IT’S been a rather uncomfortable week for Britain’s gilded independent school sector. In the course of the worst peacetime health and economic crisis faced by Britain, the consequences of unearned educational privilege were laid bare. 

Led by Eton-educated Boris Johnson, a cast of privately and electively-educated bozos lurched and stumbled through the pandemic with not the slightest clue as to what they were doing. 

Only about 7% of the UK population is educated at fee-paying schools but this cohort is disproportionately represented in the top tiers of government.

The Sutton Trust, the charity which seeks to tackle educational inequality, found that almost two-thirds of Rishi Sunak’s Cabinet were educated at an independent school. It was a similar story for Boris Johnson’s Cabinet. 

The large quantums spent on securing a top education are regarded as good investments. The rewards are clear: a fast track into the most influential positions in society. Any threat of fair competition, challenge and jeopardy are minimalised. 

We delude ourselves that we live in a democracy based on fairness and equality of opportunit, that equipped with little more than a good work ethic and a nimble brain, anyone can be anything they want. 

It’s just that if you were lucky enough to have parents who purchased your education, your path will be cleared of any obstacles. 

Ordinarily, we’ve learned to live with this anomaly, so long as it doesn’t jeopardise the health and wellbeing of the country. Clearly, however, when the UK was at its most vulnerable, it needed men and women of independent thought – strong leadership skills and a proven ability to perform in a highly stressful situation. 

But when the chips were down and the balloon went up as it did in 2020 and 2021, we got something else instead: a wretched procession of failures who put swathes of the UK in further mortal danger during the pandemic and were clearly unfit for high office. 

And none more so than former prime minister Boris Johnson and his health minister Matt Hancock. 

The ongoing Covid inquiry into their actions and those of their colleagues should also be looking at the educational system which produced them. 

The Herald: PM Rishi Sunak


Dull outlook
BRITAIN’S historic habit of placing the affairs of the nation in the hands of these elite-level dullards is dangerously apparent in times of war and in matters concerning our national security. 

The nation’s military officer class is disproportionately drawn from the rich and hopeless.  
In 2019, the BBC found that nearly half of the British Army’s officer cadets were privately educated. 

It reinforced research from The Sutton Trust which found that the UK’s military top brass were seven times more likely to have been educated at a private school.

Clearly, some of these chaps will have possessed the requisite abilities to command soldiers in the heat of battle. Equally clearly, many will have been the chinless, consanguineous offspring of families who’d stuck them in Sandhurst because they were too thick for Oxford and Cambridge. 

You can contain the effects of this in civilian life where the extent of their incompetence is limited to mere economic tomfoolery – mass unemployment and financial corruption. 

On the battlefield, though, their manifest failures (and there have been many) have resulted in countless numbers of the common soldiery losing their lives. 

Private affair
RESPONDING to The Sutton Trust’s findings about the preponderance of private-school pupils in the Officer Training Corps, the British Army had said that it was “increasing our outreach to those in state education”.

We know what that means in reality: targeting schools in the UK’s most deprived neighbourhoods to find the cannon fodder required to keep the army fully operational. 

The adverts that accompany these exercises in human trawling are seductive: maintaining the workings of nuclear submarines; deploying electronic surveillance gizmos; and airlifting refugees from war-torn lands. When Britain next goes to war the reality will become clear: they’ll have been chosen to be the first over the top.

Class above
IT has never been truculent working-class types who have sought to undermine the UK’s institutions and freedoms. Instead, as numerous spy scandals over the decades have shown, Britain’s most ignominious traitors have been drawn almost exclusively from the Oxford and Cambridge university elites.

Prior to the Second World War, Britain’s workers sacrificed their lives on the battlefield and worked tirelessly at home to make the weaponry that would defeat the Nazis.   

At the same time, Britain’s aristocrats, including King Edward VIII and Lord Halifax, were making whoopee with the Third Reich and seeking to cut deals with them in the event that the country was over-run. 

Margaret Thatcher once famously used the phrase “the enemy within” to describe what she perceived as the threat to Britain’s way of life posed by striking miners. 

The real enemy within, however, has always been found much higher up the social scale.