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Thursday, May 13, 1999 Published at 09:52 GMT 10:52 UK

UK Politics

'Lack of choice' blamed for MP's marriage split

Jeremy Corbyn: Strong defender of comprehensive education

The former wife of a Labour MP whose marriage broke up over a disagreement over the choice of school for their son has said the "lack of choice" was at fault.

Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn and his wife Claudia Bracchitta separated following a disagreement over their son's admission to one of the country's top grammar schools.

Ms Bracchitta acknowledged that her choice of Queen Elizabeth's boys' school in north London, for their eldest son played an "important role" in their split two years ago.

'Education a priority'

She told the BBC she alone had chosen the school for Benjamin, 11, because her children's education was "my absolute priority".

Ms Bracchitta said: "The situation that we found ourselves in was not one that was about choice, but about lack of choice."

She criticised the reporting of their break-up as "very sensational" with newspaper saying "that my husband wanted our son to go to a local comprehensive and I wanted our son to go to the school further away, a selective school".

Ms Bracchitta continued: "In actual fact, I feel that both of us would probably have wanted our son to have gone to a local school of high standards where he could have thrived.

[ image: Tony and Cherie Blair caused uproar within Labour when they sent their son to a selection-based, grant-maintained school]
Tony and Cherie Blair caused uproar within Labour when they sent their son to a selection-based, grant-maintained school
"Now there was only one school that might have fitted that description, and it was made very clear to us both by the school, our primary school and Camden council that our son would not gain a place because we were at that time just outside the catchment area."

Ms Bracchitta said she accepted that the issue was bound to cause controversy, given her husband's position.

Earlier this week, Mr Corbyn said: "Claudia and I have been separated for two years.

" I have not sought to make this public because I believe it to be a private matter.

"Unfortunately, the issue of our eldest son's education has brought it to public attention."

Record of rebellion over principles

Mr Corbyn, whose own parents sent him to a grammar school, is a member of Labour's left-wing Campaign Group of MPs and has a long record of rebellion on matters of principle.

He was one of the Labour MPs who refused to pay the poll tax in 1990, and appeared in court the following year as a result.

He opposed the 1990-91 Gulf war, and called for negotiations with Sinn Fein long before the government was prepared to openly do so.

And like many Labour MPs, he was unhappy at then-fellow Islington resident Tony Blair's decision, soon after becoming Labour leader in 1994, to send his son to a selection-based, grant-maintained school outside the borough - in apparent contradiction to the party's education policy at the time.

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