The Rulers and the Ruled

They went to a Comprehensive

There is an old Star Trek episode in which Captain Kirk beams down to some planet and finds a society divided between people who live in gleaming cities in the clouds and those below, the Troglytes, who live beneath the ground and work in the mines that power the city. Fritz Lang’s silent classic, Metropolis, made in 1927, tells a similar story of a society divided between two groups; Thinkers, who rule, and Workers who, well, work. In HG Wells’ The Time Machine, the Time Traveler visits earth in the future where the Eloi live above ground and the Morlocks live below it. Three stories with a common theme; the Rulers and the Ruled.

This may look like the stuff of science fiction, stories of blatant injustice and good versus evil, but I would argue that Britain today is congealing into two separate nations, those who rule and those who are ruled.

A study carried out by the Sutton Trust has found that “54% of the top 100 newspaper editors, columnists, broadcasters and executives were educated privately, despite fee-paying schools catering for 7% of the school population”. Furthermore, “That figure has increased from 49% in 1986, when the research was last carried out”. This bears out the findings of the LSE report into social mobility which I referred to in the previous entry. As Sir Peter Lampl says, “This is another example of the predominance of those who are privately educated in influential positions in society”. The educational elevator has stalled leaving those at the bottom stuck where they are while those at the top pass on national leadership in an almost hereditary manner.

As such it will come as no surprise to note that man of the people “Call me Dave” Cameron (Eton and Brasenose College, Oxford) is the son of Stockbroker, Ian Donald Cameron, and Mary Fleur, daughter of Sir William Malcolm Mount, 2nd Baronet. His friend George Osborne (St Paul’s School and Magdalen College, Oxford), the Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, is the son of Sir Peter George Osborne, founder of Osborne and Little, the leading fabric and wallpaper designers. Such toffery should only be expected of the party of Alec Douglas Home and Anthony Eden but even the horny handed sons of toil who run the Labour party have a head start in life. Tony Blair (Fettes College and St John’s College, Oxford) is the son of a Law lecturer at the prestigious Durham University and his former partner in crime, Peter Mandelson (County Grammar School and St Catherine’s College, Oxford), is the grandson of Baron Morrison of Lambeth, former Deputy Prime Minister, Leader of the House of Commons and Foreign Secretary. The Sutton Trust concluded that “Nearly a third of MPs and almost two thirds of members of the House of Lords were educated privately, compared to 7% in the wider population” and that “27% of the Commons and 42% of the Lords were educated at Oxford or Cambridge universities”.

This web runs right through the elite of British leadership. Whilst working as a TV producer, Mandy met John Birt (St Mary’s College and St Catherine’s College Oxford where he got a third in Engineering) who went on the become Director General of the BBC and was rewarded with a Life Peerage in the House of Lords when stepped down in 1999. One of Birt’s friends from his early TV career was Peter Jay (Dragon School and Oxford University and son of former Labour MP Baron Jay of Battersea – Winchester College and New College, Oxford) who married Margaret Callaghan (Blackheath High School and Somerville College, Oxford – now Baroness Jay of Paddington). Margaret was daughter of future Labour leader James Callaghan who made Peter Jay the ambassador to the United States even though his qualifications amounted to 10 years as The Times economics editor. Are you still with me?

More prosaic examples abound. The journalist Alan Coren (Wadham College, Oxford) seems to spawn TV presenters at will, his daughter Victoria having recently hosted a show about the English language and his son Giles frequently appearing as a newspaper columnist/film critic/restaurant critic (both junior Coren’s having graduated from Oxford). Terry Yorath and Kenny Dalglish, both ex international footballers, have generously donated their daughters to the noble cause of sports broadcasting. Former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nigel Lawson (Westminster and Christ Church College, Oxford), has given the country the ‘domestic goddess’, daughter Nigella, and son Dominic, former editor of The Spectator and Sunday Telegraph. The radical black activist, columnist and TV presenter Darcus Howe has seen his daughter, Tamara Howe, become a director of production for London Weekend Television.

There is another, more sinister vision of a divided society. In the novel Brave New World, Aldous Huxley described a world in which people were divided from birth into castes, allotted their role in society. Bred in test tubes, those selected to be Alphas are educated and engineered to be physically superior, designated to rule. They rule over the Gammas, Delta and Epsilons, who are fed alcohol whilst in the test tube so as stunt their mental growth and leave them happy with the lt society’s rulers and builders have allotted them.

I believe we have seen that in this country. The education which could keep the population turning over, the social mobility which we have seen declining, has been destroyed. It was destroyed by people who had been bought the very best education money could buy. It may well have been done for supposedly good reasons, ‘fairness’ and ‘equality’ perhaps, but the end result has been to entrench the social and economic elite (which was responsible for the death of education on the first place) in its position. On the Labour side, the Oxford educated Anthony Crosland promised the end of the grammar schools back in the 1960’s. Today, his fellow Oxford alumnus, “Call me Dave” Cameron has said “absolutely clearly, the Conservative party that I am leading does not want to go back to the 11-plus, does not want to go back to the grammar school system”. With so much expensively educated cross party opposition to the restoration of the engine of social mobility, ie grammar schools, what chance do the children of the less well off have?

One thought on “The Rulers and the Ruled

  1. Sucks doesn’t it. I look at the staff in the department where I am and out of the 28 lectures and professors only 4 have not been through Oxford or Cambridge. They seem to feel when apointing a new member of staff, that showing balance is to employ someone from the ‘other’ univeristy!Interesting that although the ‘Milk Snatcher’ whent to Cambridge and Blair went to Oxford that man of the people John Major didn’t go to university at all. Nor did former leader of the Conservitive party IDS (although he did pretend to have gone to a univeristy in Italy). Should Blair ever be dragged fingernails sctaching the lino, (this would imply a sudden finding of will from the jellyfish that are Labour MPs) from No 10 then Gorden ‘Mr Sunshine’ Brown would have gone to Edinburgh which would possibly make him the first PM not to have gone to Oxbridge aside from Major.

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