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“Every single sphere of British influence” in society is dominated by men and women who went to private school or who are from the “affluent middle class”

‘Truly shocking’ that the private-school educated and affluent middle class still run Britain, says Sir John Major

The dominance of a private-school educated elite and well-heeled middle class   in the “upper echelons” of public life in Britain is “truly shocking”, Sir   John Major has said.

State school educated John Major with David Cameron, who went to Eton

State school educated John Major with David Cameron, who went to Eton Photo: Rex Features
Christopher Hope

By , Senior Political Correspondent

10:00PM GMT 10 Nov 2013

The dominance of a private-school educated elite and well-heeled middle class   in the “upper echelons” of public life in Britain is “truly shocking”, Sir   John Major has said.

The former Conservative Prime Minister said he was appalled that “every single   sphere of British influence” in society is dominated by men and women who   went to private school or who are from the “affluent middle class”

More than half of the Cabinet, including David Cameron, the Prime Minister,   George Osborne, the Chancellor, and Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister,   are thought to have gone to private school and are independently very   wealthy.

In the speech to Tory party grassroots activists on Friday evening, Sir John –   who went to a comprehensive in south London and left school with three   O-Levels – said: “In every single sphere of British influence, the upper   echelons of power in 2013 are held overwhelmingly by the privately educated   or the affluent middle class. To me from my background, I find that truly   shocking.”

Sir John blamed this “collapse in social mobility” on Labour, which despite Ed   Miliband’s “absurd mantra to be the one-nation party they left a Victorian   divide between stagnation and aspiration”.

But the comments will be seen as a challenge to the Eton-educated Mr Cameron   who has faced repeated criticism for surrounding himself with advisers and   ministers from a similar background and failing

In the speech to South Norfolk Conservative Association’s annual dinner on   Friday evening, Sir John also said:

– the Government should help pensioners who have saved carefully for their   retirement and are being punished by “cripplingly unfair” low interest rates

– the Bank of England ought to return interest rates to “normal levels, say   three to five per cent”, so that society treats “the saver as fairly as it   treats the debtor”.

– Tory party members were right to feel “unsettled” by the Coalition’s   decision to legalise same sex marriage, but activists have to move with the   times.

– the Conservative leadership should to pull their punches on the United   Kingdom Independence Party, pointing out that “many of the Ukip supporters   are patriotic Britons who fear their country is changing” and will come back   to the Tory party.

Similar concerns about social mobility were voiced by Michael Gove, the   Education secretary who went to state school, last year, but they will have   extra resonance because of his role as a party grandee and former Tory Prime   Minister.

Sir John said: “I remember enough of my past to be outraged on behalf of the   people abandoned when social mobility is lost.”

He continued: “Our education system should help children out of the   circumstances in which they were born, not lock them into the circumstances   in which they were born.

“We need them to fly as high as their luck, their ability and their sheer hard   graft can actually take them. And it isn’t going to happen magically.”

Turning to the Conservatives’ prospects at the 2015 general election, Sir John   said that if the party decided to “shrink into our comfort zone we will not   win General Elections – the core vote cannot deliver a general election   majority”.

Party members were right to feel “unsettled” by “bewildering” changes such as   the Coalition’s decision to legalise same-sex marriage.

He said: “Social mores have moved on from the way in which we were brought up,   with the values that we had. They have moved and changed.

“And that is why issues such as gay marriage have proved so toxic for the   Conservative party.

“Because for many Conservatives, people who are conservative because their   instinct is to conserve, to change slowly and only when you know it is   certain for the better, that is classically Conservative.

“For people like that who form the bulk of our party and a great deal of our   country too, these are difficult issues, these bewildering social changes   and mostly it is my generation and older who are unsettled by these changes.

“We may be unsettled by them, but David Cameron and his colleagues have no   choice but to deal with this new world. They cannot Canute-like order it to   go away because it won’t.

Sir John, Prime Minister from 1990 to 1997, said internal criticism of the   Government should be kept behind closed doors, even though it could be    “productive”.

He said: “If members of our party wish to criticise the Government that it is   fine. It is their right and it is often productive to do so.

“Government should have the benefit of alternative views, but let’s do it in   private. Public criticism is destructive. Take it from me. Political parties   who are divided and torn simply do not win general elections.

“Can we win this election? I am sure that we can but only if we pull together.”

Richard Bacon MP, who hosted the dinner, said: “It was a superb speech which   drew attention to the huge damage done to social mobility especially by the   last Labour Government.

“I think the Coalition is acutely aware of this problem and is taking steps to   address it such as cutting tax for the low paid and the pupil premium but it   is an enormous task.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/conservative/10439303/Truly-shocking-that-the-private-school-educated-and-affluent-middle-class-still-run-Britain-says-Sir-John-Major.html

 

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