The journalist reportedly asked why he had risked condemnation when, with the huge advantages of his background, the boy was likely to succeed at any school.
True to his "Education, education, education" mantra, Tony responded that the school environment was every bit as important as home. Then, surprisingly, he added: "Look at Harold Wilson's children." The journalist pointed out one Wilson son had become a headmaster and the other a professor at the Open University. To which Tony responded, startlingly: 'Well, I certainly hope that my children do better than that!'" Nice story, made pertinent by the Diane Abbott furore this week, but is it true? Hattersley admits telling Cook the anecdote but refuses to name the journalist or swear by its facts.
If the conversation did take place, it was poorly informed. Ben Pimlott, Wilson's biographer, confirms that Giles Wilson did indeed enter teaching, although he doesn't know if he made it to head. The other son, Robin, is a senior lecturer, not a professor, in maths at the OU (research interests include mathematical themes in postage stamps). Both were educated at the elite, and private, University College school, London.