Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Is Sir John Major just waking up?

I'm willing to bet that every student of comparative politics who has studied the UK knows what former PM Major is now shocked to "discover." Was he asleep all that time he worked for Lady Thatcher and all that time he was Prime Minister?

And someone will have to explain the logic behind his assertion that the last Labour government is to blame for this state of affairs.

Private school influence in public life 'shocking' says Major
The influence that a privately educated, middle-class elite have on public life is "shocking", former prime minister Sir John Major has said.

Sir John
Sir John said the "upper echelons of power" were dominated by those from a similar background.

In a speech to Tory activists reported in the Daily Telegraph he blamed "the collapse in social mobility" on the failures of the last Labour government.

More than half the current cabinet were educated at private schools…

In a speech to the South Norfolk Conservative Association's annual dinner, he bemoaned what he said was the lack of people from working and lower middle class backgrounds in positions of influence in British institutions…

The BBC's political editor Nick Robinson said he did not believe the comments were an attack on the current Conservative leadership but a plea for those from modest backgrounds to have more influence in public life.

The former prime minister, Nick Robinson added, was speaking up for what he regarded as his party's natural constituency, the hard-working but aspiring majority who were not well-off…

For Labour, Kevin Brennan, shadow schools minister, said Sir John was "telling people what they already knew", saying the government was "out of touch" with "the next generation being locked out of opportunity"…

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At 5:13 PM, Blogger Ken Wedding said...

Alan Carter, from Oxford, UK, helps me (and you) understand Sir John's contention that Labour government policies have widened the cleavage between the social classes by destroying paths to upward mobility.

Alan points out that a 1959 Conservative government created a program of grants and waivers of tuition for university students and direct grants to disadvantaged high school age students to attend private schools. The program also kept selective "grammar schools" open without fees to anyone who could qualify. The program also began creating new universities, the so-called red brick institutions.

The Labour government ended the direct grants and subsides in 1977, but they were basically reestablished by the Conservative government in 1980.

Labour abolished the programs in 1997 and introduced tuition fees for all university students in 2000.

And now, Sir John can claim the resulting widening division between the powerful and the less powerful can be laid at the feet of the Labour Party.

Thanks, Alan.


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