Conservative Diary

« Anti-AV Tory members outnumber pro-AV Tory members by nine-to-one | Main | Vince Cable says the Coalition must remain committed to "redistribution" for its full five-year term »

Should we care that the social background of the Government is unrepresentative of the country at large?

By Jonathan Isaby

The premise for the piece written by Sean O'Grady in today's Independent appears to be that the Government ought to be perfectly representative of British society at large.

Headlined "A Government of straight, white, privately educated men", he rails at the proportion of women, gays, black people and state-educated MPs in the Coalition Government:

"Analysis by The Independent of the social origins of members of the coalition government – the most extensive exercise of its kind – reveals that one-tenth of all the minsters in the Government attended just one public school: Eton. Overall, two-thirds of ministers were educated partly or entirely outside the mainstream state school system, and one in five went to one of the old established top public schools.

"Also, in stark contrast to the reality of life outside Westminster and Whitehall, there are no black members of the British government, and only three Asians and two openly gay men."

"The educational background of the Liberal Democrats in government is not dramatically out of line with their Conservative counterparts, adding to suspicions that the coalition is as much a social as a political affair. Some 52 per cent of Liberal Democrat ministers went to state schools, against 35 per cent of Tories."

"In some respects, indeed, the Liberal Democrats are even more divorced from the nation as a whole – their ministers are 100 per cent white. Despite efforts by both parties to improve the showing of ethnic minorities, the top echelons of power remain glaringly white."

"A family link in politics also helps in the coalition: five have fathers who were MPs and two more married the daughters of Conservative cabinet misters. Three can trace their lineage back, with varying degrees of difficulty, to past prime ministers."

I have never believed that Parliament or the Government should be a microcosm of society. If it were, half would be comprised - by definition - of those of below average intelligence and educational attainment, for a start.

And David Cameron has always brushed off carping about his educational background by saying it doesn't matter where you've come from, it's where you're going to that counts - and he is right.

In terms of putting together a Government, any Prime minister should surely be placing the best people at his or her disposal into the jobs which he or she thinks they are best suited to do at any particular time. To to do otherwise would smack of tokenism and the politics of quotas, to which I do not subscribe.

I would however seek to reassure Sean O'Grady that future governments formed by David Cameron are highly likely to become more diverse: as ConHome analysis showed last summer in advance of the general election, the new intake of Conservative MPs contains many more women, gays, ethnic minorities, and those born in council houses and educated at state schools - so he can look forward to ticking lots more boxes in the future if that's what's most important to him.


You must be logged in using Intense Debate, Wordpress, Twitter or Facebook to comment.