Welcome to Westminster, twinned with Eton

Britain’s political elite is increasingly being recruited from and driven by those from an ever narrowing background, that of wealth and luxury. 35% of MPs today were privately educated, despite only 7% of the population attending such institutions.

David Cameron and the Boris Johnson amongst a posse of other high ranking officials were part of the infamous Bullingdon Club whilst students at Oxford; a spoilt group of pumped-up posh prats whose antics would appal their brigade of geriatric supporters no end.

The ghost of Oxford past has also recently been haunting Attorney General Damian Grieve, after it emerged in his student days he had helped push the now Home Office Minister Damian Green off a bridge. No other government since the early 20th century has seems so insular, so detached and such a plaything of the old boys’ network.

It is extremely unhealthy that so many of the members MPs and government officials come from such a narrow selection of extensively privately schooled, Oxbridge graduates, who are unlikely to appreciate, never mind understand the issues affecting the people they claim to represent and govern.

This was demonstrated in a recent private poll by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, where MPs were asked for their opinion on current wage levels, which currently stand at £65,738 annually. 62% of respondents thought they deserved a raise; the average increase wished for was being 32%, which would make their annual wage £86,250. That is over three times higher than the national average.

When MPs first got paid a salary in 1911 of £400 annually, it then allowed people from working class backgrounds whom didn’t necessarily have the means to support themselves to stand for election. But a wage of such proportions would no longer merely allow access to political office but instead harden the disparity between the people and those who claim to represent them.

Such a move as suggested in the poll would only also keep MPs at arm’s length of the economic reality experienced by more people in austerity Britain with their decisions suffering for it. Increasing university fees to £9,000 isn’t such a big deal when you had been sent to schools all your life that demanded as much in a single term, or you could quite easily afford to send your own children now.

Representative democracy only works when, surprisingly enough, it is reasonably representative of the people. The lack of working class voices and MPs who are in the position to appreciate the issues for the majority in modern Britain is a serious problem for us all.


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Harry Edwards

May 2021
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