Class of 2019: ‘I’m a socialist at Eton – but I won’t become a Tory’


Our new Class of 2019 series highlights some of the best feature writing by recent graduates of De Montfort University’s Journalism course. We kick off with Aleesha Khaliq, and the story of a socialist teenager from an East End council estate who earned a £76,000 scholarship to Eton College. 

This week has been anything but average for 16-year-old Hasan Patel. It all started at the beginning of the week from what he describes as a really shit day at school. He was tired, and desperately anticipating for his day to come to an end. Eventually, his school day did come to an end, and he embarked on his average journey home to his two-bedroom council estate flat where he lives with his parents and two brothers in Leyton, East London. He was relieved to be home.

By the time he removed his shoes and bag, he immediately noticed that the mood was different at home. His parents were acting different and the tension heightened in Hasan’s mind. Perplexed, he wondered what was going on and eagerly asked his parents in a desperate attempt to understand their different mood.

Then it hit him.

“You’ve got into Eton College!” his father said, referring to the letter that was posted to him earlier on in the day.

It took a few minutes for Hasan to process this information. Silence. A working-class brown boy would be going into the heart of the British establishment with a £76,000 scholarship. Eton College, the private school notorious for educating generations of British aristocrats and members of the royal family like Prince William and Prince Harry. Where would someone like Hasan Patel fit into this? He didn’t believe that he could do it, let alone be accepted.

His father cried. He says: “My parents were really proud and really happy. My dad got especially emotional because in India he was subject to poverty and wasn’t able to go to college as his family didn’t have the money. That’s one of the reasons why he ended up migrating to the UK looking for a better life”.

The scholarship to Eton never crossed Hasan’s mind until his head teacher approached him telling him he was capable and getting into prestigious institutions. He didn’t believe in himself, but once he got shortlisted for interviews at Eton, the faith he had in himself was restored. Statements, references, examinations that lasted over four days and three nights, and nine interviews, was a long process for him.

“The reason why I did apply in the end is because I realised that sadly, we live in a system where private schools have them resources and the teachers and the money to invest in the students. It would be stupid if a working-class kid like me didn’t apply for it,” he said.

“I feel privileged knowing I’ve been accepted, but I realise that it’s only through my hard work that I’ve got in, but I also think it’s unfair that these opportunities aren’t open to everyone, and it’s not fair that 7% of the population gets such good education, whilst the other 93% are in education that is being underfunded systemically by this government”.

“It’s going to be different at Eton because I’ve come from the background where we don’t have any money for me to go to such a school, which is why I have a scholarship in the first place, but hopefully once I’m there I hope I’m able to mix with them and not feel singled out even though I know I will be different to them because of my background”.

Outside of his Eton scholarship, Hasan describes himself as a socialist who joined the Labour party at the age of 15 during the 2017 election, inspired by the passion and drive of Jeremy Corbyn: “I’ve been quite interested in politics for a while before, but I saw how unfairly young people were being treated, especially by this government, and that really inspired me to get involved”.

Hasan uses the platform Twitter to spread his pro-Corbyn messages, where he’s since gained 23,700 followers, including politicians, political commentators, and many more. He was eager to share the great news with his followers.

He tweeted: “I’ve got a scholarship to Eton College for sixth form. I know you may be thinking – “a Corbynista teen going to private school, hypocrite!” – This is an opportunity I cannot refuse and it won’t mean my politics will change. I’ll still be the same kid fighting for social justice. I’ll still be the same boy from East London when I arrive and when I leave. I’m not joining the elite but simply getting an education my family would never be able to afford, paid by the college. I’ll return to my community better armed to tackle the many injustices we face”.

But he wasn’t prepared for the response.

He received thousands of messages and the media soon took notice of a brewing story that would surely become the subject of much discussion. Hasan says that the response has been mainly positive, receiving messages of support from Labour’s Kate Osamor and Angela Rayner. He also received messages of support from cross-party politicians such as the SNP’s Humza Yousaf.

Not all of it was positive.

“Class traitor!”

“You’re a sell-out!”

“You’re a hypocrite!”

“Champagne socialist”

And torrents of abuse filled with profanity were sent his way.

“I’ve just had to develop a thick skin and sometimes it does get to me, but I can’t let it because at the end of the day, this is my life and if I want to succeed, I’m going to take a hold of the best opportunities,” Hasan says.

Hasan Patel tweet

Hasan has also been the face of young Labour activists. Last year, at the Labour annual conference in Liverpool, he became the youngest person ever to speak at a political party conference. An exhilarating moment.

Flashback to the very moment in summer 2018 at Labour’s annual conference, he sits for two hours putting his hand up ready to speak. Finally, he is picked and it was his turn. Making his way to the stage nervously, he notices the crowd of hundreds. With a speech prepared just 20 minutes before speaking, he holds the paper tight, shaking, and looked to the crowd. He spots his face on the big screen opposite, and begins talking. Suddenly the passion overtakes, speaking with anger and frustration at cuts to his school and injustices. He finishes, and with adrenaline rushing through his veins, the crowd stands to give him a standing ovation. This moment created history.

“As a young BAME person in politics, I have received my fair share of racism, but it’s got to a point where this kind of abuse doesn’t affect me anymore, because it’s so irrational. If they want to attack me, please do it on my politics and not the colour of my skin”.

Hasan’s message to his haters can’t be clearer: “I know my haters love me and I love them back. They’re my biggest fans”.

“I don’t know what’s next for me. I didn’t know when I joined Labour that I’d do so well in my activism, let alone get a scholarship to Eton. It’s crazy. I want to concentrate on my studies and get the best education possible so that in the future I can do what I want to in terms of my activism.”

Hasan will study at Eton in September and hopes to study History, Politics, Drama, and Geography. “I won’t become a Tory,” he says.

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