Thursday, 27 January 2011

Is a social elite running our country ?

Watching posher and posher : why public school boys run britain last night presented by Andrew Neill who himself has done very well for himself made me realise that the social elite who make it to the very top of running this country and decisin making is shrinking.

To many at the bottom of the ladder this is no surprise but to many in the middle class this is a big surprise. To many who still stand by the belief that labour is for the working class will have gained a stark reality check last night if they watched this show that i watched.

As further down i have posted an article i found about this programme aired on wednesday 26th of January further outlines it isnt just the tories becoming more elitest and exclusive boys club.

For all their gushing rhetoric about change and inclusiveness, MPs of all parties tend to look remarkably similar. And for all their talk about diversity, it is worth noting that a pitiful 11 out of 306 Tory MPs are black or Asian, while Labour boasts just 16 and the Lib Dems none at all.

The figures on education are even more revealing. Of our 119 Government ministers, 66 per cent went to public schools, compared with only 7 per cent of the population as a whole. And what is more, a staggering 10 per cent went to just one school, Eton.

The Old Etonians themselves insist none of this matters. ‘What people are interested in,’ Mr Cameron recently insisted, ‘is not where you come from but where you’re going, what you’ve got to offer the country.’

But, of course, this is precisely what you would expect him to say. And in the BBC2 documentary, we are treated to the entertaining spectacle of the Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg — the Old Etonian son of a former editor of The Times who once, almost incredibly, campaigned alongside his old nanny — denying that he belongs to a privileged class. ‘I’m a man of the people,’ he says, barely bothering to ­conceal a smirk.

As the fortunate beneficiary of a public school and Oxbridge education, I am hardly well placed to start throwing stones. But my own cloistered experience only reinforces my fear that politics is becoming the preserve of a narrow, gilded elite.
Eton crop: David Cameron and Jacob Rees-Mogg are products of England's most exclusive private school

The tragedy is that in the past few decades, we have taken a historic step backwards. Between 1964 and 1997, not only had every British Prime ­Minister been educated at a grammar school, but many came from distinctly humble working-class backgrounds.

They were the beneficiaries of a golden age of social mobility, an age when the education ­system promoted bright children from poor backgrounds and Britain’s booming manufacturing ­industries offered a ladder up to working-class youngsters with few qualifications.

From Harold Wilson and Ted Heath to Margaret Thatcher and John Major, Britain was ­governed by men and women who had won their laurels through hard work and talent, not birth and breeding.

And one obvious reason why Mrs Thatcher won so many ­elections was that — as the grammar-school-educated daughter of a Grantham grocer — she instinctively understood the values and ambitions of so many ordinary people.

By the time she became Prime Minister in 1979, however, mobility had stalled. Grammar schools had been scrapped to make way for comprehensives, manufacturing industry was in deep decline, and generations of poor youngsters were ­condemned to low-paid jobs in the service sector.

But if the contrast between Conservatives past and present is only too glaring, then so is that between the working-class MPs who once led the Labour Party and their metropolitan, Oxford-educated successors.
Leader: Ed Miliband
Picked: Yvette Cooper
Bright: Ed Balls

With Alan Johnson gone, Labour is dominated by three people — Ed Miliband, Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper — with remarkably similar backgrounds.

The son of a Marxist academic, Miliband grew up in the heart of the North London intelligentsia, while Ed Balls went to the ­private all-boys Nottingham High School. All three of them were educated at Oxford, and all three went on to Harvard.

And although Ed Miliband can point to a comprehensive school education, his alma mater was hardly your typical state school. Like his brother, David, he went to Haverstock Comprehensive in North London — effectively a ­finishing school for what even The Guardian calls the ‘trendy, arty and liberal’ teenagers of Camden and Hampstead.

None of Labour’s senior figures, needless to say, has ever held a serious job outside politics for more than a few years. And as if that were not enough, it is worth noting that all five of last year’s Labour leadership ­candidates had been to Oxford or Cambridge.

But it is not only the party ­leaderships that seem worryingly out of touch. In his BBC2 film, Andrew Neil visits Stoke-on-Trent, a safe Labour seat that last year faced a highly revealing choice.

With Stoke’s long-serving MP stepping down, many people expected the seat to go to the secretary of the local Labour Party, Gary Elsby, who had lived all his life in the area and had been a party member for 30 years.

But, of course, Mr Elsby’s background was all wrong. He had not gone to private school; he had not gone to Oxford; he had not even gone to Cambridge.

Chosen one: Tristram Hunt
So Labour’s national executive ensured that the seat went to someone supposedly much ­better equipped to represent the ­ordinary people of the Potteries: the TV historian Tristram Hunt, son of a Labour peer, ­educated privately at University College School, Hampstead, and Oxford, and a close friend of Peter Mandelson.

For all Mr Hunt’s brains, he could hardly be said to reflect the anxieties and ambitions of the typical Stoke-on-Trent family. His elevation, sadly, was all too ­typical of a political elite in which self-made men such as Alan Johnson and David Davis remain rare exceptions.

Thanks to the death of grammar schools and the decline of manufacturing, the ladders have been kicked away. The process has become self-reinforcing: with an increasingly wealthy, narrow elite in charge at the top and a broad, under-educated, neglected mass at the bottom, few working-class children now even imagine they could ever get to the top.

Reversing the slide back to the 18th century, when politics was the plaything of a rich metropolitan elite, will take more than one parliamentary term. An obvious first step would be to bring back state grammar schools, which at their peak offered a real chance to thousands of bright working-class boys and girls.
Another would be to invest in apprenticeships in manufacturing industries, so that school-­leavers no longer troop to the nearest call centre. And a third would be to institute open ­contests for all parliamentary candidates, with shortlists determined by local activists rather than Westminster party fixers.

What makes this issue so urgent is that in the next few years, with the Government’s cuts beginning to bite and a quick recovery highly unlikely, ordinary Britons will be forced to pull in their belts tighter than at any time in living memory.

For many people, economic austerity will mean real pain. They are unlikely to be mollified by pictures of Coalition ministers enjoying themselves on the ski slopes. And if they doubt that the political class understands or shares their hardship, they are likely to look outside the mainstream for answers.

The death of social mobility was one of the greatest betrayals of the past 40 years. And Mr ­Cameron’s priority must be to turn back the clock.

All this is very interesting to me. I feel that this programme reflected on a culture at the top. A political ruling class that is extremely hard to break into and even harder if you are from a working class background with little money to spare to get you to one of these top colleges or universitys.

I personally feel it is wrong of labour to portray itself still as a working class party as in my opinion it doesnt represent ordinary working people anymore. Was it thinking about the ordinary people when it tried to sell off the post office to consignia ? was it thinking of ordinary people when they propped up the banks and pumped our money into them ? course not, they like the tories are on the side of business and capitalism. Dont get me wrong labour wasnt always like this. It used to represent working people and represent their views at a national level. I think maybe at a local level this is still the case but the ones you find in Westminster today are from a different world to the rest of us.

Unless you have grown up with wealthy parents happy to pay to send you to Eton or any other of these exclusive private schools you are severely impended as to how far you can actually go in life.

As a socialist i dont crave power or fame but the modern day labour party appears to crave both with claiming all sorts when it comes to elections. It is not and will never be a socialist party they support capitalism and what socialist party can seriously say it does that ?

They sold its members out to the big corperations years ago. The big trades unions dont even have a big say in labours internal politics much anymore. It is a sad state of affairs for a once great workers party.

Ed miliband has a huge task on his hands i feel and i'm not sure how far he can go with his modernising the party the party will be unrecognisable from the early days of its creation if Ed and other political careerists get their way i'm afraid.

As the documentary rightly explains the private schools provide nearly all of our modern day polititians and i do feel personally that the abolishment of all private schools bringing class out of the education system would fix this. Having no school better off than another will discourage elitism and lead to a much more fairer society in my view.

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