James Blunt blasts 'wazzock' Bryant
Chart musician James Blunt has blasted the shadow culture minister Chris Bryant, calling him a "prejudiced wazzock" after the politician grumbled that the arts were being dominated by those with a privileged background.
Harrow-educated Blunt, whose hit You're Beautiful made him a worldwide star, and former Eton pupil Eddie Redmayne - along with their "ilk" - were mentioned by Bryant in an interview in which he called for more diversity.
But in an open letter to the Labour MP, Blunt hit out at suggestions that his education and military career had somehow helped him in the music business, pointing out they had worked against him, causing him to be "scoffed at for being too posh".
Blunt explained it was his own hard work and determination that had caused him to succeed, despite his schooling, military service and accent.
He told Bryant: "Perhaps what you've failed to realise is that the only head-start my school gave me in the music business, where the VAST majority of people are NOT from boarding school, is to tell me that I should aim high."
Bryant said in an interview with the Guardian at the weekend: "I am delighted that Eddie Redmayne won [a Golden Globe for best actor], but we can't just have a culture dominated by Eddie Redmayne and James Blunt and their ilk."
But Blunt responded by calling him a "classist gimp". In a letter published on the Guardian website today, he said: "I happened to go to a boarding school. No one helped me at boarding school to get into the music business. I bought my first guitar with money I saved from holiday jobs (sandwich packing!).
"I was taught the only four chords I know by a friend. No-one at school had any knowledge or contacts in the music business, and I was expected to become a soldier or a lawyer or perhaps a stockbroker. So alien was it, that people laughed at the idea of me going into the music business, and certainly no-one was of any use.
He went on to say: "Every step of the way, my background has been against me succeeding in the music business. And when I have managed to break through, I was still scoffed at for being too posh for the industry.
"And then you come along, looking for votes, telling working-class people that posh people like me don't deserve it, and that we must redress the balance. But it is your populist, envy-based, vote-hunting ideas which make our country crap, far more than me and my shit songs, and my plummy accent.
He signs off his letter by saying "up yours".
There has been increasing fascination with the background of major stars in recent months, which just last week saw old Etonian Redmayne pitched against Harrow-educated Benedict Cumberbatch on the Oscars shortlist with both in the running for best actor.
Other prominent Eton old boys in the public eye have included Homeland's Damian Lewis, Tom Hiddleston and the star of The Wire, Dominic West.
Cumberbatch has voiced concerns about being "castigated" for his public school background, while The Walking Dead star David Morrissey has been among those who have expressed a view that the acting business was becoming the preserve of the wealthy.
Bryant later clarified his points in a letter of his own, in which he told Blunt to "stop being so blooming precious".
He explained he was not knocking his success but was stating the "blindingly obvious that that is far tougher if you come from a poor family where you have to hand over your holiday earnings to help pay the family bills".
Bryant - in a letter given to the Guardian - went on: "I'm delighted you've done well for yourself. But it is really tough forging a career in the arts if you can't afford the enormous fees for drama school, if you don't know anybody who can give you a leg up, if your parents can't subsidise you for a few years whilst you make your name and if you can't afford to take on an unpaid internship."
He said he wanted people of all backgrounds to have a place in the arts, adding: "We need to break down all the barriers to taking part so that every talent gets a chance."