Seeing old Etonians like Boris Johnson and David Cameron fail upwards feels like a punch to the gutby Jade Azim / July 25, 2019 / Leave a comment
Modern British politics is turbulent at the best of times for women. This week’s events shine light on a particular intersection of that struggle. For working-class women in Westminster, the elitism and sexism they experience at work merge to create a climate of hostility, and they feel caught in a constant loop of abuse and patronisation. That is if they manage to get through the revolving Portcullis doors to begin with.
We watch on this week as an Old Etonian with a less-than-illustrious record that includes racism, abandoning a £53 million garden bridge project, and getting trapped on a zipwire, has been anointed Prime Minister. When working-class women feel they have to work twice as hard to be taken seriously in Westminster, constantly seeing bumbling, aristocratic men evade accountability for continuous mishaps and horrific behaviour feels like a repeated punch in the gut.
Britain has always been obsessed with eccentric aristocracy. Boris Johnson is the 20th prime minister to come from Eton. As a comparison, only nine prime ministers have attended non fee-paying schools throughout history. The prestigious all-boys boarding school has been governing the country for centuries with no sign of loosening its grip. The private schoolboy remains seemingly beloved and all-powerful, shaping the public perception of a ‘strong leader’ to mean men who look and sound like them.
Our obsession with public school graduates is as old as parliament, and they dominate powerful society. The Sutton Trust’s new ‘Elitist Britain’ report found that 44% of the nation’s news columnists, 52% of junior ministers, and 65% of senior judges attended a fee-paying school. At the very top of these institutions, women and BAME people also become sparse: 10 of 11 Supreme Court judges are white men, as are 53 of 55 prime ministers throughout history. Boris’s new Cabinet may be more diverse, but it is still 64% privately educated. There are few working-class women around his table.
But what strikes most is how utterly incompetent and destructive successive posh old Etonians in particular have been, while still emerging victorious in our modern public and political life. David Cameron led us into a disaster, launching a…