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How the toxic toffs still rule over us

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Issue 2660
Eton web
Eton helps funnel poshos into top jobs

Two toxic toffs are fighting it out to become the next leader of the Tory party and prime minister. Both are ruling class fighters who had their first lessons in how to rule at private school.

Boris Johnson went to Eton—which costs £40,000 a year for full board. Jeremy Hunt went to Charterhouse—a snip at £39,000 a year.

Their wealth and fancy education helped them glide into top jobs and privileged positions.

But their stories are far from the exception.

A new report from The Sutton Trust this week showed that 39 percent of the Tory cabinet were privately educated. Just 7 percent of the population as a whole go through the same system.

It should be no surprise that private education helps the most privileged—that’s what it is there for. According to Tory Jonathan Aitken, who attended Eton, “There was a joke to the effect that a sign was hung on the school gates—‘Cabinet Makers to Her Majesty the Queen’.”

The Sutton Trust report—Elitist Britain 2019—goes much further than just looking at the Tories in political office.

It shows how the top layers in every profession are packed full of poshos.

Two thirds of the upper echelons of “the professions”—lawyers, the media, the judiciary and the civil service—either went to private school or Oxford or Cambridge universities.

And 17 percent of those holding the so-called “top jobs” in Britain benefited from private school and Oxford or Cambridge.

Some 52 percent of senior judges arrived in their positions by this route. A third of newspaper columnists also took this privileged path.

Out of the 37 professions examined in the report, the privately educated are under-represented in just two—women’s and men’s professional football.

The report also reveals that for all the talk of “social mobility” we live in a stagnant system of privilege.

The research was last carried out in 2014, and little has changed since then. The fact that the private education system still exists shows just how resistant the ruling class is to change.

The level of education someone has, or how much their parents paid for it, can be a strong indicator of social class.

But it is not the whole story.

Class is determined by a person’s relation to the ownership and control of how things are produced in society.


Going to private school or the poshest universities doesn’t necessarily give someone such power.

With the creation of a surplus of the things humans need to survive, the group who controlled this surplus became the ruling class. Under capitalism, this surplus—profit—is produced through exploiting workers and is controlled by capitalists.

It makes little material difference to someone working in a kitchen or a bank whether their boss was privately educated.

But it is convenient to have some examples of people from working class backgrounds in the most senior positions of capitalist society.

This helps the ruling class to argue that we live in a meritocracy.

The Sutton Trust’s report blows that argument apart.

It shows how private education reinforces the rule of the rich—and trains them to fight to preserve the system.

It arms them with the tools they need to float to the top like scum.

Millions of people will be rightly disgusted at the class privilege exposed in the report.

That disgust can fuel the fight against an economic system built on the backs of ordinary people.

It should certainly fuel our determination to fight both Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt—and to drive all the Tories out.

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