UK & World News

  • 15 March 2014, 22:05

Gove Says Number Of PM's Etonians 'Ridiculous'

Education Secretary Michael Gove has criticised the "ridiculous" numbers of Old Etonians in David Cameron's inner circle.

Speaking to the Financial Times, Mr Gove said such a "preposterous" concentration of individuals from the same privileged background at the top of government was unique among developed countries.

Labour said his comments showed the Conservatives were "out of touch" with the concerns of ordinary people in Britain.

Old Etonians around the Prime Minister - himself a former Eton pupil - include his chief of staff, Ed Llewellyn; the head of his policy unit, Jo Johnson; the minister for government policy, Oliver Letwin; and Chancellor George Osborne's chief economic adviser, Rupert Harrison.

Mr Gove compared them to the cabinet of Eton-educated Tory prime minister Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, the Marquess of Salisbury, who was accused of nepotism and cronyism.

"At the beginning of the 20th century, the Conservative cabinet was called Hotel Cecil," he said.

"The phrase 'Bob's your uncle' came about and all the rest of it. It is preposterous.

"It doesn't make me feel personally uncomfortable because I like each of the individuals concerned, but it's ridiculous. I don't know where you can find some such similar situation in a developed economy."

Mr Gove, who went to a fee-paying school in Scotland, said the concentration of Old Etonians at the top of the Conservative Party was due to the fact that "more boys from Eton go to Oxford and Cambridge than boys eligible for free school meals".

But shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Ashworth said it was a "reflection of the Conservative Party" under Mr Cameron.

"It's up to David Cameron who he puts into top jobs, and the fact is that the Prime Minister has chosen to surround himself with people just like himself," he said.

"He's leading a Government that's completely out of touch.

"That's why his decisions have helped a privileged few rather than hard-working families, with tax cuts for people earning over 150,000 while wages are down an average 1,600 a year."

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