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Class War on the Playing Fields of Eton
- What a catalyst cash turns out to be, goading the snobs while the school runs off with the fees

CLASS WARFARE has erupted at Eton School, one of Britain's poshest educational establishments.

On one side lie upper crust aristocrats who have long sent their sons to Eton, situated just to the west of London near Windsor; on the other nouveau riche parents determined to flaunt their wealth at one of the school's most hallowed occasions, the Fourth of June celebrations.

The latter category, perhaps unprepared for the subtle snobbery practised with effortless ease by the landed gentry, have even apparently taken to bringing business clients along on the Fourth of June, an otherwise mundane event comprising music recitals and a sit-down lunch.

Now Eton Head Master John Lewis has decided to nail his colours to the mast. There will be no prizes for those readers able to guess which way Lewis leans. "The Fourth of June is a private function for Eton boys and their families," Lewis says in a stern letter to parents. "Corporate entertaining is not in keeping with the spirit of the occasion."

Apparently trivial in nature, the dispute between new money and old at Eton touches on some important social trends in the wider society, not least with a general election in the offing. The natural political home of both types of wealth in the UK is the Tory Party, which has for years existed as an uneasy alliance between patrician, 'one nation' conservatism and a more nakedly business wing.

In the 1980s and 1990s under Margaret Thatcher and John Major, it seemed that new money had finally seen off its rival, but then came Tony Blair and New Labour's appeal to the business community. The result has been that current Tory leader William Hague has, to an extent, been pushed back into the arms of landed interests, as witness him enthusiastically taking up the case for farmers in the foot and mouth contagion and aristocrats in the pro-fox hunting movement.

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