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Friday, 5 July, 2002, 10:56 GMT 11:56 UK
Cook attacked in Blair 'tutor' row
John Prescott
Prescott has defended families' right to privacy
Commons leader Robin Cook has come under fire from John Prescott for attempting to use politicians' families to score political points.


Can we keep the family and personal circumstances out of politics?

John Prescott
Mr Prescott was responding to criticism of Tony Blair, after press reports the prime minister had hired a private tutor for his sons.

Mr Blair was attacked by the Liberal Democrats for "hypocrisy" and having an "astonishing" lack of faith in the state school system.

Leaping to Mr Blair's defence, Mr Prescott said he "deplored" members of the media or other politicians who brought family members into politics in this way.

Asked if that included Robin Cook, who last week said the Conservatives could not talk about state schools because their leader Iain Duncan Smith sent his son to Eton, Mr Prescott said: "Everybody."

'Feel strongly'

He went on: "It doesn't give anything to politics.

"It undermines the credibility of the politicians but most of all it hurts those in the family who should not be subjected to that kind of high public pressure.

"I feel very strongly about that."

He added: "Can we keep the family and personal circumstances out of politics?"

Parental duty

The practice was also attacked by Liberal Democrat deputy leader Alan Beith, who disowned comments made by his party's education spokesman Phil Willis earlier on Thursday.

Phil Willis
Willis: Attacked Blair's 'hypocrisy'
"I agree with John's judgement and I think we should all take a lesson from the whole of this episode," he said.

Conservative deputy leader Michael Ancram said he "did not blame" Mr Blair for seeking out a private tutor.

"Because every parent has not only right but a duty to do the best for their children," he added.

The three men were taking part in a special deputy leaders' edition of the BBC's Question Time.

'Bargepole' comment

Earlier, Downing Street refused to comment on a Spectator magazine report saying Euan and Nicholas Blair have had their education at high profile state school, the London Oratory, topped up with teaching at home.

The prime minister's spokesman said the Blair children's education is a private affair, and the Conservatives are not commenting on the story.

The row comes after Education Secretary Estelle Morris provoked the anger of teaching unions by saying there were some comprehensive schools she would not touch with a bargepole.

Margaret Morrissey, of the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, said parents would be disappointed to learn Mr Blair was having his children privately tutored.


Talking PointTALKING POINT
State education
Should the PM be turning to private tutors?
See also:

05 Jul 02 | UK Education
04 Jul 02 | UK Politics
24 Jun 02 | UK Education
22 May 02 | UK Politics
16 Jul 99 | UK Education
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