Bill Turnbull: Going to Eton was never an issue until David Cameron became Prime Minister

The outgoing BBC Breakfast presenter says a person shouldn't be judged by where they went to school

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Departing BBC Breakfast host Bill Turnbull doesn’t like being labelled posh just because he went to Eton and says it wasn’t a problem until a particularly famous old Etonian moved into 10 Downing Street. 

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“It was never an issue until David Cameron became prime minister. Never once,” Turnbull reveals in this week’s edition of Radio Times.

“When I started working for the BBC back in the early 80s, it never came up, Only in the past couple of years have people suddenly gone, ‘Oh, you went to Eton’.”

The veteran presenter – who passes the BBC Breakfast torch to Dan Walker – says going to Eton doesn’t necessarily mean you’re posh either.

“It irritates me when people just look at where I went to school and form a judgement,” explains Turnbull, who dislikes being called a “toff” and says he felt “socially inferior” at the £36,000 a year school. “Where you go to school doesn’t affect your attitude – or shouldn’t affect your attitude – to life, people, things that happen. Not going to a comprehensive doesn’t disqualify me from reading the news.”

It did allow him to meet some of the UK’s most influential figures long before he got around to grilling them, though: take Archibishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, for example. 

“When Justin was appointed I remember thinking: ‘He looks familiar’, and then when I did an interview with him, I said: Were you – the phrase is – at school?” explains Turnbull. “He said yes. We worked out we were both in Mr Armstrong’s class for English A-Level, but we never actually spoke.”

And while he might have gotten away with not speaking to the Archbishop at school, Turnbull couldn’t escape that C-word slip up live on air last summer.

“I was reading emails off the screen. And the words ‘clients’ and ‘customers’ came up in close succession,” he recalls. “Now, there are two ways you can confuse these words. One is to say ‘cliestomers’ and the other one isn’t. And it happened. Normally there would be some kind of response from the gallery. Either a gasp of horror or laughter. But nobody noticed. I thought I’d got away with it.”

Until, that is he got out of the studio – and news of his slip-up was all over the internet. “By the time I got home, there was even a newspaper in Malaysia reporting it.”

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Read the full interview with Bill Turnbull in this week’s issue of Radio Times, in shops and on the Apple Newsstand from Tuesday February 16th

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