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EDITIONS
Monday, 8 July, 2002, 10:45 GMT 11:45 UK
Hitler, tutors and Thatcher


So, who's seen that infamous anti-euro advert with Hitler in it?

Not many of those pontificating about it all week, I'll be bound.

The offending Rik Mayall quote about "ein reich, ein euro" is only in the second, longer advert: in the shorter one he just says "Euro: yes please".

Rik Mayall as Hitler in the anti-euro film
Rik Mayall as Hitler in the anti-euro film
The extended ad won't be shown in cinemas, and there's no real clue to how it will be used: there's a vague suggestion of direct mail shots to sympathisers.

So how do we know about it?

It was shown at the news conference, but wasn't included in the press pack, and my subsequent attempts to get hold of it in time for the Six o'clock news failed.

Given it was about the only question we all asked at the news conference you can't help feel the second ad was commissioned solely for the purpose of "outraging " the press (which means after a day's heavy phone bashing you'll find someone to fume on the record) and thus propelling it on to the front pages.

How intrusive is the story about the Blair's sons being privately coached?

I admit that like most of my colleagues at the BBC I was initially queasy about it.

Like the continued fuss about whether Leo has had the MMR jab it is in one sense a private matter.

But as in that case, it is a decision by the parents, not the child, which is under scrutiny.

The Blair family posing outside Number 10
Justified intrusion into PM's family?
Moreover it is a decision that sheds some light on the way the prime minister thinks about public policy matters.

It is not embarrassing or awkward for the child. I only hope the Blairs' reluctance to expose their own decisions to public gaze doesn't encourage the press to delve into the really intrusive world of girlfriends, clubbing habits and dress sense.

But what does it show about the Helmsman? Some say it exposes Blair's lack of faith in state schools.

Well, quite clearly he thinks his son needs something that his school is not providing.

But it doesn't "prove" lack of faith in anything.

Think about this. I went to a public school yet my parents paid for extra tuition. In fact, by the very master who was teaching me the same subject in school.

Everyone in this room knows that if Blair wasn't an MP his kids would be educated privately

A colleague of Mark Mardell's

I'm sure that is commonplace at private schools today as well. Not a parental thumbs down for the school but, in my case, an accurate appraisal of my ability to get my head round the French for "black board duster".

Still the master was useless.

Then does it show the Blairs trying to buy an unfair advantage, to the fury of other Labour politicians?

Some fundamentalists won't like it.

But that's the trouble with "equality of opportunity". It is just not possible without confiscating those encyclopaedias, internet access and theatre tickets that better off parents will give to their offspring.

Actually these days most Labour politicians are just desperate to stop the middle class flight to the private sector, and sweeteners like partial selection... and accepting private tutors... are part of that.

The killer fact in the story is the tutor being a master at Westminster public school.

A colleague hits the nail on the head, although he's arguing against this being much of a story.

"Let's face it," he says, "everyone in this room knows that if Blair wasn't an MP his kids would be educated privately".

That is the suspicion too of the conservative press and Labour MPs. And that is the real potency of the story.

As a firm believer that art and accident are allies I feel the statue of Lady Thatcher should remain headless.

Who thinks the Venus de Milo would be better with the arms stuck back on?

Lady Thatcher with the intact statue
The iron lady with the statue before it was decapitated
And it would give semiologists of the 22nd century much to debate.

Some will fiercely argue that she wasn't a real person at all but that the statue once marked the tomb of the Unknown Handbagger, a universal representation of Feminism Triumphant.

"Poppycock!" will cry the other camp, and try to prove that the Iron Lady and the Man of Steel (Stalin) were the same historical person and will demand the statue is lovingly restored, complete with moustache.

See also:

07 Jul 02 | Politics
04 Jul 02 | England

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