A motion approved by delegates at the 2019 Labour Party Conference in Brighton said a government led by Jeremy Corbyn would “challenge the elite privilege of private schools” and claimed that “the ongoing existence of private schools is incompatible with Labour’s pledge to promote social justice”. The party would therefore include in its next manifesto “a commitment to integrate all private schools into the state sector”.
A file picture of Eton College
RH: Can you say more about how these traumas drive and distort the attitudes and decision-making of political leaders?
ND: Well, the main thing is that if you’ve been forced to completely dissociate from your natural vulnerability, you can never hope to understand the vulnerable in society.
Neuroscience now proves that if you don’t have emotional intelligence you cannot make good choices; for me, this is the science behind what economist Will Hutton says, that the Tory Party has consistently made bad decisions over decades.
And then there’s the duplicity habit, referred to earlier: if you have a strategic survival personality running your life, you lose touch with what’s true or what’s a lie; you can never be wrong — which is why, even now, Tony Blair cannot admit he was wrong over Iraq.
Boarding school survivors can’t join groups and become team players unless they’ve done the necessary inner work; so we haven’t even really joined Europe yet, despite feeling we should either lead it or quit it. In short, elite boarding is a terrible training for good leadership.
RH: It’s outrageous that, as Robert Verkaik outlines in his book Posh Boys: How the English Public Schools Ruin Britain, these schools receive massive fees, yet as charities pay no rates, corporation tax or investment-income tax. And were VAT charged on fees, it would yield £1.5 billion of tax annually. So what, in your view, is to be done? What line would you advise a left-Corbyn government to take with this toxic class-based schooling system?
ND: It’s vital that Corbyn engages some good advisers on mental health issues in the light of what we now know about psychopathology not only affecting the less privileged, but also the elite.
He should take note of George Monbiot’s recent suggestion in the Guardian of mandatory psychotherapy for would-be political leaders.
Boarding younger than 16 should be stopped, and the existing facilities become residential sixth-form colleges on the model of the Danish “efterskol” and the tax concessions to private schools should be reversed.
Original citation: Nick Duffell is a is psychotherapist, author and psychohistorian based in London. His books include Wounded Leaders, The Making of Them and (with Thurstine Basset) Trauma, Abandonment and Privilege. Richard House is a left-green Corbynista activist in Stroud.