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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 November, 2003, 14:59 GMT
Abbott admits job at risk
Diane Abbott
Diane Abbott says race has influenced her school choice
Left-wing Labour MP Diane Abbott says the decision to send her son to a 10,000-a-year private school could cost her her job.

Ms Abbott, who has previously criticised Tony Blair and Harriet Harman for choosing selective schools for their children, has already said her decision is "indefensible".

Now, in a newspaper interview, she has admitted her job could be at stake in the row over her school choice for 12-year-old son James.

I don't know whether my political career is over but accept that people are angry and I will have to deal with that.
Diane Abbott

She told the Sunday Mirror: "I know I've delivered myself on a plate to my enemies and there is absolutely no doubt my career is on the line.

"It would not surprise me if local party members were discussing my removal as we speak.

"They might well decide they want me to stand down as their MP and I will understand if they do.

"I don't know whether my political career is over but accept that people are angry and I will have to deal with that.

"I suppose the principled thing to do would have been to send my son to a failing state school, however bad it was, but I'm sorry I just don't possess that level of principle."

Culture fears

One of the reasons she has given for deciding against sending James to a local comprehensive is race.

She explained: "I do know the issues around the education of black boys in this borough.

"I've seen what happens to black boys who get caught up in the culture of the street. It's hard to pull them back.

"It is a race issue because, of all the ethnic groups in London's schools, the only group that is falling behind is black boys."

Last week, she acknowledged the difficulty of her decision on BBC One's This Week programme.

"Private schools prop up the class system in society," she said.

"It is inconsistent, to put it mildly, for someone who believes in a fairer and more egalitarian society to send their child to a fee-paying school."

But, she added: "I had to choose between my reputation as a politician and my son."

Son's defence

When Prime Minister Tony Blair sent his eldest son, Euan, to the London Oratory, a selective school, she criticised him, saying people voted Labour because they believed in equality.

And when Solicitor General Harriet Harman sent her son to a selective grammar school in Orpington, Kent, Ms Abbott said: "She made the Labour Party look as if we do one thing and say another."

Ms Abbot was defended by her son, James, on a radio station phone-in earlier this week.

"She's not a hypocrite, she just put what I wanted first," he said.

The school he starts at next year, City of London, came 43rd out of 287 independent schools in this year's A-level tables.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Diane Abbott, Labour MP
"I had to choose between my reputation as a politician and my son."



SEE ALSO:
'Myth about poor London schools'
31 Oct 03  |  Education
Abbott's son defends going private
28 Oct 03  |  Politics
Abbott criticised over school choice
27 Oct 03  |  Education
Parents face barrier to schools
17 Sep 03  |  Education
Police build rapport with pupils
03 Oct 02  |  Education
Diane Abbott
17 Oct 02  |  Politics
Q&A: Inner-city schools
02 Jun 03  |  Education


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