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It's game, set and croquet match to Eric Pickles in his clash with John Prescott

Eric Pickles and former John Prescott debated Labour's attempt to fight class war against the Conservatives this morning. Eric was on very good form.

SpotTheDifferenceRemembering those famous Mail on Sunday images of John Prescott playing croquet on the lawn of a country mansion, the Tory Chairman said it was like a scene from the final stages of George Orwell's Animal Farm. Great, great line.

Mr Pickles reminded Today listeners that two-fifths of the Labour Cabinet went to fee-paying schools. It shouldn't be an issue, he said, and the fact that Gordon Brown was attempting to make it an issue was a sign that New Labour was truly dead. Mr Pickles urged Labour to stop the personal attacks and stop judging people by where they were born and how their parents chose to educate them.

John Prescott blustered back - managing to confuse Lords Ashdown and Ashcroft but it was game, set and match to Eric Pickles.

> Listen again to the interview, broadcast at 7.50am

Tim Montgomerie

PS There are two worth-reading articles on this subject in this morning's newspapers. In The Guardian Fraser Nelson notes that his News of the World mailbag has "never" included people worried about David Cameron's upbringing. And in the Daily Mail that old leftie Mark Seddon says Labour's failure of the poor means it has no moral authority to wage class war:

"My real concern — and it is a concern, I suspect, that the public clearly understands — is that Gordon Brown should not be making cheap political capital out of a concocted class war when so many of the working class in Britain feel betrayed by his party. The point is that real inequalities of class have almost become a taboo subject for our political elite. To ignore the problems faced by the poorer sections of society — the schools that fail their children, the sink estates where crime is endemic and jobs are non-existent — seems safer for today’s Labour Party than confronting them. But unless Gordon Brown has the courage to tackle these problems honestly, and to stop taking the votes of the working class for granted, growing numbers of them will either not bother with the ballot box or, worse, be seduced by the obnoxious entreaties of the British National Party. Britain’s working class has been neglected for decades. Only this week the Joseph Rowntree Foundation revealed that poverty levels in Britain are no better than they were in 2000."

Yesterday on CentreRight, Jill Kirby summarised how poverty has grown under Labour.


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