At their General Meeting this evening, Oxford University Labour Club voted in favour of a motion to support the Abolish Eton campaign, also known as the Labour Campaign Against Private Schools.
The motion resolved to “support Abolish Eton’s fundamental aim of ending the private education sector and bringing private schools under public administration.”
This comes a month after the group successfully persuaded delegates at the Labour Party conference to vote in favour of adopting the abolition of private schools as official party policy. Shadow cabinet ministers later hinted that the policy would not be included in the party’s 2019 election manifesto, which has yet to be released.
Recognising this, the club resolved to mandate the co-chairs to petition Angela Rayner MP, the Shadow Education Secretary, to support the policy’s inclusion in Labour’s official election platform. A friendly amendment was also added to call on club members to individually submit the proposal to the Labour party’s manifesto crowdsourcing website.
The motion, proposed by co-chairs Meg Howells and Jay Staker, states that “we, as an Oxbridge Labour Club have a special responsibility to speak out against institutionalised privilege in education.”
Responding a concern from the floor that the motion could impact the club’s inclusiveness, Howells said: “It’s nothing personal. We’re not going after individuals. Our issue is with the system and the positions of privilege it creates, not the people who were put in those positions through no fault of their own.”
Asked whether the club would be supporting the Abolish Eton campaign’s call for a 7% cap on private school students at top universities, Staker said the motion deliberately avoided specifics and instead expressed support for the campaign’s fundamental aims.
Some have suggested that the Labour Party are unlikely to wholeheartedly adopt the policy in their manifesto, despite the support of conference delegates. The New Statesman‘s Patrick Maguire reported during Labour conference: “The policy prescription drafted by campaigners is, it is unlikely to be adopted in full. This is partly because of its radicalism. The suggestion that a Labour government would expropriate the assets of private schools alarms some of those who will ultimately be responsible for translating last night’s vote into a workable programme of policy.”
However, Holly Rigby, coordinator of the Abolish Eton campaign, recently told the Guardian: “There is no justification for the fact that young people’s opportunity to flourish and fulfil their potential is still determined by the size of their parents’ bank balance.”
Speaking from the floor, one member quoted OULC’s founding chair on the reason for establishing the club: “That those who have more to lose than their chains may stand in solidarity with those who do not.”