POLITICS
16/09/2021 14:01 BST | Updated 16/09/2021 14:01 BST

Privately Educated MPs Dominate Boris Johnson's Reshuffled Cabinet

Labour’s Wes Streeting: “Too many around the cabinet don’t know what life is like for most people."

Sutton Trust
Sutton Trust analysis of the new cabinet

More than half of Boris Johnson’s reshuffled cabinet were privately educated - including the new education secretary.

Around 60 per cent of the new-look cabinet attended independent schools, according to social mobility charity the Sutton Trust.

It is a stark contrast to the rest of the population, with 93 per cent of young people in England educated in state schools. 

The proportion of ministers who went to independent schools is also twice as high as Theresa May’s 2016 cabinet.

It comes as Nadhim Zahawi, who went to King’s College School in Wimbledon, replaced state-schooled Gavin Williamson as education secretary. 

Zahawi is thought to be the first privately educated person to hold that post since Nicky Morgan was removed five years ago.

The MP for Stratford-on-Avon arrived in Britain as a nine-year-old boy unable to speak English after his family fled Iraq under Saddam Hussein. His first school in the UK was Holland Park Comprehensive.

According to a profile by FE Week in 2016, Zahawi said his family “scraped enough money together” to put him in Ibstock Place School first and then independent boys’ school in Wimbledon Kings College School.

Leon Neal via Getty Images
Nadhim Zahawi is the new eduction secretary 

Downing Street said the cabinet make-up was now one of the “most diverse in history” following the reshuffle.

Challenged on the diversity of Johnson’s top table, the prime minister’s official spokesperson said: “It is factual to say it is one of the most diverse cabinets in history.

“All members of cabinet will be united in the work around levelling-up and building back better from this pandemic.

“You mention the education secretary. He went initially to the comprehensive Holland Park School and has talked very personally about his own background and how he has been able to rise to this important position from a family of immigrants, coming in at a young age.”

The Sutton Trust analysis found there was a “small decrease” in the number of privately educated compared to Johnson’s previous cabinet which was around 65 per cent. However, just 29 per cent of all MPs in the House of Commons were privately educated. 

Oxbridge graduates also continue to dominate the upper levels of Government with almost half - or 46 per cent - of those attending cabinet educated at either Oxford or Cambridge universities.

They also found that just over a quarter of cabinet minister attended both independent schools and Oxbridge.

Labour’s shadow child poverty secretary Wes Streeting said we had “yet another” education secretary who did not go to state school like most people. 

He told HuffPost UK: “We’ve got a big problem with this government which is that there are too many people around the cabinet table who don’t know what life is like for most people and therefore are making decisions that are particularly impacting on people who are lower paid, struggling to make ends meet and are being left seriously out of pocket by decisions taken by people who do not know what it’s like to be £20 out of pocket every week.

“The chancellor might not notice if someone took £20 out of his wallet every week but these families really will. It’s not that Conservative ministers go into politics because they want to plunge more kids into poverty - but because they don’t understand what life is like for most people that’s the consequence of their decisions.”

North West Durham Tory MP Richard Holden hit out at Streeting on Twitter, saying it was “unbelievably cheap” to attack Zahawi who came to the UK as a child refugee. 

The Sutton Trust analysis includes 30 ministers and assumes Jacob Rees Mogg and Suella Braverman will attend cabinet.