Two-thirds of Boris Johnson’s Cabinet were privately educated, research says

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Nearly two-thirds of Boris Johnson’s first Cabinet were privately educated, research suggests.

The proportion of former independent school pupils is higher than David Cameron’s 2015 top team and nearly twice Theresa May’s in 2016, the Sutton Trust said.

The social mobility charity said the new Prime Minister’s Cabinet highlights how unevenly spread opportunities are to “enter the elites”.

Around 7% of school children in the UK go to fee-paying schools, meaning Cabinet ministers are currently nine times more likely to have been privately educated than the rest of the population.

Mr Johnson’s Cabinet consists of 64% former private school pupils, compared to 50% in his fellow Eton alumni Mr Cameron’s 2015 Cabinet, the research says.

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Mrs May’s 2016 proportion was said to stand at 30%.

Sutton Trust founder Sir Peter Lampl said: “Britain is an increasingly divided society. Divided by politics, by class, by geography. Social mobility, the potential for those to achieve success regardless of their background, remains low.

“Addressing this must be at the heart of our new Prime Minister’s tenure in Downing Street.

“The make-up of Johnson’s cabinet underlines once again how unevenly spread the opportunities are to enter the elites.”

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  • Show Comments
    1. The sources of Johnson’s cabinet members’ education is of less interest than consideration of what exposure to them accomplished.

      In many (all?) instances educational achievement is narrowly based around humanities disciplines ending with the worthless Oxford PPE and similar. Almost all subjects studied in depth under inspirational mentors can develop transferable skills in reasoning, analysis, and expression of ideas. However, some disciplines lack exposure to numerical reasoning and associated deep rigour. Additionally requiring consideration are opportunities life after formal education and before entering politics offer for intellectual maturation and broadening scope of knowledge beyond initially narrow confines.

      Ponder for a moment on why so few ‘professional’ politicians entered from strong backgrounds in analytic philosophy, mathematics, the physical sciences, biological sciences, engineering, science-dependent professions like medicine, and accomplishments in high culture (Beethoven rather than Bieber). Could it be that ‘thinkers’ are incapable of meeting the demands traditional politicians set for themselves?

      Else, is it that self-driven individuals of talent set out to achieve satisfaction within a chosen career of substance rather than prostituting themselves by climbing the greasy pole, larded by trivia, of politics? Ascent demands subordination to opinion of others at or near the top. It entails suffering fools, knaves, and self-aggrandising poltroons. By the time the upper end of the pole (ministerial position) is reached capacity for originality, i.e. ‘thinking outside the box’, has atrophied into safe dull conformity to ‘received’ party doctrinal wisdom. Rare indeed is the individual otherwise capable of achievement (measured in lasting accomplishment rather than merely fame and fortune) in the world outside politics who opts to climb the pole and retains unhindered vision. Rarer still, he who also manages to hold onto integrity.

      One wonders whether representative democracy, as currently construed, is capable of better.

      Ministerial appointments in general don’t fit subject specialists into leadership of particular departments of government. Wisely so, it has been deemed that fresh policy insights are more likely to arise from people capable of seeing the ‘big picture’ rather than being immersed in nitty gritty daily activities.

      The assumption is that the appointee shall be a person of sufficient intellectual breadth together with honed critical faculties to rapidly come up to speed on the nature of the department’s work. Any such person ought be able to grasp the key concepts underlying even the most complicated of matters. This requires ability to pose penetrating questions to advisers and to recognise bullshit when offered. How many people in ministerial positions over the last three decades matched up to expectation?

      The present configuration of so-called democracy is mired in corruption from constituency level up to the top. It is easily manipulated by powerful external agencies such as the Murdoch press. Distortions such as ‘parachuting-in’ candidates over the heads of constituency parties and, as in Labour’s case, engineered ‘all female’ short lists (what next – all LGBTxyz or some other minority de jour?) add to public cynicism and contempt.

      If something can be salvaged from this mess it seems only determination by constituency parties across the political spectrum to select candidates who have experience and have contributed to life beyond politics will do. Wisdom does come with age, for some. Only thus may individuals become capable of perceiving the tapestry rather than individual threads. Only through experience offered by time may current events be properly understood in context of recent history.

      By achieving better samples drawn upon a cross-section of skills it may be possible to achieve a legislature and government capable of comprehending opportunities and challenges arising from present day rapid technological advance. Unlike many current career politicians the new intake would understand its own limitations in knowledge and wisdom. It might broaden participation in decision taking by offering the general population opportunities via the Internet e.g. a cascade of advisory referenda following discussion in parliament and opportunity for citizens (sorry, I meant ‘subjects’) to post considered opinions.

      Most urgently required is a political cadre less motivated by self-regard, vanity, and spurious sense of omnipotence. This would grasp how dangerous preening in public on social media, and instant responses motivated by desire to catch attention and bolster political careers, are to good governance. A parliament in future wherein members are forbidden to engage with privately owned social media? Let fools chatter amongst themselves in an advertising sponsored hell and fawn upon so-called ‘celebrities’ but give their wittering no regard.


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