So does New Labour hate universities? According to one former minister its main emotion is indifference rather than hostility or enthusiasm. There are far more votes in children at two key points in their lives - when they start school and when they change schools - and further education has been ten times quicker than the universities at making the case for its importance in New Labour Britain. But he was full of praise for the astute political manoeuvring of Oxford and Cambridge as their elite status comes under attack.
"A few years ago you could not have imagined them getting involved in anything like the Russell Group," he said. "Now they have managed to make it look as if an attack on them is really an attack on everyone from Warwick to Sussex."