Last week the BBC came up with a fun wheeze to show us just what sort of cabinet we enjoy. This helpful graphic allows you to see who’s under 50 at the top table, who’s an old lag, who’s female or Lib Dem, or, who went to Oxbridge. Of the full, salaried cabinet of 23 – all that were shown – 14 of its members were undergraduates or postgraduate students at the ancient English universities. For what it’s worth, if you include the half dozen other ministers who habitually also attend cabinet, that adds another 5 Oxbridge alumni. Yet here’s the funny thing: why did the BBC go to the bother of illustrating only tertiary education? Why on earth didn’t they also say where cabinet members went to school?
It’s long been a risible fact of life in the Tory party that the privately educated and elected are, about this mark of Cain, ever so mealy mouthed on their own and on the CCHQ website. Whereas the state educated both proclaim it with gusto and have it shouted for them by Central Office too. So what sort of cabinet has David Cameron picked for himself? Well the privately educated Tories are Cameron himself, Osborne, Strathclyde, Lansley, Gove, Mitchell, Paterson, Gillan, Hunt and, from that troupe falsely accounted off the table, Maude, Letwin, Young and Grieve. Then there’s the (more or less) definitely state-educated, consisting of: Hague, Hammond, Pickles, Greening, Spelman, McLoughlin, Warsi, Clarke and Willetts, with the last pair presenting only a slight degree of confusion. For both went to Ed Balls’ forging place, Nottingham High School, except they went when it was still a direct grant grammar school rather than the Midland private school it is today (and when the shadow chancellor went). Theresa May went to both fee-paying and state schools, but on the one drop rule, we’ll give her to the first camp. Which leaves us only that perpetual oddity, Iain Duncan Smith. The ex-leader went to a sort of maritime borstal, and while some small fees were involved, they were no greater than contemporary grammars often entailed, so we’ll allot him to the second camp. Thus, David Cameron has picked for himself a cabinet with 14 privately educated members versus 10 state educated ones.
Meanwhile, Nick Clegg is joined by two fellow public school men in Michael Moore and Ed Davey (Nottingham High School again, but this time after its return to fee-paying independence) with Cable and Alexander being in the state sector. Which means, if fractions tell us anything, than in his choices for the cabinet table, the Deputy Prime Minister is a tenth more inclined towards picking people from private schools than David Cameron is.
So grist there for the BBC’s mill surely? Or at any rate, to further amplify whatever point was being made in highlighting who went to Oxbridge. Yet for some mysterious reason the BBC journalists involved in making the decisions as to what to show and what not to weren’t interested in where ministers went to school. Wouldn’t you like to known then where they went to school and whether they’re almost as shy about it as Tory PPCs are? But of course you can’t, because the BBC really does have one rule for itself and quite another for everyone else. One more time: if we don’t need a government supermarket or a government newspaper, we don’t need a government broadcaster. It almost makes you wonder what sort of Tory Prime Minister picks that as a status quo.