Corbyn's purge of the Oxbridge set

How Jeremy Corbyn is building a party of red-brick revolutionaries

24 October 2015

9:00 AM

24 October 2015

9:00 AM

‘I’d rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University,’ said William F. Buckley Jr, the American conservative writer. Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party must be hoping British voters agree.

Under Corbyn, the Labour party — once the clever party — has had a brain transplant. It’s out with the Oxbridge and Harvard graduates with first-class degrees; in with the red-brick university graduates.

Or, in Corbyn’s case, a non-graduate. Corbyn got two Es at A-level at Adams’ Grammar School in Newport, Shropshire. He did a year of trade union studies at the North London Polytechnic before dropping out. Corbyn is the first Labour leader not to go to university since James Callaghan — and Callaghan only didn’t go because his family, unlike the prosperous Corbyns, couldn’t afford it.

Corbyn, perhaps because of his low-grade education, has largely replaced the Oxbridge elite — who ran the Labour party under Ed Miliband — with red-brick alumni. John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, left school at 17 and was later a mature student at Brunel and Birkbeck universities. Tom Watson, the deputy leader, was at Hull University, as were Rosie Winterton, the shadow chief whip, and Jon Trickett, shadow minister for the cabinet office. Hilary Benn, shadow foreign secretary, was at Sussex, as were Owen Smith, shadow secretary for work and pensions, and Lord Bassam, the Labour chief whip in the Lords. Michael Dugher, shadow culture secretary, was at Nottingham University. And Gloria De Piero, shadow minister for young people, attended the University of Westminster.

Let’s not be snobbish. Those universities are good. But it isn’t snobbery to point out that they aren’t as good as Oxford or Cambridge — second and fourth respectively in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, published last week. Hull is 401st equal. Jeremy Corbyn’s alma mater, now London Metropolitan University, doesn’t make the 800-strong list.

Bill Buckley had a point. Eggheads are often not best equipped to run things. But do we want our top politicians to be drawn from the lower ranks of academia?

Labour was traditionally the intellectuals’ party. The late Denis Healey got a double first in Greats at Balliol, the brainiacs’ Oxford college. Harold Wilson got an outstanding first in PPE at Jesus College, Oxford, with alphas on every paper. Wilson became a lecturer at New College and a research fellow at University College.

The Tories were the dimmer lot, suspicious of planet-sized brains. In 1961, Lord Salisbury called Iain Macleod — the Tory chancellor and former Spectator editor — ‘too clever by half’. He attacked Macleod for nimbly outwitting his opponents, as he did at the bridge table: ‘The Colonial Secretary, when he abandoned the sphere of bridge for the sphere of politics, brought his bridge techniques with him.’

In 1963, Nigel Lawson accused Macleod again of being ‘too clever by half’ — when Macleod supported Alec Douglas-Home in the Tory leadership contest, hoping to triumph in the resulting deadlock. Douglas-Home got a third in history at Christ Church, Oxford, in 1925 — once an ideal degree for a Conservative politician. David Cameron is himself the first Tory prime minister with an Oxford first since Harold Macmillan. And Macmillan only got a first in Mods — the exam after the first five terms of Oxford’s 12-term classics course — at Balliol. He never finished his degree, which was interrupted by first world war service. Among recent leaders, neither John Major nor Iain Duncan Smith had a degree.

Until Corbyn’s arrival, British politics, in both major parties, had evolved into a game for elite graduates of elite universities. For more than 20 years, every Labour leader has had a first- or second-class degree from a leading university. Tony Blair got a second in jurisprudence from St John’s, Oxford. Gordon Brown took a first in history at Edinburgh. Ed Miliband got a 2.1 in PPE at Corpus Christi, Oxford, and became a Master of Science at LSE. The really clever Miliband is David — with a first in PPE at Corpus Christi followed by a Kennedy scholarship at MIT.

But now a generation of Labour Oxbridge graduates has left the shadow cabinet. Ed Balls got a first in PPE from Keble College, Oxford, and a Kennedy scholarship at Harvard. His wife, Yvette Cooper, took a first in PPE at Balliol, and also won a Kennedy scholarship to Harvard. Gone, too, is Tristram Hunt, with his doctorate at Trinity College, Cambridge, and his lectureship at Queen Mary University of London.

It isn’t just in Britain that red-brick universities are on the march. Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek finance minister, did economics at Essex and mathematical statistics at Birmingham. His replacement, Euclid Tsakalotos, studied at Oxford and Sussex, and taught at Kent University. Red-brick universities don’t have a monopoly on incubating left-wing thought. In the second volume of his Margaret Thatcher biography, Charles Moore writes that Oxford’s refusal to award her an honorary doctorate in 1985 hurt her more deeply than anything other than her fall from power. Still, a new line has been drawn in politics: between Oxbridge blue Conservatives and red-brick Labour.

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  • KilowattTyler

    Hmmm…Have Oxbridge’s (predominantly Oxford’s) shining alumni in Parliament and Government actually done much good for the UK over the past century or so? Are we to stare open-mouthed in wonder at that Uebermensch, Ed Miliband? How about Tony Blair, or Edward Heath?

  • Nuahs87

    Laurie Penny, Owen Jones and Seamus Milne all went to Oxford. I understand that their science grads are the envy of the world, but the liberal arts grads are almost invariably left wing technocrats of little distinction or Communists. The mauling Miliband’s Oxbridge grads received from the SNP was surely proof of their limitations?

  • Partner

    Milne is a Wyhamist. A bit of serious class at last. Thin lipped Wykhamist socialists like Willliam Hayter would gladly purge whatever party they were asked to. With a thin lipped sneer.

  • MacGuffin

    Corbyn couldn’t handle the intellectual rigour of a degree in Trade Union Studies at a polytechnic. Could it have been the distractions offered by the comely young Dianne Abbott?

    • Ted Milliband

      What does two consenting adults having a relationship have to do with anything?

      • MacGuffin

        The Chairman and Madame Mao thank you for your intervention.

        • Ted Milliband

          Good one. But you didn’t answer my question, why do you care that two people had sex?

          • MacGuffin

            Well, firstly, and it should never be underestimated, there is the sheer pleasure of gossip. Secondly, it speaks a lot about Abbott’s inexplicable rise to a prominent position in the Corbyn Shad Cab, her vociferous attacks on dissent from the Corbyn line, and Corbyn’s judgement in putting his old girlfriend in a position of responsibility. Oh, and the gossip. Did I mention that?

          • KingEric

            And exactly when did you have your sense of humour bypass operation?

    • George_Arseborne

      What about distraction from the head of a dead pig eh? You have a choice here Goofool!!!!!!

  • Teacher

    It doesn’t matter how clever you are if you go to a purveyor of left wing propaganda and drink the Kool-Aid. In fact it makes it worse as the self policing mechanisms which militate against independent thought are better served by sharp wits.

  • davidshort10

    It wasn’t a purge. Most of the Oxbridge lot chose not to join the Corbynet and anyway two did – Abbot and Burnham, presumably because they saw no other future for themselves, no proper career beckoning.

    • Sandy

      More money as well.

      • davidshort10

        Yep, bigger salary as part of the Shadow cabinet. Burnham of course can’t even get on BBC panels to simper inanely like Abbot.

    • Jon Hewitt

      Could this be at all also partly because Abbott in particular isn’t likely to go work for JP Morgan and their ilk after leaving politics (or indeed while still being “in” politics)

  • Matt Usselmann

    Don’t mention the 4 Bullingdon boys in the cabinet, though.

    Who actively engaged in willful and pre-meditated destruction of assets when having “dinners” in Oxforddshire restaurants.

    And who now think they can do the same with Britain.

    WTF is a deal for £18bn for the French/Chinese guaranteed to give them a £2bn return over 35 years? Ie invest £18bn and get £70bn back! Is that what they teach in PPE courses!!! Sanctioned by 4 PPE graduates in the Tory government.

    Give me the second-rate Labour people with common sense between their ears anytime!

    • McRobbie

      If there was some common sense there..it requires experience of the real world to have common sense…the current gang of full time student militant activists leading labour have none.

    • SonofBoudica

      Silly point. Students do stupid things. End of.

    • richthanki

      The author is a also a Bullingdon man, which means he’s the kind of shit that’s smashed up someone else’s livelihood or burned a £50 note in front of a homeless person or some other stupid ritual

      • justejudexultionis

        You forgot the billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money the Bullingdon boys have burnt in front of the rest of us.

    • Sandy

      I don’t want second rate anything , but I understand Labour types do. Oh! And get off the outrage bus. Just because some posh students got drunk and rowdy you lot have got a wierd obsession with it and at least they learned how to behave themselves as MPs.
      Eric Joyce hadn’t aquired decent social skills even as an MP.

  • TimFootman

    This article is essentially saying, “These people didn’t go to the same university as me so they’re rubbish.”

    • KingEric

      I think you’re reading into it what you want to read. Most sane people accept that some universities are better than others and all this article said was that Labour ministers used to have better degrees than the Tories but now it was the other way round.

    • Sue Smith

      I think it’s crypo-ruling class aspirational cant.

  • Lemniscate

    What about Thatcher? She might have only got a second class degree from Oxford, but she studied X-ray crystallography under Nobel Laureate Dorothy Hodgkin, then went onto help develop emulsifiers for ice cream.

    Thatcher is the stand out Prime Minister of recent history, and she’s the only Prime Minister with a science degree, and the only Prime Minister to work in industry. Instead of worrying about Oxbridge elitism, we should worry about the fact that most of our leaders have no scientific or technical background whatsoever.

    • TimFootman

      Thatcher was certainly not the only PM to work in industry. Neville Chamberlain ran an manufacturing company, Hoskins & Co, for nearly two decades. Bonar Law and Stanley Baldwin both worked for iron companies.

      • Lemniscate

        Sorry I meant ‘only in recent history’ — that might not have been clear.

        • MacGuffin

          But…but…but… Gordon Brown was a television researcher for a few months!

    • Guest 1

      What about Thatcher’s war service? I had two aunts who were also born in 1925, one served in the WRAF, the other in the WRENS during the war. Any idea why Mrs T didn’t serve?

      • humourme

        She went to university instead. Going up to Oxford in 1943. Thus didnt do war service.

        • Guest 1

          Odd choice.

          • Grumpy

            Not odd at all. Women who were eligible were encouraged to attend university in WW2 as so many places were available with the young men having been conscripted. Thatcher only got a place reading chemistry at her preferred college for that reason. If you wish to question the patriotism of her generation, you may wish to study the rather odd military careers of her Labour Party contemporaries who, with the notable exception of Denis Healey, dodged the column or found safe billets rather than query the 18 year old Thatcher.

          • Guest 1

            Well, I think it’s odd. My aunts joined up, and Mrs T made a virtue of her patriotism (even when pushing for the Single European Act) throughout her political life. My aunts were more patriotic. (And I don’t give a monkey’s about the Left)

          • Grumpy

            My mother and two aunts were also in the WRNS in WW2. FYI no men, except those already in the reserves prior to June 1939 “joined up”, nor women after December 1941–they were all conscripted and they had limited choice-WAAFs/WRNS/ATS/Land Army/FANYs/CD etc.-they went were they were put–are you suggesting that all of the women who were shunted into the Land Army, CD or factory work were “unpatriotic”?

          • Guest 1

            No, I’m not, and you know it. I’m pointing out that Mrs T chose not to serve, but went to university instead.

          • Jon Hewitt

            And served her country with energy/passion for many years after that with a lot less self-interest than most politicians these days.

          • Guest 1

            In some ways, but not in others. Single European Act?

  • Dizzy2142

    oh dear, what a silly article

  • Juan Kerr

    What, Corbyn is sticking one up to the Oxford Labour Club? That’s the second thing I’ve liked about the guy, aside from sticking one up to the Saudis. Pity about the Stalinism, Holocaust-denial, Islamism and IRA support, otherwise I might start to warm to him!

    • Atlas

      Sticking one up to the Saudi’s by screwing us out of £6 million and having no impact on their policy? Yeah we should really feel like winners in that one.

      • Juan Kerr

        The Saudis are like apartheid South Africa. Multiply the £6 million by 100 and we should do the same thing, and as for influencing their policy, you have to be kidding. The US are drastically reducing their reliance on Saudi by investing heavily in shale gas, and we should be going in the same direction – investing in the place is mad.

        • Leon Wolfeson

          So, you want investment in the UK to be 100x mad. “We should do the same thing”, you say, only 100 times harder.

      • Otto von Bismarck

        Very true. No point taking a moral stance against the Saudis one minute then having a lavish welcome for the Chinese the next.

        Moral grandstanding has no place in international diplomacy (crimes against humanity aside of course).

    • Leon Wolfeson

      So you blame him for your views. And I’m pleased you’re not after him with a flamethrower.

  • KenMac

    We need more Oxford PPE graduates at the top of our politics. Not good enough Corbyn.

  • wycombewanderer

    Watson may have attended Hull University but there is no evidence of him having graduated.

    Even his own wiki page leaves that bit blank.

    He has a doctorate in political smearing from the MacBride institute though.

    • justejudexultionis

      Cameron has a PhD in Self-Serving Bourgeois Cant from Leipzig Institute of Advanced Porcine Research.

      • wycombewanderer

        Sorry it doesn’t work like that, plagiarism doesnt get you any marks nor will anyone think you intelligent, you have to think on your own two feet not just come up with a tepid half arsed response, that whilst it may have looked good to you before you pressed send, actually makes you look desperate!

  • RavenRandom

    So this article basically says only people who went to Oxbridge are worthy Ministers. Elitist any?

    • KingEric

      I thought it was saying that Labour used to have the more educationally elite cabinet whilst the Tories had the next level down but that now it was the other way round. I didn’t see anything in it saying that only Oxbridge graduates were worthy ministers.

      • Otto von Bismarck

        It did in certain aspects imply it however. Besides, this is pointless bickering. Both major parties (as well as the Lib Dems of course) have always had mostly Oxbridge graduates at the top, and that has been the case for hundreds of years. What classification of degree they received is a minor affair. The only time I can even think of when neither the PM or the Leader of the Opposition were Oxbridge graduates was when John Smith was Leader of the Labour Party. You’d have to go back a very long way to find another case of that occurring.

  • richthanki

    What an utter piece of shit article. Said as an alumnus of Keble College, Oxford.

  • Tamerlane

    ‘Let’s not be snobbish. Those universities are good.’ Whoa there cowboy! University of Westminster formerly Central London Poly? I don’t think so.

    • Pentagon

      Not going to lie, this was exactly what I thought when I read this bit!

      • Bert

        Exactly right.
        In my day the only notable feature was an excess of Bradford folk with knives.
        Definitely a Corbyn recruitment area.

    • justejudexultionis

      University of Westminster has an excellent technical translation MA – much better than UCL, for example. I can’t speak about the other courses.

  • Chris Marshall

    You are a Bullingdon boy, we could all do with less of your sort in any position of power.

  • JosephJohnODonnell

    Horrible snob.

  • Troll.

  • Cormac Jordan

    I wonder how many of you would have oxbridge educations were it not for your exceptionally well furnished upbringings. Your sense of entitlement is an emetic to me.

    • R M

      Thousands. 60% of Cambridge’s students are from state schools. The university is one of the cheapest and most financially supportive for poor students in the country.

      • justejudexultionis

        Sixty per cent state school students at Cambridge is still nowhere near good enough given that only seven per cent of children in the UK attend fee-paying schools.

        • Jon Hewitt

          Very true – but RM makes an interesting point if Cambridge is leading in actively financially supporting poorer students. That’s (surprisingish) news to me.

          • James Bolivar DiGriz

            Because it isn’t a message that the media puts any effort into spreading. I don’t know how much is bias and how much is laziness – knocking out a piece about snobbery at Oxbridge based on the archives is easier than doing some research.

        • R M

          And they’re making progress on that front every year. The main point is that private schooled students are a minority, rather than 100% as people who don’t know any better like to insinuate.

      • Leon Wolfeson

        Funny, they charge the maximum allowable. You also don’t mention that just 7% of UK students go to private schools, and are hence grossly over-represented at Cambridge. The government’s own report from the SMCPC last year strongly criticised the elitism involved.

        “closed shop at the top” was used, in fact, and that elitism was so embedded in Britain “that it could be called ‘social engineering’”.

        The Oxbridge Universities *are* the only ones with substantial resources for the sort of grants which American universities routinely grant, mind you.

  • Andrew Briggs

    Whatever the rights and wrongs of this chap’s argument what I find amusing is that he seems to believe that having an education means having intelligence. Two different things sonny.
    ‘A fool is a fool whatever the school’

    • Christian

      This. It’s astonishing how he conflates the two.

      • Andrew Briggs

        Perhaps it’s ‘cos he only has one of them ? 😉

    • R M

      Um, failing an education is very indicative of low intelligence, especially when there are no mitigating factors.

      • Andrew Briggs

        Um, as is failing to understand that receiving an education does not MAKE you intelligent.

      • Leon Wolfeson

        Really? So Richard Branson…

  • I was trying to follow the logic of the article and then read, “Ed Balls got a first in PPE from Keble College, Oxford, and a Kennedy scholarship at Harvard”.
    You lost me at that point.

    • Jon Hewitt

      Do you mean you think he did not deserve those awards?

  • Tony Dark

    Amusing to note the reference to the Times Higher Education world ranking: this allegedly authoritative table is produced by a handful of hacks, and their hired statisticians, from a journal so insignificant that hardly anyone even in universities reads it. The other allegedly authoritative table, emanating from an organisation called QS, is largely driven by another clique of journos who split from the Times Higher . And the heads of multi million pound universities quail before the wondrous listings generated by these cabals. A mad world, my masters.

    • R M

      You provided no cogent argument against the statistics. Give it a shot and I’ll listen.

      • Tony Dark

        The point is that far too much credit is still given, in certain quarters, to table rankings, rankings which are often tell you more about the small closed world of the rankers than about the things allegedly ranked.Public scepticism is widespread: only a handful of the original British newspaper tables still exist -people have stopped buying the supplements and the FT, Telegraph etc have pulled out of the game and the Times/Sunday Times tables have amalgamated.

        Why the growing scepticism? Notoriously, a modest methodological change can and often does send an institution dozens of places up or down a table in the space of one year. Some table compilers themselves recently admitted that their rankings for years have been biased against specialist social science and arts institutions, and have changed their criteria accordingly, with remarkable results. And should tables award those who dish out many firsts (as at present) or those who are stingy with high grades? And so on. There is an enduring suspicion that the ranking criteria are not neutral acts of god, but are cherry picked to reflect the prejudices and cultural backgrounds of the compilers. There is also a reliance on crude, context free and short term snapshot statistics.

        And some universities just do not seem to be tableogenic (as it were. Manchester (no affiliation) is an interesting case: 25 Nobels to its name, eight current world head of state/ head of government alumni in office (just behind Oxford, but ahead of Cambridge and LSE) etc, four Nobel winners currently in residence, an income of nearly a billion a year. Yet in the Guardian UK table it is 29th, behind such glamour names as the University of Bath (5th) and Coventry (15th). Coventry is a good institution but few people would honestly say it has a greater global or national significance or quality than Manchester. Nonetheless there it sits in the table, and the table compilers can conveniently point to its position whenever people accuse them of bias in this most class conscious of countries (it is unnecessary to name the two universities that spring to most minds in this respect).

        There are many other examples, but it would be tedious to go into them in such a forum, but I hope the general point is made.

  • Tamerlane

    There is of course the other theory that Corbyn has shifted down a generation and in so doing is choosing from the generation that could never go to grammar school and thus never get into Oxbridge.

  • Pimpernel23

    The fact that the British public no longer genuflect before PPE grads is surely something to be celebrated. The Oxbridge hegemony in both parties has done untold damage to this country.

    • alexw

      Correct. Its as if we have politicians who are clones of one another due to the fact they have all been taught to think in the same way.

      Thus its no surprise that the current leaders of the conservative party are blairites.

  • WalterSEllis

    I’m puzzled. A year ago, the Spectator was deriding the foolishness and stupidity of Ed Miliband (Corpus Christi, Oxford), and his shadow cabinet colleagues, many of whom happened to be Oxbridge graduates. Now, in an offensively snobbish and dismissive way, Harry Mount (a member of the Bullingdon club at Oxford) scorns the Corbyn shadow cabinet for its lack of an Oxbridge bias. “Let us not be snobbish,” he says (yeah, right) … “but do we want our top politicians to be drawn from the lower ranks of academia?”

    That is nothing short of disgraceful. By all means, let’s have a go at the Corbynistas. But let it be for the right reasons. Many of Tony Blair’s close colleagues were Oxbridge, as was Blair himself. How do we feel about them? Or were they just too clever by half?

    • R M

      It’s almost as if they have several journalists working for the same paper.

  • Mark

    Utter twaddle. If you are seriously of the view that Oxbridge is ‘it’ and everywhere else ‘isn’t’ you, Mr Mount, are the one in need of a ‘brain transplant’. To suggest, in the best traditions of conservative bigotry, that holding a degree from what you describe as ‘redbricks’ (I suspect you mean ‘any university founded after 1870 actually) is to possess only half the brain of a graduate from Oxford in PPE is a sure sign that you know nothing of the quality of learning and teaching in these institutions. Seriously, Mr Mount, try visiting the Economics departments at Essex or Sussex (you are sniffy about both in your last paragraph): you’d find research-led teaching of a high order (not that, I suspect, you’d recognize it) and very good (in fact world leading) research in both too.

    I got my undergraduate degree from Cambridge and my PhD from the same institution. I am not insane enough, or biased enough, to believe that only Oxbridge can produce vivid thought, superlative research, excellent teaching and, above all, sparkling graduates and great leaders. But then again, I know higher education rather better I suspect than you do.

    • R M

      I’m also from Cambridge and I agree with what you’ve said. But, while Oxbridge isn’t it, don’t you think it’s sensible to have a line, below which your competence becomes dubious? And isn’t Corbyn, with two Es at A-level and a failed degree from a very unremarkable institution rather shy of that line?

      • Cos Mo

        No not at all. Are academic achievements the only measure of intelligence?
        Despite being tested for an IQ of 138, as a dyslexic my school literally gave up on me as although my reading was always years ahead I could barely write legibly so I ended up with hardly any qualifications let alone an opportunity to get a degree. I’ve learnt far more in my own pursuit of knowledge (there are books you know..) than I did at school.
        Take your head out of your arse.

        • R M
          • Jon Hewitt

            Educational attainment does not necessarily correlate with competence (or intelligence).
            I would also suggest as well as competence and intelligence our leaders need e.g:-
            Broad experience
            A sense of fairness

        • Sue Smith

          Spoken like a true gentleman.


          As a dyslexic your school………….?

          • Cos Mo

            Explain your question further please. If it’s semantics over my sentence structure then…..

          • IDRIS_FRANCIS

            Yes, your sentence structure, an error known as a misplaced participle. As written, your words mean that your school was dyslexic. You could instead have written what I assume you meant, “As I was dyslexic, my school…” or “As a dyslexic I was abandoned by my school….”

            If anyone thinks it harsh to comment on a dyslexic’s error, I admit to having become very annoyed by countless form letters even from large organisations that really should know better, making the same mistake as for example “As a valued customer, we think you might like our new product………”

            Being an engineer not a grammarian I cannot recall the precise definition of the error but what it comes down to is that the first clause should always refer to the first word or object in the second.

          • Cos Mo

            Give to fucks perfectly couldn’t two I honest be.
            Rearrange as you see fit.

          • IDRIS_FRANCIS

            A young friend once asked me why such things matter. I replied that the purpose of grammar and construction is to make plain the meaning of the words used and to avoid confusion. You have managed to do that in a different way, but not one that brings you any credit.

          • Cos Mo

            Since we’re drawing conclusions about each other, I’m going to assume by your response that you were unable to rearrange that sentence correctly.

          • IDRIS_FRANCIS

            I have better things to do, like counting the flower designs on this carpet or indeed almost anything else.
            At this point I retire from the fray because I see no point in wasting any more of my time or anyone else’s

  • lookout

    An A-level in common sense would do wonders for the country.

  • George_Arseborne

    Harry Mount brain is full of mashed potatoes. This must be the most stupid article I had ever read in my entire life.
    What motivated you Dear Harry?
    Are you being pressured by this paper to write foolish article?
    Check the link below and think again!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    You should be apologising to readers

  • Frank

    Harry, you have not thought this article very clearly. The entire point should have been that despite their advantages (natural and educational) the Cabinets of Blair and Brown were full of people who should never have been let anywhere near the levers of power. It is further arguable that letting this lot go to Oxbridge merely reinforced their narcissistic conviction that they were what Britain needed in Cabinet!

  • A_Libertarian_Rebel

    I suggest Harry Mount re-reads Hayek’s “The Intellectuals and Socialism”. And this time remembers it.

  • literate3

    I have to say that you have fallen for Wilson’s spin – pretending to compare favourably someone reading PPE with Hailsham who was a Fellow of All Souls?!? One of my contemporaries got a 1st in PPE without a viva and I never heard anyone suggest that he was brighter than I (OK, it wasn’t the sort of thing we talked about, but in some cases it was obvious and in others it was “who would you ask for …”. MacMillan won an exhibition to Balliol, which was, in HIS time, the brainiacs college. By my time that was Merton, so your praise for Denis Healey (“the worst Chacellor of Exchequer in history”) is somewhat misplaced. The 1960/70s Labour spin was that Crossman was brilliant, after his diaries were published he became an unperson.
    Labour has a lot of pseudo-intellectuals but they are much dimmer than Conservatives, both in the wider party and their Parliamentary representatives.
    When “Bobbety”, the elder brother of Lord David Cecil, one of the most brilliant academic intellectuals of the mid-twentieth century, attacked Iain MacLeod, he was not being anti-intellectual as the Labour Party claimed: “too clever by half” was an upper-class euphemism (called “gamesmanship by Americans)

    May I remind you that Corbyn arrived nearly a decade before John Major became Prime Minister?

  • Baron

    Who can tell, Harry, perhaps the country has had enough of being ruled by the Eton cum Oxbridge anointed, is ready to be ruled by some of its plebeians.

    • Sue Smith

      Or at least someone who can correctly say “the rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain”!

  • justejudexultionis

    We forget that many of the dons teaching at redbrick universities hold Oxbridge degrees. The Oxbridge effect is felt throughout the tertiary system.

  • Lina R

    Our politics would be a lot richer if it drew from all walks of life and consisted of people who had a hinterland, not these career politicians, who go straight from Oxbridge into Tory/Labour/Liberal HQ with no experience outside that bubble.

    • R M

      Probably true, but don’t think that all or even most Oxbridge graduates are from a “bubble”. Most of them are pretty normal people, and the only thing they have in common is that they are very intelligent, at least in their field. I’d rather have intelligent leaders than stupid ones, and Corbyn with his two E grades and failed degree is rather too far below the “stupid” line for me to be comfortable with him as PM.

      • justejudexultionis

        The ‘pretty normal people’ who go to Oxbridge are soon brainwashed by the elitist ideology dominating both universities. They certainly aren’t ‘normal’ any more by the time they come out.

        • Jon Hewitt

          Depends on background and those with whom they hang around at such places and where they get information from. Just like it does everywhere else. I did same degree as Cameron a few years later than him but my worldview is in many regards opposite to his. Have to say that the college within Oxford is also relevant – i.e. mine was small and with more comprehensive-educated folks than the more famous ones.

        • R M

          You clearly have no experience or knowledge of those universities and their students and graduates.

          Go on, tell me exactly what evidence you just based your statement on. And “blind prejudice” isn’t a valid answer.

          • aristophanes

            Well, in the 1960s at Oxford I knew a very clever mathematician who thought that a passport was needed to leave the UK.
            I knew a professor who had no understanding of endorsing cheques – a common practice in those days.
            I knew another professor who believed that a column written by ‘oxoniensis’ could not have been written by X because the column contained a mild criticism of X.
            I came to realise that intelligence can be very narrow and wrapped around by layers of ignorance.
            With an Oxford degree and two higher degrees I am more impressed by the wisdom of elderly farmers.

          • R M

            Oh I agree, your average elderly farmer is probably a good deal wiser than you. In fact anybody who demonstrates cogent thought process would earn that distinction. Pray tell what on Earth your comment has to do with my question? Some Professors are absent-minded. Okay. How is this evidence for “elitist brainwashing”?

          • aristophanes

            [1]The professors were not absent-minded. Read again.

            They were ignorant of everyday life; and illogical in their thinking [vide ‘oxoniensis’ example]. The ignorant and illogical are prize candidates for brainwashing, particularly when they have an arrogant belief in their own intellgence. Philby, Blunt, Burgess, Maclean and others whom I shall not mention.

            [2] ‘…they are very intelligent, at least in their field. I’d rather have intelligent leaders than stupid ones..’

            Why should someone with high intelligence in mathematics be an intelligent leader?

          • R M

            [1]The professors were not absent-minded. Read again.

            Yes they were. They were absent-minded with little practical knowledge for application in the “real world” outside of academia.

            That’s why they didn’t know how passports or cheques work.

            It’s not an example of “brainwashing”.

            Your comments are seriously bizarre. I’m starting to suspect that maybe you don’t know what “brainwashing” means..? So I’ll help you out.

            Brainwashing is where a group of people are pressurized into adopting radically different beliefs by using systematic and often forcible means.

            Please explain in very precise logical detail how a Professor not knowing how cheques work is strong evidence that somebody was brainwashing him.

          • aristophanes

            I am fascinated that you know the professors better than I. They were decidedly not absent-minded. They had no interest in daily life and were totally ignorant about it. Their lack of grasp about reality rendered them potentially good material for brainwashing -as I said ‘The ignorant and illogical are prize candidates for brainwashing’.

            A good friend experienced brainwashing in Korea in the 1950s. He has explained it to me in detail, including the conditions that are favourable for conditioning people. My observation is based on what he told me. He went from the army into intelligence.

          • R M

            “I am fascinated that you know the professors better than I.”

            You’re really struggling. I’m not doubting your stories about professors not knowing about cheques. What I’m asking is how a professor not knowing how cheques work was evidence that that professor, and a large number of the university’s other professors, were being brainwashed into a specific ideology by someone. The fact that you suspect somebody had susceptible personality to brainwashing is not evidence that they were being brainwashed.

          • aristophanes

            A person who has no grip on everyday reality is a prime candidate. It was remarkable the extent to which there was political conformity among people who might have been expected to have a diversity of individual opinions. Marxism in the 1930s, French philosophy post-war, an era of Brussels worship…
            A don of my acquaintance rejoices in the power that he feels that he exercises in shaping the opinions of his undergraduates. He is similar to the Cambridge dons who turned so many undergraduates at Trinity and King’s, Cambridge in the 1930s.

            Thank you for the exchanges. Au revoir.

          • Leon Wolfeson

            Ah, you’re re-writing things like “Cogent” again to mean “like my thoughts”. Very Orwellian.

  • szczuk6

    OK there are a lot of blind assumptions to be unpacked here. But first of all just so you know (and can apply your prejudice filters if you so choose) I’m a working class ‘girl’ (scare quotes are for honesty, I’m actually 66) who left school at 16 with 5 O Levels ( as they were called back then) worked in a myriad of menial jobs, got married a couple of times, had 4 kids, then in my 30s trained as a nurse. Got fucked off (made redundant) at 45 thanks to Thatcher’s ‘reforms’ of the NHS and went to university (well, OK, Bolton Institute of Technology… but its a university now) where I got a 1st class honours degree in Psychology. Did some research. a bit of university teaching and a Masters degree at Manchester Uni (yes, the red brick one not the plebby one). Anyway you get the picture…I’m more Corbyn than Cameron (I say that because it obviously matters on here).

    So onwards to the unpacking…there’s a distinct underlying and unquestioned assumption in this article that seems to stem from a very narrow and outdated understanding (I use the word loosely) of the concept of ‘intelligence’ which seems to co-exist with an equally misguided ( I wanted to use the word ‘occult’ but feared readers would falsely assume I was using it to mean something satanic rather than for its reference to something hidden) conviction that brain quality is limited to a certain section of society (i,e, stock matters).
    So…as I read it the article is implying (unsupported by hard evidence but amply buffered by prejudiced opinion) that only these Oxford (et al) graduates have the intellectual capacity to ‘rule’ (I can’t be arsed to explain why I put scare quotes round that word…you’d only call me a conspiracy theorist anyway).
    Has it not occurred to you that Cameron/Osborne/Boris etc would have gone to Oxford no matter how well or badly they did at Eton or wherever? Surely I don’t have to spell out why.

    Laugh all you want but ultimately its CLASS that counts in this crazy country and these guys have been groomed for power. They can be relied on to do the ‘Right’ thing.( If you haven’t worked out what that is yet you must be asleep).

    Science tells us intelligence, like any other human characteristic, is normally distributed through a population (the Bell curve…go and look it up) yet this article would have us believe intelligence accretes in a narrow band of the population who all just happened to be rich and well connected.

    You have your own reasons for defending them now but bear in mind, unless you’re one of them, they have NO such reciprocal loyalty.

    • Sean L

      You need to get out more if you think the rest of the world is somehow more egalitarian. Head south, then east. And there are any number of top politicians of the lower classes, from Nye Bevan and Roy Jenkins to John Major and Margaret Thatcher, not to mention Ted Heath whose mother ‘did’, as they used to say when lower class people really did have something to moan about. At least compared to now, when Cameron and his ilk are at pains to play down their pedigrees.

      • jennybloggs

        Thatcher was not from the lower classes. Councillor Alf was powerful in Grantham, a big fish in a small pond, but a big fish nonetheless. Well placed to guide his child in how to get on.

  • blandings

    “Under Corbyn, the Labour party — once the clever party — has had a brain
    transplant. It’s out with the Oxbridge and Harvard graduates with
    first-class degrees; in with the red-brick university graduates.”

    Well Harry old chap, If these Oxford and Harvard graduates are so darn clever how come Corbyn trashed them in the leadership election?
    Maybe Corbyn came to the perfectly reasonable conclusion that they are in fact, mind-blowingly thick.

    • Novus

      Perhaps if the leadership election were a measure of the intelligence of the contenders then you might have a point. But, as it turned out, the leadership election was a measure of the spectacular stupidity and pig-ignorance of the leadership electorate.

  • pobjoy

    Are we trying to make out that papalism is fit for intelligent, civilised beings?

  • Lamia

    You seem to have missed that Corbyn just appointed as his chief of communications and strategy a Stalin apologist whose daddy was head of the BBC and who went to Winchester and then did PPE at Oxford. Of course, exceptions can always be made for true revolutionaries like the repulsive Comrade Milne.

    • Sue Smith

      History will deal with these sophist wannabees and consign them to the dustbin soon enough.

      • Lamia

        Who? Milne?

  • rtj1211

    The assumption made here is that dry intellectual analysis allied to uproarious drunken parties, balls and self-congratulatory groupings make Oxbridge graduates superior at running the country.

    I think you should ask Bernie Ecclestone, billionaire who started with nothing and one ‘O’ level, whether Oxbridge graduates have business acumen, societal wisdom and more importantly, a sense of priorities, responsibilities and loyalties not to themselves but to the British people.

    You don’t need to have a single O Level to become a billionaire in business, so why should you need a single O level to be Prime Minister? What you need is a political philosophy, an understanding of how the rest of the world sees us and a programme for Government. There is nothing in an Oxbridge degree which prepares you to develop a programme for government. It’s all analytical flimflam about ‘human rights’, ‘democracy’, ‘supply and demand curves’ and the like.

    No modules at Oxford in negotiations. None. So an Oxford degree shows no ability to go hardball with Putin and Obama, not to mention the Saudis, Indians and Chinese. None whatever. It shows you can write an essay for a Don who never worked in the real world.

    No modules requiring you to set up a business and make a certain profit within a certain time (call it £100k in 5 years to be generous). Just a need to either spend daddy’s money or run up student debt.

    No modules about spying on your colleagues. You have to have been selected for secret societies to be allowed to do that. Far better to teach everyone the reality of the swine around them in a formal course, eh??

    Oxford degrees say nothing about anything other than reading, writing, memory and abstract argument. Nothing.

    It’s just that a cabal of Oxbridge graduates have infested Westminster over the years and have spent decades getting their media chums to promote the concept that Oxbridge makes superior leaders.

    It doesn’t. It makes a closed club of self-serving little rich boys and girls.

  • David Jenkins

    ‘Let’s not be snobbish.’ Er…this entire piece is based on snobbery. A good education is a vital part of any individual’s life. However, the Oxford, Cambridge grads to then go on to work for think tanks, then bag-carriers for MPs before running for office themselves is not what I call a good varied life experience. There are quite a few degree holders who study say History and then are suddenly experts on health policy. They write for corporate-funded think tanks as if they have the experience in the health sector. The original degree accounts for nothing but what being in the Cambridge and Oxford Universities does provide is opportunity towards power that are less available to those from other backgrounds. Intelligence has very little to do with it.

  • Sue Smith

    You say “let’s not be snobbish” but you actually are if you think just because a person hasn’t been to university they don’t have leadership potential. Sure Corbyn is a tool, but there are plenty of other grounded, intelligent people who have had life and business experience and who could teach the academically inclined some important and worthwhile life lessons! Let’s face it – many of them are sorely in need of it!!

  • Simon Clarke

    Erm, there are only 6 Red Brick Universities. They are: Liverpool (where the term was coined), Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Birmingham and Bristol. Even excellent Russell Group Universities such as Nottingham and Newcastle aren’t Red Bricks; it’s not a catch-all term for pre-’92 non-Oxbridge Universities.

  • Oliver

    It is an unworthy argument and my fellow commenters are right to be rankled.

    So I hope Harry is pleased that Balliol chap Seumas Milne has just been appointed by Corbyn; that Newnham graduate Diane Abbott is part of the shadow cab – and isn’t too disappointed that Nick Griffin (Downing, Cambridge) has been thwarted in his own will to power.

  • James Kelly

    “Let’s not be snobbish” says Harry Mount, before proceeding with the most snobbish article I’ve read in years. Unbelievable.

    • The Dybbuk

      I expect to only read this sort of Oxbridge snobbery in the Guardian.

      • Simon Saunders

        Have you not read any other papers before?

  • kitten

    What did the Oxbridge set achieve exactly? I have a list of grievances but can think of nothing worthwhile.

    Vacuous career politicians with no principles this country can do without.

  • Allyup

    Under Corbyn, the Labour party — once the clever party —…..

    Really? Why then was UK performance been so pitiful under all those years of New Labour.

    Clueless wallies when it comes to IT and designed a project (NHS-IT) that was laughably never going to work in a million years but politicians were too dim to see that.

    See “25 years of Government IT project failure” http://www.computerweekly.com/news/1280091277/Twenty-five-years-of-government-IT-project-failure
    “Depressing isn’t it? The Public Accounts Committee was writing this 12 years ago. They just don’t learn, or can’t,” he said.”

    Let’s not forget Labour PFI hospitals. See “How PFI is crippling the NHS http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/jun/29/pfi-crippling-nhs
    “First, the high costs of PFI debt charges means that the NHS can only operate anything from a third to half as many services and staff as it would have done had the scheme been funded through conventional procurement. In other words, for every PFI hospital up and running, equity investors and bankers are charging as if for two.”

    They may be Oxbridge firsts (or maybe not) but that does not make them capable or running a piss-up in a brewery.

    • thomasaikenhead

      Great comment!

    • Simon Saunders

      PFI was first pushed by the Tories, and the Tories’ IT systems are hardly anything to brag about, so it seems Oxbridge on either side doesn’t really scream competence.

  • Sean L

    I thought Birkbeck was supposed to be a good university. You’ve got ‘red-brick’ wrong anyway. Ex polys like Westminster, formerly Polytechnic of Central London are not red brick in any sense. Birmingham is red brick, where the term originated I think. The impressive main building is certainly red brick anyway. Red brick doesn’t equate to lower status academically either, merely of Victorian provenance, still ancient compared to many, and of lower social cachet for Sloanes.

    • Terry Field

      No, it originated at Liverpool.

  • willshome

    Don’t worry, Labour is still the brainy party and the Tories are still the thickos. Going to Oxford or Cambridge for arts or social (cough, cough) sciences is really no guarantee of anything but the ability to persuade. For actual intelligence, stick to the STEM subjects.

    • Ooh!MePurse!

      Pompous nonsense.

      • Terry Field

        No, true.

    • Terry Field

      pass mark 28%

  • Since these megabrains have been doing such a great job (/sarcasm) I’m quite in agreement with Jezza on this one.

    And I’m starting to worry about how much I’ve been saying that recently…

    • Sean Awesome Robbins

      Of course, the article falls down heavily when it claims that Oxbridge graduates are ‘big brains’ unlike all us ordinary thickies who didn’t go to an elite university and have to work for a living. Yet, for the claim to stand we literally have to think of David Cameron as an intellectual heavy weight.
      Maybe we aren’t so thick and deserve a chance to be represented by our politicians.

      • I think Cameron and Osbourne are both pretty stupid. The fact is that the children of the rich find it much easier to chart the course they have in life and so instead of people who are actually smart being in charge, we have thickies with degrees that they couldn’t have achieved in a meritocratic society.

        Which makes it interesting that the left both hates these characters and also opposes meritocracy…

  • Chalcedon

    What really upsets me is that the minister for science has a degree in Music. There seems to be a dearth of scientists and engineers, that is people with real degrees in hard subjects, regardless of which university they attended. PPE, History, English………….don’t make me laugh.

    • Terry Field

      Piss Poor Economics?????

  • montague_stjohn

    “University of Westminster”

    That is not a red brick; it is a former poly.

    • sarahsmith232

      Saudia Arabia’s Third Riech, more like

    • Terry Field

      It is a university in the same way that a tranny has actually changed sex.

  • The Dybbuk

    Wonder which conflation of two universities Mr Mount attended?

  • pobjoy

    Brilliant Harry Mount, whose fellow religionists had enough pieces of Jesus’ cross to build a small galleon.

  • Esmee Phillips

    “Labour was traditionally the intellectuals’ party.”

    It may come as a terrible shock, young master Harry, but traditionally Labour was the party of self-educated working men.

    • thomasaikenhead

      Well said!

    • I thought Labours roots were the Fabian Society.

      • Terry Field

        They have withered. Market capitalism is the ’roundup’ that has destroyed their roots permanently!!!!!!!

      • Esmee Phillips

        They piggybacked on it. The Fabians were out to influence all parties with their policies- the ‘advanced’ Liberals of 1906 and paternalistic Tories as well as the working men of the LRC. Susan Lawrence, for example, was a high Tory who became a Labour MP after being immersed in Fabian ideas. Attlee was a Conservative before he did social work in the East End.

        The real bourgeois influx into Labour came during and after the Great War, and owed as much to revulsion against secret diplomacy and imperialist carnage (e.g. Morel , Ponsonby and the Union of Democratic Control) as it was about social and economic reform within Britain. But the middle class remained a minority in the Parliamentary party, heavily outnumbered by trade unionists, until the landslide win in 1945, which irrevocably changed Labour from a party predominantly OF the workers to one FOR them.

        Now we have got to the point when there is barely a genuine manual or junior clerical employee in the PLP.

    • David davis

      It got hijacked by the FabiaN***s, in 1884. Working men never ever got, really, more than a token look-in.

      • Esmee Phillips

        Difficult for the Fabians, since the Labour Representation Committee (rebadged as ‘The Labour Party’ for the 1906 election) was not formed till 1900!

        Most of the delegates at its founding conference were elderly TU officials of the Low carthorse type, not thinkers. The LRC was, as much as anything, a secession from the Liberals when ‘Lib-Lab’ working man MPs- who were often less radically minded than the Liberal bourgeois intelligentsia- set Ramsay Mac, their secretary, on to striking a non-aggression pact with Herbert Gladstone in about thirty seats, so the Tory could not split the worker vote and get in.

        The Fabian Society only had one of 129 representatives at the LRC’s founding conference. It was not officially committed to socialism, and Fabian ideas did not begin to permeate the party until the period of labour disputes c. 1910-14 during the ‘strange death’ throes of Liberal England.

  • thomasaikenhead

    The Labour Party does not need any more Oxbridge or Scottish uni grads using it as a vehicle for personal advancement and enrichment.

    It needs to return to its roots and simply represent the working class people it was created to represent in the first place.

    The clue is in the name, ‘The Labour Party’?

    • Terry Field

      Indeed; for maximum fun and spectacle the cleaners and sewage attendants could be encouraged to present the next response to the spending review!!!!

      • Simon Saunders


        • Terry Field

          No, I just like the best and the brightest to run the little island. I could select second or third-raters (maybe you could apply and become accepted) BUT WHAT WOULD BE THE POINT???

          • Simon Saunders


          • Terry Field

            Because I have the POWER TO DO SO, earthling.

          • Simon Saunders

            Then I really hope you’re not in a position of authority elsewhere, if this is how you handle the power of the caps-lock.

      • JDrakeify

        There is a world of difference between a cleaner and sewage attendant, and someone who went to somewhere other than the two most prestigious universities in the country. Even if we had ministers who used to do those jobs, there wouldnt be anything wrong with it. We have had ex manual labourers without a university education in high posts before, and the world did not implode.

        • Terry Field

          Precious codswallop.
          Yes, some have been ill educated idiots, and their performance and the consequences for the ill-governed hell-hole Britian has now become is the clear result.
          And no, there is no real difference between a cleaner and a sewage attendant.

          • JDrakeify

            Ernest Bevin never went to university he began work as a labourer at the age of eleven and rose up through the union ranks from there. When Foreign secretary, he gave us our nuclear deterrent and helped to secure loans from the USA which helped rebuild this country, and worked against communism abroad.
            Surely even people on the right can agree with most of what he did, and they certainly cant say his policies brought this country to ruin?

    • David davis

      But since nobody in the UK now does any sort of that stuff any more, perhaps it should be merely painlessly shut down?

    • ItwasBlairwotdunnit

      What’s wrong with Scottish universities?

      • thomasaikenhead

        Nothing but the graduates have become part of the problem.

        Their exclusive, elitist and patronising views are part of the problem?

        • ItwasBlairwotdunnit

          I haven’t found them so. Mind, I went to ra Yooni at Glasgow in the seventies, so maybe I’m biased….


    David Miliband was the clever one? My understanding is that at A level he achieved something like two D’s and an E – but got into Oxford following an interview by a Marxist friend of this father! I assume that the friend was able to perceive something that neither the A level examiners nor anyone I know has been able to?

    • David Stanley

      Well this is a bit ill natured, though you sent off this libelous drivel as the product of your ‘understanding’ so I suppose if it ever came to court you could plead diminished responsibility.


        My only mistake was to write “my understanding is” instead of “I read not long ago in a perfectly respectable newspaper article – probably the Telegraph, that at A level…” etc. As for your insult addressed to me, water off a duck;s back old boy.

        • Castro Spendlove

          Fair. I share your ‘understanding’ of Milliband and Oxford.

          • IDRIS_FRANCIS

            Thanks. My clear recollection is that I read was that DM was interviewed for Oxford by a Marxist academic who was a friend of his Marxist father. In my book that should not have been allowed. My assessment of DM’s abilities is of course based on much else I have read about him and heard him say. The banana didn’t help either.

          • David davis

            Was David the milibananawallah then? I thought it was little ed.

          • IDRIS_FRANCIS

            Yes indeed it was David – laughter echoed all around the country except in Islington. Ed’s version was his infamous bacon butty.

            Reminds me of when I plonked a copy of the EU bent banana regulations on Nick Clegg’s table at a Leicester euro debate, when as a MEP he was well known for claiming they did not exist. He was not pleased, and complained “You did that last month, at Bournemouth” to which I replied “No, Bournemouth was cucumbers!” and he as even less pleased.

    • pobjoy

      ‘He obtained four A-levels (grades BBBD),[18] and won admission to the University of Oxford. He studied at Corpus Christi College, Oxford and obtained a first class honours degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics.[19] From 1988 to 1989 he took a master’s degree in Political Science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was a Kennedy Scholar.[20]’

      Wikipedia is a repository of propaganda, yes, but it usually gets this sort of thing right.

  • Philip Terzian

    Mr Mount seems to have misunderstood the meaning of William F Buckley’s (Yale ’50) aphorism: He was talking about the Harvard faculty, not Harvard graduates, along the lines of Orwell’s observation about an idea being so preposterous only an intellectual could believe it …

  • David davis

    If all these people are so very clever, then why does the thing they recommend – socialism – cause such pain and hardship and blood and death to so many many ordinary people? Is there something wrong somewhere?


      Only that the hard left still refuse to believe socialism will never work, however many times it fails. It reminds me of my first ever heckle, at Speakers’ Corner circa 1958. A man on a soapbox was preaching socialism and someone called out “If you want Socialism, b****** off to Russia”. He replied “Russia isn’t Socialist, if you point out a real Socialist country I will go there. Without hesitation and to even my own surprise I called out “And I’ll pay your fare!”

    • JDrakeify

      We are all socialists, it is just a matter of how far along the spectrum – we have several nationalised services, and you would be hard pressed to find someone in this country who doesnt support any of those.

  • Cos Mo

    This whole argument falls utterly flat at Dr Ben Carson. If high education makes someone more suitable for office, how come a pioneering brain surgeon can be such a clueless moron.

  • disqus_5wz1v9fd3D

    You’re acting as if people are 900% less intelligent just because they didn’t attend Oxbridge. It’s not like the Red Bricks churn out nothing but idiots.

  • Avaya

    Afternoon Harry. I’m an intelligent young person who chose to go to a northern civic/redbrick university rather than Oxford or Cambridge. I did so because:
    a) I didn’t feel I would have much in common with fellow students at Oxford or Cambridge
    b) I wouldn’t be able to afford the extra thousands required to take part socially – gowns, balls, etc
    c) I had no interest in f*cking a pig’s head between lectures.

    • Lesmond Nyjacks

      Did you f*uck your pigs head in the evenings? Or did you save it for the weekends?

  • Gary Barker

    What a very silly class snob article

  • Flintshire Ian

    Not a scientist or an engineer amongst them since the blessed Margaret. Probably not bright enough.

  • Gary Barker

    Dennis Skinner on George Osborne: “educated beyond his intelligence”

  • john

    We Brits are a gruesomely deferential people and always prefer to doff the cap to established elites to supporting up and comers. If we can’t have royals or titled folk do something, we’ll go for Oxbridge or public school. It’s never made any sense but is the natural order of things Brit.

  • ItwasBlairwotdunnit

    This article makes ridiculous assertions. Are you seriously trying to have us believe that there is a university in Hull?

  • Classless Society

    What sort of drudge would consider that the result of an exam taken 40 years ago, let alone where a man went to University, has any relevance to his ability to be Prime Minister? The mind boggles. If this is the state of current thinking, welcome to Dullsville UK.

  • ohforheavensake

    D’you know what the Russell Group is? Most of the people here went to Russell Group universities- which meant that they went to some of the best universities in the world (& yes, being the 401st best university in the world is quite an achievement, given that globally there are over 16,000 HE organisations).

    This is snobbery, pure and simple.

  • JDrakeify

    And from what I can tell, winston churchill didnt go to university at all, and neither did John Major. Neither did Ernest Bevin, and Nye Bevan spent two years at a labour college in London. Yet all these people are remembered as great ministers. Equally, some of the worst PMs were Oxbridge graduates. There isnt really a pattern.
    It is intellectual snobbery to say that those who went to anything other than two most prestigious universities are not good enough to govern us, especially if that university is still extremely high ranking relative to the UK and to the rest of the world.

  • Ronald Heatherington

    I don’t think William Buckley had in mind a whole range of underachievers and career politicians lording it over him, either. No, I should think that given the choice he would prefer elite eggheads over sociology majors from third and second rate institutions. Bring excellence BACK! Reintroduce GRAMMAR SCHOOLS! HANG JEREMY CORBYN! AND BLAIR!

  • redsquirrel

    Is PPE one of the easy degrees? Like Sociology, Geography etc?

  • Norfolk29

    The point is that Corbyn did not complete his degree course, and he should explain why not. When I did my degree the course had 30 students. Two had left by the first Christmas and a further 6 failed their first year internal exam and were asked (told) to leave. Most of these students were simply lazy so I was not surprised when they failed. If Corbyn was not up to the grind of 8 subjects to study, each with an essay and a seminar to prepare every term, we should be told. Churchill had problems with the level of detail he was faced with as PM from 1951 as he never went to university. Attlee ran the government for him during the war so he could concentrate on the war.
    Iain Macleod did not support Hume for PM in 1963 as he, and most of the Tory MP’s, were not even asked who they wanted. The men in “grey suits” took the decision and Macleod and Enoch Powell resigned as a result. The rules were changed to allow a free vote of Tory MP’s in subsequent leadership elections.

  • Alex

    I just looked up the shadow cabinet on Wikipedia. About a third of the shadow cabinet are still Oxbridge graduates. And despite the weird fixation with the University of Hull in this article (which isn’t even technically a redbrick), many of the redbricks and Russell Group universities are in the *top 100* in the world. Not only is this article insidious in its elitism, its also wrong on its own terms.

    Corbyn has a cabinet consisting of people from some of the best Universities in the world (*including but not limited to Oxbridge!*)?!?!?! He’s clearly gone man.

  • Gun Toting Panda

    Isn’t this the same Harry Mount who was beaten by a state-school educated redbrick graduate for one tenancy position at a barristers chambers after a year-long head-to-head (as detailed in his book, My Brief Career). Its just a bit ironic that Harry, a scion of the public school-educated Oxbridge ‘elite’, has written such an article after being rejected in favour a redbrick graduate to join a profession that requires skills comparable to those used in politics (many politicians are drawn from the Bar). Harry, himself, is a standing refutation of his own argument in this moronic piece. Or, maybe he’s right, but this would mean that he’s an aberration of his educational pedigree and therefore really just plain stupid. Either way Harry, you lose.

    • Vanity

      I believe he is also something of an establishment figure in that his father may have edited something rather grand (I am too lazy to google it, but he refers to it with feigned humility whenever possible). Further, he also had a notorious going over by some fairly tip-top lawyers re some similarly mindless drek produced a few years ago. Again, Google knows all.

      Henry’s continued career is clearly the result of having the equivalent of the Nixon tapes involving editors of high-circulation magazines……

  • Gun Toting Panda

    Isn’t this the same Harry Mount who was beaten by a state-school educated redbrick graduate for one tenancy position at a barristers chambers after a year-long head-to-head (as detailed in his book, My Brief Career). Its just a bit ironic that Harry, a scion of the public school-educated Oxbridge ‘elite’, has written such an article after being rejected in favour a redbrick graduate to join a profession that requires skills comparable to those used in politics (many politicians are drawn from the Bar). Harry, himself, is a standing refutation of his own argument in this moronic piece. Or, maybe he’s right, but this would mean that he’s an aberration of his educational pedigree and therefore really just plain stupid. Either way Harry, you lose.