UK

Michael Gove Attacks The 'Ridiculous' Number Etonians In David Cameron's Inner Circle

15/03/2014 09:54 GMT | Updated 15/03/2014 09:59 GMT
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LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 03: Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Eduction, delivers a speech on eduction reform at the London Academy of Excellence on February 3, 2014 in London, England. Mr Gove is facing criticism after deciding to replace Baroness Sally Morgan as the head of the school's inspectorate, Ofsted. The decision to not renew the term in office of Labour peer Baroness Morgan as the Chair of Ofsted is being being viewed by some as politically motivated. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Education Secretary Michael Gove has hit out at the "ridiculous" numbers of Old Etonians in David Cameron's inner circle.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Gove said such a "preposterous" concentration of individuals from the same privileged background at the top of government did not exist in any other developed nation.

His comments were seized on by Labour as evidence that the Conservatives are "out of touch" with the concerns of ordinary people in Britain.

Among the Old Etonians around the Prime Minister - himself a former Eton boy - are his chief of staff, Ed Llewellyn; the head of his policy unit, Jo Johnson; the minister for government policy, Oliver Letwin; and Chancellor George Osborne's chief economic adviser, Rupert Harrison.

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Mr Gove compared them to the cabinet of Eton-educated Tory prime minister Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, the Marquess of Salisbury, who was criticised for alleged nepotism and cronyism.

"At the beginning of the 20th century, the Conservative cabinet was called Hotel Cecil. The phrase 'Bob's your uncle' came about and all the rest of it. It is preposterous," he said.

"It doesn't make me feel personally uncomfortable because I like each of the individuals concerned, but it's ridiculous. I don't know where you can find some such similar situation in a developed economy."

Mr Gove, who went to a fee-paying school in Scotland, said the concentration of Old Etonians in the higher echelons of the Conservative Party was a function of the fact that "more boys from Eton go to Oxford and Cambridge than boys eligible for free school meals".

However shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Ashworth said it was a "reflection of the Conservative Party" under Mr Cameron.

"It's up to David Cameron who he puts into top jobs, and the fact is that the Prime Minister has chosen to surround himself with people just like himself. He's leading a Government that's completely out of touch," he said.

"That's why his decisions have helped a privileged few rather than hard-working families, with tax cuts for people earning over £150,000 while wages are down an average £1,600 a year."