john

    Dellers is absolutely right! Eton must continue its essential role in training Latin and Greek speaking chaps for roles controlling the fuzzy-wuzzies in Rhodesia or Tangyanika.

    • Curnonsky

      Or Tower Hamlets?

      • john

        I like Curonsky’s sarki comment. However, doubt whether many Old Etonians are kitting up for Tower Hamlets!

  • http://www.facebook.com/jim.hollett.9 Jim Hollett

    There is Eton and there is Eton. I used to know a down on his luck Scottish Clan Chief who attended Eton, but there is was a class system within the school itself. The sons of journalists surely can’t hang out with the children of the very rich. C’est la vie.

  • Cronenberg

    Bully for Papa and Offspring Delingpole. Honestly, Mazeltovs all round.

  • Davey12

    The smugness of James make it so hard to sell capitalism to the masses and makes communists look positively lovely.

    I thought we had a country that looked after it’s own. We know some will not make it but we can help them. A country that does not care for its cannon fodder will soon find it has no cannon fodder. So who will be in the trench with James and his sprog when it all kicks off. It looks like a lonely trench to me. Who here would fight to save James and his sprog’s life when all he wants is to give us 2 fingers. For your kids future, James, you will need the chavs, so give them some respect. Temper your language and try to see how it is for the dumber members of our society, like the boys in Afghanistan.

    This is why Eaton fails, it fails because the kids that leave do not get their own people. Us poor folk understand that the commies are fools but we find it hard to like the Tories because they continually say nasty things. Keep it up James and stop people voting Tory. We need to stop immigration so we can help our own people, that means, James, you have a duty of care. Show some care for your own people and you will be liked, even if they disagree with you.

    • Marion

      Can I just point out that the real Communists never abandoned Grammar schools? I lived in a communist E. European country for 7 years and they were – justifiably – proud of their grammar schools, all of which are still operational today. They saw nothing elitist in promoting the abilities of the academically gifted, any more than those able at sport / dance/ engineering or physics etc. – all of whom had specialist schools to attend.

  • biggestaspidistra

    depressing in so many ways

  • http://twitter.com/judyk113 judyk113

    What schools are going to be on offer to your daughter? Remember the consequences of the different educational opportunities given to Virginia Woolf and her brother? How will you explain to her the different life chances that’ll be open to him as the result of being at Eton that are unlikely to be open to her?

  • nancledra

    I expect your son already finds you embarrassing.

  • mikewaller

    Each time dear old JD refers to his son as “Boy” I come close to throwing up. Amusing enough if attributed to, say, an antediluvian relative of the Mitford sisters, but, in modern usage, it comes across as the most self-serving of affectations.

    Ditto the whole piece. The issue of public schools is as straightforward as it is divisive. On the positive side the truly outstanding ones provide a standard of excellence that shows what can be achieved if resource needs are fully met and an institution is not in thrall to litigious and vindictive parents,the dogmas of local politicians and voguish theories dreamed up by State-funded teaching professionals. They also serve as major earners of income from abroad, which, were they closed down, is exactly where they would go.

    On the negative side, they definitely serve as a means of buying privilege despite attempts to mask this. [At the time my son went to Oxford, the prospectus proudly boasted that its then intake was balanced 50:50 between State and privately educated. What it neglected to mention was that the base ratio between these two sources was 93:7!]. Beyond this, even if one allows – as I do – that parents have a perfect right to do the best they can for their children, granting such institutions very advantageous tax arrangements as charities is a step too far. If privilege is to be bought, let it be paid for without any help from the State.

    Given this background, the wise parent who can afford to do so would send his or her child to one of these wonderful schools and remark upon it it as little as possible. To,instead, fill a page of a journal of note with the literary equivalent of the strutting of turkey cock on Viagra seems to me to be as childish as it is ill advised.

    • Old Nick

      Of course the ratio of all state school pupils to all public school pupils may be 93:7 but Oxford and Cambridge are not selecting from the set of all pupils, they are selecting from the set of those with Very Good A levels who will benefit from an Oxbridge education. On that basis Oxbridge admissions are, if anything, weighted against those from fee-paying schools. The Oxford and Cambridge colleges are also leaning over backwards to be fair about admissions. Dons give up valuable time when they could be pursuing the research, writing or teaching for which they are paid to traipse round the country trying to persuade talented youngsters to apply. The fact is that the education provided in many state schools (even in country places) is simply NBG.

      • mikewaller

        Four points. First, as the “like for like” degree performance is usually said to be about 10% in favour of the state educated Oxbridge entrants, the selection process is still not getting it right even on its own terms.

        Second, a major factor in state pupils not applying is a widespread belief that “Oxbridge is not for the likes of us”i.e. a perception that it is filled with the products of public schools who will give what used to be called “the Grange Hill mob” a very tough time.

        Three, assuming your final point to be valid, the implications are terrifying. In a globalised world in which our young have to compete head to head with the increasingly highly educated products of the newly emergent nations, large numbers of duff schools are the last thing we need.

        Four, optimising the Oxbridge selection process is as much what dons are paid to do as are research, writing and teaching.

  • john

    Apart from the ludicrous bias in Oxbridge applications in favor of Eton and its like, there is the fact that most State School students do not even consider Oxbridge. They reasonably assume it is a closed society and they are not invited.
    If acceptance was by (say) A level grade only – simple math would indicate a 90%+ non-private entry (like Harvard, Yale etc).
    This is what Dellers and his chums fear – that merit will take prededence over priviledge. Eton would largely disappear as an option if it didn’t have a guaranteed backdoor into Oxbridge.

  • D B

    Great stuff! Long live the elitism that made England great.

  • Charles Neale

    Surely we want the most intelligent to run the country, and surely wealth is a good proxy for intelligence. Surely it follows, then, that those wealthy enough to go to Eton deserve to run the country. Surely that’s fairly fair?

    • Tom Wigmore

      Surely fair

    • john

      The immegrants to the USA in the 19th and 20th centuries were almost universally poor, badly educated and politically downtrodden – no richies or aristos there! So how come they built the strongest, most technically sophisticated country in the world? Meanwhile in the UK, the past century has been one of political stagnation and modest economic growth? Old Etonians not up to it?

      • therealguyfaux

        Might have something to do with the challenge, unspoken though it was for the most part, to the newcomers by the old settlers– “Prove you’re ‘American’– educate your children to be more than just some lunkhead doing scut work because he couldn’t be bothered to be anything else.” While it is true that many immigrants to America were disappointed that the streets were not exactly paved with gold, they taught their kids that if you sweep up the horseshit that the streets WERE paved with, and sell it to a farmer, you might end up just a little better off than if all you did was sat around and just whinged about it. Of such small instances of can-do attitude was the writ-large success of the immigrants to America made. Sure, this may have been true only for white males, by and large, but the Left in their strange world view, would count America a failure by allowing the perfect to deny the good its rightful due. But let us not forget that America also had a land mass sufficient that a lad in New York or Boston or Philadelphia could tell his boss where to go and what to do, and travel out west, and still be in America– that’s who the immigrants were supplanting in the big cities. Of course, this all came to a screeching halt in the early 20th C. when Progressivism, ironically promoted by the Old Establishment to the newcomers as an “advance in civilisation,” reared its levelling head. Yanks new and old by and large, never did place much stock in it, but their rulers and academics did, and there’s been an ongoing struggle for hearts and minds ever since– like in a certain island just adjacent to Europe.

      • Tomsy

        John, surely you’re passionate about privilege.

    • Teacher

      I bet my daughter is more intelligent than Mr Delingpole’s son. She should be running the country but she’ll never get the chance.

  • emale

    Isn’t Stowe the destination of choice for the not so bright sons of OEs. I think that’s where George Monbiot went.

  • Fitzwilliam

    I honestly don’t give a flying f*ck

  • Roy

    If anybody’s boy has got any gumption at all he will grasp the opportunity that is all around us. He will gain untold advantage by starting work on the bottom rung, gaining the knowledge that others fail when they are promoted to middle management without knowing the secrets of the lower ladder. He does not for a minute have to look up to, or doff his cap, to the finer points of plum in the mouth speech. By taking the opportunity of self employment when it arises yon boy can do just as well. In fact he could be half way there before the Oxbridge youth is throwing up his mortarboard.

  • StephanieJCW

    I guess between Boy and Girl your kids know which one you love the most…

  • http://twitter.com/kevindykes1 Kevin Dykes

    about time all private schools paid their taxes and stopped pretending to be charities. apart from that, enjoy the place all you like.

    • Old Nick

      Making them even more financially exclusive – brilliant

  • Henry Bevington

    if you can’t afford to go to Eton then you don’t deserve a privileged lifestyle.

  • William Mollett

    James, I imagine your son will find this embarrassing. I did.

  • Boule De Suif

    I’d love to meet an ex-Eton boy. Do any Eton parents out there want to introduce me to their sons? I’m afraid I’m a tad middle-class…but striving jolly hard not to be!

  • Neil Mahapatra

    Didn’t Delingpole write a 2011 article entitled “Thank God I don’t have that ghastly sense of entitlement that Eton instils” ?????

    Key point: journalists will do everything for a “story.” And journalists very rarely have views (or ability) of their own.

  • HarryTheHornyHippo

    Yeah… well… that’s what happens when you go to a dump like Malvern.

  • http://www.facebook.com/roger.cole.756 Roger Cole

    The problem for most of us is that “standard” secondary education remains in the dead hands of the government, a body not noted for doing anything with alacrity, efficiency or even competency. Were the schools to turned into private, union-free businesses which had to actually compete for their voucher-funded customers by maintaining an acceptable position in a published results table, we would, according to similar institutions in other countries, find outcomes greatly improved while costs should decline by an appreciable amount with proficient and enthusiastic teachers’ careers being enhanced and the bad ones weeded out. This still rather prevalent belief in the government knowing best has been the downfall of the nation over the last 60 or 70 years in many different ways. Some day, realisation of the truth simply has to dawn on the sleepy majority, and it must be a majority, there is simply no other way to explain the present situation.

  • Henry
  • http://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/ Lucian

    It does the author credit that, having read his own writing, he knew better than to send Boy to Malvern instead of Slough High

  • Obbs

    You criticise the ‘claases’ for determining what’s fashionable yet you took up the cruel, barbaric murder of innocent foxes because you liked the way you looked whilst killing them? you make me sick. I feel sorry for your son who will no doubt be fed your dreadful, shallow, ignorant views. Luckily, the ‘mob’ you refer to is a good majority whilst people like you will fade away into the history books of ignorant w*nkers

  • Martin Masoon

    Statistically, Eton produces very successful adults. We must look to see past the stigma to find the real value long term of such an education. I myself attended the best boarding school in the US and believe that education, at its most traditional level, has great value. I disregard the jealousies that hamper its impact and feel like a part of the past and the future. We learn from tradition that being steadfast has an outstanding reputation for greatness.

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