UK Politics

No 10 plays down Baroness Warsi's 'Eton mess' jibe

Baroness Warsi Image copyright The Agenda, courtesy of ITV

Senior Foreign Office minister Baroness Warsi's decision to brandish a spoof newspaper on TV criticising an "Eton mess" at the heart of government was "light hearted", No 10 has suggested.

Appearing on ITV's The Agenda programme on Monday, the ex-Conservative chairman opted to display a headline reading: "No 10 takes Eton mess off the menu."

Lady Warsi said she wanted to make a "serious point" about social mobility.

No 10 said PM David Cameron was also concerned about the issue.

Mr Cameron attended Eton, as did his chief of staff, Ed Llewellyn, policy chief Jo Johnson, minister Oliver Letwin, and the chancellor's chief economic adviser Rupert Harrison.

Education Secretary Michael Gove recently said the number of Old Etonians in Mr Cameron's inner circle was "ridiculous".

"I don't know where you can find a similar situation in any other developed economy," he told the Financial Times.

'Best people'

Baroness Warsi, who is also the Minister for Faith and Communities, said: "Michael was making an incredibly serious point that it can't be right that the 7% of kids who go to independent school end up at the top tables, not just of politics, but banking, and law, and every other profession.

"What Michael wants to create is a first class, world class state system which means that in future years you will have more pupils from state schools, people like me, around the cabinet table, and in that I fully support Michael Gove."

But the PM's official spokesman said: "I think that is the light-hearted section of the programme. I think that's the explanation.

"The prime minister has spoken about the importance of greater social mobility. That is absolutely at the heart of the government's education reforms. He appoints the people who he thinks are the best people to do the jobs."

Asked if Mr Cameron continued to have full confidence in Lady Warsi, the spokesman replied: "Yes, he does."

The spokesman was "not sure" whether the PM had caught the programme.

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