Eton, its former head liked to point out, is a four-letter word. The elite school, whose pupils dress like old-style head waiters, is used to invective. But the hostility has new heft. The Labour party conference in September voted to integrate private schools into the state sector and redistribute their assets. The slogan of the campaign? Abolish Eton.

The mechanics would be worked out if and when Labour is in government. Outright expropriation is not on the agenda, it insists. But if there is compensation for an asset grab, how would it be calculated? Labour has suggested the cost of water nationalisation would be less than £15bn — the book value of the 15 English water companies. Lex has estimated that compensation for National Grid’s UK assets might be just £1bn more. A similar value looks plausible for the assets of independent schools.

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