| 11.9°C Belfast

School row puts class war back in spotlight


Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn

Jeremy Corbyn

I blame Jeremy Corbyn. He has made class war fashionable again and in his own backyard the revolutionary forces are gathering. The barricades are manned and the first shots are being fired across the class divide.

Eat the Rich. Or at least stop them turning on our lumiere show. This is a story of such trivial importance, yet it says something about Britain in the early 21st century.

Acland Burghley is a comprehensive school in the Tufnell Park area of north London (the heart of Mr Corbyn's constituency) and, as part a programme of events to celebrate its 50th anniversary, it has organised a light show that will illuminate the school's brutalist facade. So far, so parochial.

The headmaster of Acland Burghley, casting around for a celebrity to open the display, alighted (so to speak) on the actor Damian Lewis, who lives in the area. The star of Homeland was happy to do his bit and agreed to flick the switch. But this is where the story takes a disquieting turn.

Some former pupils of the school took exception to Lewis, because he was educated at Eton. They say it is "wholly inappropriate" he should be given a lead role at such a demotic urban comprehensive.

And so, in the way of the modern world, they launched an online petition, demanding that Lewis should be barred from the event.

They urged that the school keep it real and ask one of its former students - such as the pop star Ms Dynamite - to perform the ceremonial duties.

The headmaster, Nicholas John, was commendably unbowed in the face of a nascent digital protest. "Damian Lewis very kindly agreed to open the light show," said Mr John, "to give up an evening of his time. The school he went to is of no consequence."

That assertion, of course, is not quite true. The school Damian Lewis went to cauterises its pupils with a confidence that gives them a distinct advantage over those of us who are closer to Acland Burghley on the educational spectrum. However, Mr John is right: the actor's background is of no significance.

The rise of Mr Corbyn and the rhetoric he has inspired has quite correctly put the serious and growing inequalities in British society high on the political agenda. There are so many reasons to feel angry and social mobility is, indeed, one of them.

Belfast Telegraph