[A-List] UK state: old boy network's slow decline
michael.keaney at mbs.fi
Mon Dec 9 05:23:03 MST 2002
Loosening the grip of the old school tie
Fewer Oxbridge graduates hold the top 100 jobs in Britain, writes ROB CRILLY
The Herald, 6 December 2002
THE old boy network that has controlled Britain's commercial, political, and
judicial establishment down the ages is finally losing its grip on power, a
new analysis shows.
Fewer of the country's top 100 jobs are held by the type of person whose old
school tie would generate a discreet nod of recognition in fusty gentlemen's
A Labour government and the growing power of Scottish financial services
mean fewer English establishment types at the top.
The Economist looked at 100 top posts in politics, business, academia, the
professions, sport, and the arts. The researchers picked the same jobs they
used for previous surveys, in 1972 and 1992, and found that, of the 100, 46
holders had been to public school and 35 studied at Oxford or Cambridge.
A decade ago, 66 were public-school educated and more than 50 had been to
But the survey, published in this week's Economist, shows that some facets
of public life have barely changed in 30 years.
Ten years ago, every business leader on the list had been to public school
and 12 had an Oxbridge degree.
In the class of 2002, eight out of 20 attended public school and four had
been to Oxford and Cambridge. Sir George Mathewson, chairman of Royal Bank
of Scotland, went to neither.
In 2002, the country may not be run by the same old boys' network, but it is
still run by a boys' network - only five women, including Helen Liddell,
Scottish secretary, and the Queen, have made the list.
Emma Duncan, the report's author, said that, although there had been little
change between 1972 and 1992, this time the findings suggested the old
establishment was on its way out, in part replaced by a growing Scottish
She said the biggest changes had been in the business world. "I put that
down to the changes that globalisation and deregulation have brought to
business during the past 20 years.
"The City used to be quite a cosy place, where most people used to know most
other people. That ain't so any more - there are more foreigners in the list
and there are British people who haven't come from the elite schools."
Elsewhere, change is mixed. Public school alumni feature in the cabinet,
such as Tony Blair, Alistair Darling, transport minister, and Lord Irvine,
the lord chancellor.
But then there are the likes of Robin Cook, leader of the Commons, Gordon
Brown, chancellor, and Michael Martin, speaker, who went to state schools.
While the leader of the Labour Party went to a public school followed by
Oxford, Iain Duncan Smith, leader of the Tories, Charles Kennedy, of the
LibDems, John Swinney, SNP leader, and Gerry Adams, of Sinn Fein, went to
Eton is perhaps the biggest loser. In 1972, it had 14 representatives; now
it has two - Charles Nunneley of the National Trust and David Calvert-Smith,
director of public prosecutions.
Several strongholds of the establishment have fallen. The BBC echoes to the
estuary English of Greg Dyke, the Church of England is run by Rowan
Williams, a leftish product of a state-school education, and The Times by an
Australian, Robert Thomson.
Even MI5 is now run by a "chapess", albeit a public-school and
Oxbridge-educated chapess, Eliza Manningham-Buller.
However, Ms Duncan admitted that public schools were still over-represented.
About 9% of the UK population attend private schools, yet their old boys
(and two old girls) account for 46 places in the class of 2002.
Ms Duncan said that the reintroduction of grammar schools was the best way
for the government to help future generations redress the balance.
"It seems that social mobility is now decreasing, possibly due to the
abolition of the grammar schools. They provided a fast track for the clever
children of the not-so-well-off."
But for all the talk of meritocracy and a new Britain during the past 10
years, there is one top job that is likely to remain a symbol old Britain.
The Queen is the only person to have featured on all three lists - and she
went to neither public school nor Oxbridge.
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