Page last updated at 01:23 GMT, Sunday, 27 December 2009

Tessa Jowell warns against election 'class war'

Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell
Tessa Jowell said Labour's election campaign should be "decent"

The next general election campaign should not descend into a "hideous" class war, a senior minister has said.

Earlier this month, Gordon Brown said Conservative policy had been "dreamed up on the playing fields of Eton" - a comment David Cameron called "petty".

Now Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell has told the Sunday Telegraph that the election campaign should not be a "to and fro of personality attack".

Justice Secretary Jack Straw has also played down Mr Brown's remark.

Mr Brown made the comment at prime minister's question time, claiming Tory plans for inheritance tax cuts would help millionaires but cost public service investment £2bn.

He singled out Eton alumni Mr Cameron and Zac Goldsmith - the millionaire environmentalist and prospective Tory MP - who has admitted having non-domicile tax status.

Mr Cameron later told the BBC he was "not in the slightest bit embarrassed" about his schooling and accused the PM of being "spiteful".

The reference to Eton was just a quip
Justice Secretary Jack Straw

'No strategy'

Speaking to the Telegraph, Ms Jowell said voters were not interested in the background of politicians.

"I don't think this should be an election campaign about the 1960s intake to Eton, or whatever it was," she said.

"I hope that our campaign - and I believe it will be - will be a decent campaign which is engaging the British people in a conversation, not a hideous to and fro of personality attack."

Meanwhile, Mr Straw told the Sunday Times that "the reference to Eton was just a quip," and was "not part of a strategy".

The BBC's political correspondent Ross Hawkins said Number 10 sources had also insisted that Labour had no plans to launch a class war campaign.

Mr Brown's comments have been viewed by some commentators as a retreat to a "core vote" strategy, with the aim of appealing to Labour's traditional, working class supporters.

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