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How much do voters care about Old Etonians and the political class?

18 March 2014

1:11 PM

18 March 2014

1:11 PM

Are voters really concerned about how many Old Etonians David Cameron surrounds himself with? Judging by the cutting remarks from Michael Gove and Sayeeda Warsi it matters a lot, but opinion polling tells a slightly different, more troubling tale about how people feel about the ‘political class’.

On the Eton question, YouGov recently carried out a poll asking which characteristics they found most unsuitable for a ‘leading politician’. When asked to choose three or four negative qualities, 38 per cent stated that an MP who went to Eton and doesn’t ‘understand how normal people live’ is unsuitable:

According to the polling, having been schooled at Eton is judged as a worse characteristic than having an affair while in office, a far-right or communist past, a history of drug use, going bankrupt or even participating in a nude photo shoot.

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But, over half stated that a politician who has ‘never had a “real” job outside the worlds of national politics/think tanks/journalism/local government before becoming an MP’ is more objectionable than going to Eton. It appears that the gangs who control Westminster are the real source of the public’s ire. In 2007, Peter Oborne explained in The Spectator how the old British establishment is dead, the political class that has replaced it and the problems it has with voters:

‘The most important division in Britain is no longer the Tory versus Labour demarcation that marked out the battle zone in politics for the bulk of the 20th century. The real division is between a narrow, self-serving and increasingly corrupt governing elite and the mass of ordinary voters. The distinction between those in and out of ministerial office has become blurred, and general elections have become public stunts, whose primary purpose is an ostentatious affirmation of Political Class hegemony.’

Anger towards the political class goes a long way to explaining the rise of Nigel Farage, who is seen as an outsider. More proof of this can be found in another YouGov poll on how party leaders are viewed. Over two thirds see David Cameron as upper class, compared to just under half for Nick Clegg and 39 per cent for Ed Miliband. Yet 6 per cent, the largest proportion of any leader, view Nigel Farage as working class — the City trader, son of a stockbroker who was educated at Dulwich College:

The latest round of Tory wars have unsurprisingly been seized upon by Labour; with the party’s deputy chair Jon Ashworth using Warsi’s comments to describe Cameron as ‘out of touch’ according to her ‘blatant attack on his style of Government’. But they would do well to remember that their own gangs are just as disliked by the public, regardless of what school they went to.

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Show comments
  • justejudexultionis

    I once met a lower class fellow. Couldn’t understand a damn word the blighter was saying.

  • john

    Until University entrance is determined solely by competitive examination, this astonishing bias will remain. Eton etc might still punch above their weight but it would be minimal.
    Simple rule today, pay the extortionate fees and get a place at Oxbridge. From then on, you’re set for life. Why do we Brits never rebel against the class bias of our politics, law, education etc?

  • Fraser Bailey

    Well, if you add up the 55%’Never had a real job’, and the 38% ‘Went to Eton’ you get 93% in one of those Venn diagram thingies. On which basis, 93% disapprove of Cameron. Osborne and co.

    • Doggie Roussel

      Osborne didn’t go to Eton… he’s merely the heir to a baronet who designs curtains and wallpaper etc

      • Denis_Cooper

        He went to St Paul’s, which only costs about the same as gross average earnings rather than about half as much again.

  • Daniel Maris

    In any social system there will be elite schools but I think there is something peculiarly unbalanced about the English school system that produces somewhere like Eton, whose ex students then enjoy such a preponderance within one political party and within the chambers of government. The great British public are right to be suspicious of this narrow network of influence.

    • john

      Dead right Danny!
      The US has plenty of elite private schools e.g. Taft but they don’t carry anything like the weight their UK counterparts do.
      In Britain, it’s all tied up with aspiring membership of an entrenched social elite – derived from monarchy and aristocracy. The country pays a brutal price for its inability to create equal opportunity for all.

  • Denis_Cooper

    A couple more of the selection of the Telegraph letters not published last year:

    “In 80 years Eton has educated something in the region of 20,800 boys. I can’t see those numbers giving Mr Cameron a majority in the next election.”

    (As a rough estimate, that would be something like 0.08% of all boys.)

    “I wonder if anybody else has removed Eton Mess from their household menus due to its political overtones.”

  • Denis_Cooper

    Coincidentally I’ve been reading the latest published compilation of unpublished letters to the Telegraph and this one seems pertinent:

    “Much is made of the fact that many in central Government are Old Etonians. Has it escaped notice that many of the powerful women in our lives are Old Marlburians? For example, Samantha Cameron, Frances Osborne and the Middletons.”

    Add to which, Sally Bercow:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Old_Marlburians

    Fees are similar to those at Eton, about one and half times gross average wages.

    So the elite are breeding with the elite, of course they would.

    • Wessex Man

      Well what do you think Penny Farthing Sheds are for then Dennis?

    • Fraser Bailey

      Sally Bercow went to Marlborough?! What a waste of money given that she behaves in a way that would see her ‘excluded’ from the most bog standard of bog standard comprehensives.

    • Tom Tom

      Assortive Mating

  • LarryH77

    Ironically the only hope of the Tories regaining power in 2020 is Zac Goldsmith, and old Etonians don’t get any richer or more privileged than that.

    • Wessex Man

      Well they are certainly in big trouble if the answer is Zac Goldsmith!

    • Doggie Roussel

      As well as being Jewish…

  • Colonel Mustard

    Hugely amusing that 15% are more concerned about a “far right past” and only 10% about a “communist youth”. Says it all about this stupid country. No concern about the communist present and the current crop of cloaked “social-democrat” politicians beavering away to a common purpose.

    Vide the troll relentlessly advocating Labour and clearly a Stalinist-style communist red in tooth and claw but not disowned by that party. Socialist when it suits them, communist imperative in all they do. East Germany here we come.

    • HJ777

      Clearly, people were simply weighting their answers according to how likely these things are judged to have happened, not on how inherently undesirable they are deemed to be.

      Had they been asked: “There are two politicians between whom you must choose – you know nothing about them other than that one went to Eton and the other has a communist past” it is highly unlikely that having gone to Eton would be deemed to be the most undesirable.

    • BarkingAtTreehuggers

      You see Colonel, sir, you do East Germany injustice. I’ll tell you why.

      In East Germany, people cared what you were up to, cared about doing the right thing, cared about being told what to do and then opposed that secretively for decades – in youth culture, in the privacy of their homes, the secrecy of church meetings and so on.
      That is diametrically opposed to life in Britain. Here, no one cares what you get up to, no one gets up to anything in the privacy of their own homes and most certainly do the indigenous no longer flock to church to express what it is they believe in. So we are far easier to control.

      The differences could not be any greater – here, it is the case that people *want* to be policed and watched. We desire it. We love to be indoctrinated by irrelevant waffle about left/right nonsense that is only designed to perpetuate the myth of the adequacy of the two party/one party state.
      It is people like you support this idea. YOU Colonel appear to be the incarnation of what is wrong with Britain looking at the world in a post-I.G. Farben way when the world has in fact long turned into HD surround sound colour 3D.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        …that post is scary stupid, Barraco Barner stupid, even.

        • BarkingAtTreehuggers

          Exactly. It’s stick, not carrot.

          • Wessex Man

            seriously deranged, Nurse! Nurse! nu zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

            • BarkingAtTreehuggers

              Oi, wake up Wessex chap – you’ve got your work cut out for you.
              You fall asleep when the Privy Council dictates your press what to write, when the Security and Justice Bill is served, when Legal Aid is capped, when we are snooped upon, when secret courts are established to resolve accusations which those accused but no one else will ever hear about, not even a jury? You are asleep, Wessex chap – THAT’S what I just said but you will not hear it.

          • the viceroy’s gin

            …you should stop smoking the sticks and carrots, lad.

      • Colonel Mustard

        The “left/right” nonsense is never more critical. It is precisely the apathy you describe that makes the work of the malign so easy. But don’t reverse the polarity of where were we are headed and where we have come from. That’s what they are doing. Having been there and come here I’ll judge that for myself, thanks.

        • BarkingAtTreehuggers

          Exactly right, where *we* are heading and where *others* have come from. That is precisely the point. Where are we heading, Colonel? Where is our ‘free’ society heading. It has been ‘free’ for so long, no one even remembers what that means and hence no one gives a darn where we are heading.

          • Colonel Mustard

            “Where are we heading, Colonel? Where is our ‘free’ society heading.”

            I already told you. East Germany. A peculiar, British version of East Germany for the 21st Century but East Germany nevertheless.

            • BarkingAtTreehuggers

              Yes, I know that.
              To which I responded that the difference is that East Germans *cared* and we do not. We have opted for a diktat *by choice*, wilfully, fully conscious, unopposed by society, attracting further punters who love it also, unlike East Germany were people ran to get out right from the start.

              So it’s most emphatically NOT like East Germany. Not in ANY way.

              • Colonel Mustard

                “We have opted for a diktat *by choice*, wilfully, fully conscious,”

                I haven’t. . .

      • telemachus

        You penultimate sentence misunderstands
        All societies have folks who decry the system
        Any system
        However they have a useful function in emphasising to the rest that you have to nail your colours to the mast to formulate an action plan without which society cannot go forward
        In other words there needs to be a policy to govern
        Anarchists are one worse that the uncaring right

        • Colonel Mustard

          You have to push your little self into a perfectly reasonable exchange and indulge in your usual ignorant ad hominem. Only an obsessive statist would try to suggest that one must support a political party or be an anarchist. That is nonsense, in my case untrue and you should give it up.

          Criticism of all parties is healthy in a democracy. Only a blind tribal single-party statist like you bleats “Labour good, Tory bad”.

          Governing policies need to be delivered with the consent of the people, not imposed. They need to benefit the majority not just cynically selected “victimhood” or “to be bribed” groups. I am for democracy, pluralism in politics and diversity rather than for a single party state imposed by drones like you. That does not make me an anarchist you libellous little twerp.

          So can the ad hominem, STFU and stop trying to defame those who dissent from your orthodoxy.

  • Christopher Horne

    Why is it illegal (or at least severely frowned upon) these days to attack someone because of their religion, skin colour, country of origin, sexual orientation etc. etc. but apparently quite OK to attack someone because of what school their parents sent them to? Seems inconsistent to me. Either we should be able to attack everyone or no-one should’t we?

    • Colonel Mustard

      Not all religion, all skin colour, all country of origin or all sexual orientation. The illegality – or inappropriateness – of attacks is highly selective now that the CPS has become the prosecution wing of the Labour party. We live in an age when the rule of law has become the rule of disapproval pecking order

      No-one cares much if the victim is a Christian, white, English, heterosexual male. The attack can be physical, result in death and still attract a sentence far less than for someone who pinched a girl’s bottom forty years ago.

      • Christopher Horne

        Of course you are quite right…but hopefully my general point was clear anyway!

  • Kitty MLB

    That little Mycroft Holmes hat of mine ( not as smart as the ones above)
    is very suspect of such polls and who they drag to participate in them.
    No mention selling our gold, wrecking pensions and indeed the expenses scandal-
    the majority by those poor as church mice labour MP’s.
    Good heavens, not a proper job, which must obviously be working the land.
    and Eton again- helps us to divide and justifies the diminishment of the intellectual
    level of schooling. If all these ‘ posh’ places were demolished.
    Inspiration and choice removed then everyone will be the same- how ghastly.

  • Julian Kavanagh

    I went to Eton and left just before I turned 18. I can safely say that the experiences I had at university and in my early working career were significantly more important in developing my character and views than the 5 very enjoyable years spent at Eton. I doubt that David Cameron or any other Old Etonians would disagree. It’s a great and wonderful place that I am proud to have attended but, no matter what labels anyone else might seek to attach to the place, it remains a school whose primary objective is education.

    • HJ777

      Yes, I think that it’s not the fact that someone has been to Eton, it’s that they tend to come from well-connected (and often wealthy) families – and this is their route into politics, not their school.

      I went to an ordinary comprehensive school, but have coached Eton boys at sport. They all seemed pretty normal to me – Eton doesn’t seem to breed some special ‘type’.

      • Nicholas chuzzlewit

        Agreed. It is only left wing nutters who try and create such divisions in society as a precursor to justifying their highly authoritarian agenda.

        • Kitty MLB

          Not quite Nicholas, members of minority parties of
          all types play the ‘ posh card’ to cause division,
          not just lefties.

          • Nicholas chuzzlewit

            Agreed but the predominant voice in this ludicrous if divisive debate is that sanctimonious, hypocritical Marxist Ed Miliband. As if he did not come from a highly privileged background.

            • Wessex Man

              I don’t care where people were educated if they did a proper job of running the country but they don’t!!!!!!!!!!

        • Makroon

          The criticisms of Cameron, have not been that he attended Eton school. They have been that he has formed a narrow-minded little clique of Eton chaps, several of them severely not up to the mark and qualifying as “cronies”.
          Eton chaps are supposed to be supremely confident – what makes Cameron so dismally insecure ?

          • HJ777

            I don’t think that there is any evidence that men from Eton are more likely to be ‘narrow minded’ than anyone else.

            But narrow (as opposed to narrow minded) cliques tend to be the way all party leaderships are heading these days – it doesn’t seem to be very different depending on the party. I’m not sure that I buy the argument that Cameron forms his ‘clique’ based on where they went to school (Osborne is his right hand man and he didn’t go to Eton) – it’s just that lots of Etonians are in the clique and these are the people that Cameron chooses from (perhaps somewhat unimaginatively).

          • El_Sid

            The problem isn’t that it’s a narrow-minded little clique of Eton chaps – in fact the problem is best exemplified by the Pauline in the clique. It’s the fact that it’s a London, metropolitan clique whereas traditionally the Tories have had a mix of Londoners and Grantham grocers.

            For various reasons its that provincial bourgeoisie that’s not making progress in the Tory party and in modern politics in general. That’s a problem because traditionally they’ve provided the acceptable (and hence electable) face of Toryism, that allows the metropolitan elite to get into government and do their thing. I think a lot of Cameron’s difficulties, in deed and messaging, stem from a London-centric view – it’s no coincidence that Pickles is generally regarded as one of the more effective members of the government. The Tories need to make a conscious effort to get more provincials into Parliament and into Cabinet, it’s more pressing than the so-called woman problem.

      • Rowdie111

        Try telling that to the Labour front bench….mind you they know….they just use the “it’s them and us” platitudes because they know it can garnish them votes. What a despicable lot they are!

        • Doggie Roussel

          Labour’s forte is hypocrisy… just look at Harriet Longford Harperson …

    • Nicholas chuzzlewit

      Well said; the voice of common sense. Mind you, as an old Harrovian, I tend to think of Etonians as underprivileged!

    • Doggie Roussel

      I have read a book, White Mischief of whom the all the main characters attended Eton or Harrow, with the exception of Raymund de Trafford, who went to Downside… or Backsides, as we knew it.

      Lord Erroll (Eton)… serial adulterer and fascist… leading light in white Kenya until shot dead for his sins.

      Jack Soames (Eton)… voyeur… drilled holes in his guests’ bedroom ceilings.

      Sir Jock Delves Broughton (Eton)… charged with murdering Erroll.. acquitted… committed suicide following acquittal.

      Lord Carberry (Harrow)… used to throw his wife’s chickens out of his aircraft to see if they could fly…

      Gilbert Colville (Eton)… although gay, he married Broughton’s widow…

      Denys Finch Hatton (Eton)… on/off lover of Baroness Blixen whose husband is said to have infected her with syphilis… although it could have been any of this sporty crowd

      Raymond de Trafford (Downside)… shot by his mistress, but survived to kill a cyclist after Cheltenham races and served 3 years in Parkhurst, where his charm ensured he was served champagne & caviar while in prison.

      Oh to have lived in Kenya between the two World Wars !

  • Rowdie111

    Most people couldn’t care two pence where they were educated…as long as they were educated well enough to run the country. You will always have those who will use it to try to be derogatory about people same as you have people who are racists and use the colour or religion to stigmatise people.
    We are in the 21st century now and all that class/race stuff is ‘old hat’!

    • Tom Tom

      Well I am concerned, I am not sure Eton has a proper History Department, I am concerned Cameron for one has been poorly educated and is ignorant but a bullshitter. I personally think it should be illegal to pay school fees and all selection should be on acadenic merit, but confess I am less confident in Eton’s quality than I might have been 60 years ago…….like much else it has declined and finishes the children of the well-heeled to do something not particularly well

      • HJ777

        You’d make it illegal to spend your own money on education?

        Really? On what basis?

        • BarkingAtTreehuggers

          On the basis that in nations that do not obsess with where you went to school and what you paid for it, the median outcome is far superior, doubled up by the fact outlined by Tom that the outcome at the top end also leaves things to be desired – so what’s the point? It’s a wasted resource, unless of course you felt this was your product for export to emerging markets.

          • HJ777

            You may feel it pointless, but is that reason to ban it?

            I don’t think that many people do obsess about where someone went to school. If you are worried about inequalities/divisions, why not just do what they do in the Netherlands (which ranks highly in international comparisons) where many schools (about half) are privately run and they receive funding according to the number of pupils they attract

            • BarkingAtTreehuggers

              You misunderstand the point – most parents don’t pay for a quality education, they pay for status. Remove the status aspect and return to quality. It’s the only way.

              • HJ777

                No, you misunderstand.

                Whatever you feel their motivation is, what reason is there to ban something.

                Since when did the state have the right to go around examining people’s motives and then banning them from doing things for having the ‘wrong’ motive?

                • BarkingAtTreehuggers

                  You put too much value on this one word – I doubt it was used other than to incite.

                • Wessex Man

                  why are you talking to someone who barks at trees?

                • HJ777

                  That’s a very fair point.

                  It is clearly a waste of time.

                • Tom Tom

                  The State always controls – it only pays for selective education for its own employees

              • Rowdie111

                “Most parents pay for status”……where do you make that assumption from? Most people I would have thought would like to pay to get the best education the can for their children and also the least they can pay to get that education…the better.
                Having “status” doesn’t pay the bills. There are many with titles and who have ‘estates’ but are broke to boot!

                • BarkingAtTreehuggers

                  You have never been to a dinner party/reception/conference/business lunch/golf club/BBQ/wedding and so on at which *parents* waffle on about the status? Are you for real?

                • Rowdie111

                  I have been to a great number of what you have highlighted above in my lifetime….and I do not recall anyone going on about “status”.. I don’t know whether you live down south…maybe they do down there but here in the north where I live they don’t waste their time waffling on about that.

  • Alex

    Peter Oborne was spot on; and this does partly explain why all parties will lose votes to UKIP. Not over the EU or immigration, but because the 3 main parties are (correctly) seen as identical in their arrogance, their authoritarianism, and their sense of entitlement to power. Whatever happens in elections, the professional political class are always in control of our lives.
    Will UKIP be any different? Probably not, but they can’t be any worse.

    • Kitty MLB

      People who build themselves up that much usually head for a epic fall.

    • telemachus

      Look son forget losing votes to Ukip
      Mattereth not
      The key votes lost are in the 43 Tory marginals
      Were it not so the Great British public would not vote for a vapid fruitcake like chain smoking Farage
      *
      PS Who was Screeming Lord Sutch?

      • Wessex Man

        You are a slightly humourous person sometimes so why not today? I expect that Alex is till shivering at the thought of being your son. I’d rather have smoker Nigel than fingernail chewing Ed, thanks ever so much.

  • anyfool

    Funny there is no question about the far left, let alone those members of the Labour Party who were paid up stooges of the KGB.

    • HJ777

      There is such a question – it refers to a “communist past”.

      However, the wording can influence the result. if it had said “far left” rather than communist it might have been perceived more negatively.

    • Wessex Man

      or indeed Tony Benn.

  • swatnan

    Not really. It wasn’t Boris’s fault that he was packed off to Eton. it was his dad’s fault.

    • Tom Tom

      No it was the taxpayer for paying the fees

      • Fergus Pickering

        Explain to me how it is that the taxpayer pays an Etonian’s fees. Or did Boris win a scholarship and go to the place for nothing? The taxpayer certainly paid for me to go to school. And university. Thank you very much. I am very grateful you lovely taxpayer.

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