Michael Gove rounds on Cameron’s Etonians

Mar 15, 2014

Number of old boys 'preposterous' says education secretary

The number of Old Etonians in David Cameron’s inner circle is “preposterous” and “ridiculous”, says Michael Gove.

The prime minister is himself an Old Etonian, as are four members of his inner circle: Oliver Letwin, Jo Johnson, Ed Llewellyn and Rupert Harrison. More than half the cabinet is privately educated.

Gove, who recently became the first Conservative education minister to send his child to a state secondary school, speaks out during an interview with the Financial Times magazine. “I don’t know where you can find some such similar situation in a developed economy,” he said.

The education secretary draws a comparison between Cameron’s team and that of former Eton-educated Tory prime minister Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, who was accused of nepotism and cronyism.

“At the beginning of the 20th century, the Conservative cabinet was called Hotel Cecil,” Gove said. “The phrase ‘Bob’s your uncle’ came about and all the rest of it. It is preposterous.”

He insisted that the demographics of the current Tory elite reflects the historic failings of the state system, and adds that it would be “silly” to “blame the individuals concerned”. However, his unexpected outburst will be seized upon by Labour as evidence the Tories are out of touch. 

Gove denies he has ambitions to become Conservative Party leader, but a close colleague tells the Financial Times: “I suspect there is a tension between wanting to be taken seriously as a future leader and wondering if he could make a success of it.”

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