Back in October, I wrote about how Corbyn had replaced the shadow cabinet’s Oxbridge and Harvard elite with red-brick university graduates. This week’s reshuffle has continued the trend. Maria Eagle – alma mater, Pembroke College, Oxford – has been demoted, and replaced by Emily Thornberry, who went to the University of Kent.
Admittedly, the sacked Michael Dugher and Pat McFadden didn’t go to Oxbridge, but to Nottingham and Edinburgh respectively. Still, they are both higher-achieving universities than Northumbria University, where Emma Lewell-Buck, the new shadow local government minister, did her politics and media studies undergraduate degree.
I don’t want to be intellectually snobbish. There’s nothing wrong with the universities attended by the new Corbyn set. Nor do I think Corbyn is intentionally anti-Oxbridge. But I do think Corbyn puts intellectual prowess some way below institutional loyalty to the hard left. Corbyn got two Es at A-level at Adams’ Grammar School in Newport, Shropshire. He then did a year of trade union studies at North London Polytechnic before dropping out. He thus became the first Labour leader not to graduate from university since James Callaghan — and Callaghan didn’t go, only because his family, unlike the prosperous Corbyns, were unable to afford it.
Whether intentionally or not, Corbyn hasn’t just moved the shadow cabinet to the far left; he has also shifted it far away from Oxbridge.