Toffs in the Cabinet?


“toppers all round chaps”

Have you been following the “toff” debate on Mark Avery’s blog ?

Mark called Richard Benyon a “Toff” and suggested that many of the decisions he took as Biodiversity and Fisheries Minister were coloured by his Toff background, and his liking of all things huntin’ fishin’ and shootin’. I don’t propose to dwell on Richard.  Richard Benyon was a very junior minister in this Government and had remarkably little influence over anything as far as I can see. Even if he is the wealthiest MP in the Commons.

What I am more interested in is the Cabinet and whether it is full of “toffs”. I’m also interested in how rich the Cabinet members are, whether they went to private school, Oxbridge and whether they have had a proper job before going into politics.

I had a look through the biographies of the Cabinet and came up with the following scoring system:

David Cameron‘s personal wealth is £3.2M, not including any inheritance. His father made his money in stockbroking and he is descended from Minor Nobility.  He went to Eton and Oxford, where he studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE); he has only worked in the media (briefly) and politics.

Toff score 5/5: Wealth Score 5/5: Private school? yes: Oxford/Cambridge Yes: PPE Yes: Job media

Nick Clegg is worth £1.9M. His family made their fortune in Banking and he is descended from European Nobility. He worked as a lobbyist and Eurocrat before politics. Nick went to Westminster then Cambridge, where he studied archaeology and anthropology.

Toff score 5/5: Wealth Score 4/5: Private School Yes: Oxbridge Yes: PPE no: Job: lobbying

George Osborne‘s personal wealth is £4.3M. His family fortune comes from wallpaper and his father is the 17th baronet of a noble Irish family .  George went to St Pauls school then Oxford, where he studied Modern History .

Toff score 5/5: Wealth Score 5/5: private school yes: Oxbridge Yes: PPE no: job: none

William Hague is worth £4.8M. His family made their fortune in the soft drinks industry. William started work there, went into management consultancy before joining politics at a very young age. William was educated at a state grammar school, then Oxford (PPE) .

Toff score 0/5: wealth score 5/5: private school no: Oxbridge Yes: PPE yes: job: management consultancy

Danny Alexander – I haven’t managed to find out what his personal wealth is, but he came from a more modest background. He went to a state high school, then Oxford (PPE). He worked in media and communications before politics.

Toff score 0/5: Wealth score ?: private school no: Oxford yes: PPE yes: job: media

Theresa May is worth £1.7M. She has a modest background, here father having been a CofE cleric. She went to a number of schools, both state and private, before going to Oxford where she studied Geography. She then worked at the Bank of England and the APACS banking clearing service before entering politics.

Toff Score 0/5: wealth score 4/5: private school yes: Oxbridge Yes: PPE no: job: banking

Philip Hammond is the richest member of the Cabinet, worth £8.2M. He has a modest background, his father having been a civil engineer. He went to a state high school and Oxford (PPE). He started his career in medical equipment manufacturing before setting up a property development company, Castlemead.

Toff Score 0/5: wealth score 5/5: private school no: Oxbridge yes: PPE yes: job: property development

I haven’t managed to find anything about Vince Cable‘s personal wealth. He was educated at a Grammar school then Cambridge where he excelled in Economics. He went to do a variety of academic and policy roles before becoming chief economist with Shell.

Toff Score 0/5: wealth score ?: private school no: Oxbridge Yes: PPE no: job: economics

Iain Duncan Smith is worth around £1M though his wife is far more wealthy. His parents were an RAF group captain and a ballerina. He went to a Roman Catholic school before going to a naval school at 14. He then went to Sandhurst and was commissioned into the Scots Guards, where he stayed, as  a first lieutenant, for 7 years. His wife is the daughter of the 5th Baron Cottesloe and they live on the family estate in Buckinghamshire.

Toff Score 2/5: wealth score 3/5: private school no?: Oxbridge no: PPE no: job: army

Chris Grayling‘s personal worth is somewhere north of £500,000.  He went to High Wycombe Royal Grammar School, then Cambridge where he studied history. His pre politics career was in broadcast media (BBC and C4) then management consultancy.

Toff Score 0/5: wealth score 2/5: private school yes: Oxbridge yes: PPE no: job: media

Michael Gove‘s personal wealth is in excess of £1M. He was adopted by a family in Aberdeen, where his father managed a fish processing business and his mother was a university lab assistant. He won a scholarship to a top Scottish private school (Robert Gordon’s College)  before going to Oxford where he studied English. He was a journalist and leader writer for the Times before politics.

Toff Score 0/5: wealth score 3/5: private school yes: Oxbridge yes: PPE no: job: media

I could find no information about Eric Pickles‘ personal wealth. His parents ran a shop and he went to a comprehensive school then Leeds Polytechnic where he studied law but did not complete his solicitors training. He went into local politics almost straight away.

Toff score: 0/5: wealth score ?: private school no: Oxbridge no: PPE no: job: trainee solicitor

Jeremy Hunt‘s personal wealth is £4.8M. The son of an admiral, he was educated at Charterhouse then Oxford (PPE). A successful entrepreneur, he first went into PR, then set up a successful publishing business.

Toff score 1/5?: wealth score 5/5: private school yes: Oxbridge yes:PPE yes: job: media

Owen Paterson is worth £1.5M. He was educated at Radley College then Cambridge, where he read history. He started life in the family tanning and leather business,  becoming managing director of the National Leather Company, before politics. He married former Environment Secretary Nick Ridley’s daughter, herself the niece of the 4th Viscount Ridley.

toff score: 4/5: wealth score: 4/5: private school yes: Oxbridge yes: PPE no: job: agriculture

For the following cabinet members I could find no information about their personal wealth:

Justine Greening went to a comprehensive school then Southampton University where she studied Economics. She went on to gain an MBA, before qualifying as an accountant and worked at Glaxo Smith Kline, Price Waterhouse Coopers and Centrica, for around 10 years before entering politics.

toff score 0/5: wealth score ?: private school no: Oxbridge no: PPE no: job: accountant

Ed Davey‘s parents were a solicitor and teacher. He went to the private Nottingham High School then Oxford (PPE).  He went straight into politics from there.

toff score: 0/5: wealth score ?: private school yes: Oxbridge yes: PPE yes: job: none

Patrick McLoughlin was a farm worker and miner before entering politics.  The son of a miner, he attended a roman catholic school and agricultural college before working on a farm. He became a miner then worked for the National Coal Board in marketing.

Toff score 0/5:wealth score ?:private school no: Oxbridge no: PPE no: job: farming,mining

Maria Miller was educated at a comprehensive school before heading to the London School of Economics where she studied Economics. Then then had a successful career in advertising and marketing including a stint with Texaco, before politics.

toff score: 0/5: wealth score ?: Private school no: Oxbridge no: PPE no: job: advertising, marketing

Theresa Villiers is descended from nobility (the Dukes of Clarendon) and is a qualified Barrister. She was educated at Frances Holland private school, then Bristol and Oxford University. She worked as a Barrister for five years before becoming an MEP.

Toff score 4/5: wealth score ?: private school yes: Oxbridge yes: PPE no: job: law

David Jones is a trained Solicitor. His father was an army officer and he went to Ruabon Grammar School then University College London, to study Law. he had a long career as a solicitor before becoming a Welsh Assembly member in 2002.

Toff score: 0/5: wealth score ?; private school yes: Oxbridge No: PPE no: job: law

Lord Hill of Oareford has a background in PR, lobbying and reputation management, having worked for Bell Pottinger and founded Quiller Consultants, who manage (ie defend) the corporate reputations of large companies. He was educated at Highgate School then studied History at Cambridge.

toff score 0/5: wealth score ? but probably 5/5: private school yes: Oxbridge yes: PPE no: job: PR

Ok what does all this tell us? well, of the 21 cabinet minister listed, 7 have Toff scores greater than zero, either through birth or marriage. That’s a third of the cabinet. Some toff scores are maxima.

Of the 11 cabinet ministers where data are available, 10 have personal wealth of over £1m, and several have vast fortunes of over £4M. This puts half the cabinet in the top 1% probably the top 0.1% of the UK population.

And before you suggest it, I don’t think the figures I’ve found refer to the value of properties they own.

12 out of 21 ie over half of the cabinet went to private schools, many of these being the top Public Schools such as Westminster, St Pauls, Eton, Highgate, Radley and so on.

A staggering 15 out of 21 or over 70% of the Cabinet went to Oxbridge universities. Even more staggering is that 6 members of the Cabinet did PPE at Oxford  – 29%.

Finally, what sort of jobs have they done before entering politics? A few went straight into politics as special advisers, five were in the Media, then PR, lobbying, advertising, marketing, management consultancy, accountancy and economics. A couple have been in law, and one did a stint as a trainee solicitor.

Only 3 Cabinet members have done anything outside this rather restricted range of careers – a short stint in the army (IDS), MD of a leather business (OPatz) and Philip Hammond, a successful property developer.

The only conclusion I can draw from this brief analysis is that we are being governed by a group dominated by private school + Oxbridge educated toffs (who did PPE at Oxford), who have mostly worked in the media and associated industries, before fulfilling their destiny to enter politics and gain executive power.

Does it show?



Sorry I missed out the new Scottish LibDem Secretary Alistair Carmichael. He isnt a toff and didnt go to Oxbridge. He is a solicitor.

toff score 0/5. wealth score ?. private education no: Oxbridge: no; PPE No: Job: solicitor.

About Miles King

UK conservation professional, writing about nature, politics, life. All views are my own and not my employers. I don't write on behalf of anybody else.
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10 Responses to Toffs in the Cabinet?

  1. David Dunlop says:

    “Fulfilling their destiny” indeed. It’s called the “Iron Law Of Oligarchy”, Miles. It’s said to be why children of medics so often become medics themselves.

  2. Ellie says:

    Wow Miles – a lot of research went into that one! Interesting stuff. But don’t read too much into Oxbridge education – the universities are trying hard to make sure they’re including non-toffs in their intake! Ellie (working class parents, state school, Cambridge alumna, still not running the country!)

    • milesking10 says:

      Thanks very much Ellie. It did take a bit of digging.

      Yes do you know what proportion of Oxbridge intake is from the private school vs state school sector, and as a proportion of the total number of students in each sector?

      True, on last year’s figures 63% of Oxbridge entrants were from state schools. But for the Russell Group of Universities as a whole the figures are reversed and 64% of entrants were from private schools with only a 24% from state schools (presumably the remaining 12% were foreign students.)

      For comparison 18% of children over 16 are in private education.

  3. Ash says:

    Isn’t your research a little biased & possibly giving the wrong impression? Why the current cabinet? What about the current parliament, whatever side they’re on?

    • milesking10 says:

      Thanks Ash.

      No the research isn’t biased, it’s all information in the public domain. I chose the Cabinet because they are in power. Also, realistically, it would be quite a lot of work to do a similar search for all 650 MPs!

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  6. Thomas The Nightmare! says:

    Alex Salmond was right: we are governed by Lord Snoot and his pals, and some of them were perverts who were trained at public schools and top universities! Also, most of them are money-grubbers and pompous windbags…. why don’t we get rid of them?

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