It’s official – Britain’s top jobs are a ‘closed shop’ and ‘equal opportunity’ is a myth

A day out with their minders: If you have ever sat amazed at decisions made by criminal court judges, rest easy in the knowledge that they come from deeply sheltered backgrounds and simply don't know any better.

A day out with their minders: If you have ever sat amazed at decisions made by criminal court judges, rest easy in the knowledge that they come from deeply sheltered backgrounds and simply don’t know any better.

If you have ever wondered why you couldn’t get on in life, despite all the talent anyone should ever need… now you know the truth. It’s because you didn’t go to a private school and you didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge University.

According to the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, 71 per cent of senior judges, 62 per cent of senior armed forces officers, 55 per cent of top civil servants, 43 per cent of newspaper columnists and 36 per cent of the Cabinet are members of a deeply elitist “cosy club” who were educated at private schools (Owen Jones, writing in The Guardian, commented: “It is quite something when the ‘cabinet of millionaires’ is one of the less unrepresentative pillars of power”).

Also privately-educated were 45 per cent of chairmen/women of public bodies, 44 per cent of the Sunday Times Rich List, and 26 per cent of BBC executives. Where are the naysayers who claim the BBC is a Leftie haven now?

When it comes to Oxbridge graduates, the situation worsens – they have a “stranglehold” on top jobs, according to The Guardian, which adds: “They comprise less than one per cent of the public as a whole, but 75 per cent of senior judges, 59 per cent of cabinet ministers, 57 per cent of permanent secretaries, 50 per cent of diplomats, 47 per cent of newspaper columnists, 44 per cent of public body chairs, 38 per cent of members of the House of Lords, 33 per cent of BBC executives, 33 per cent of shadow cabinet ministers, 24 per cent of MPs and 12 per cent of those on the Sunday Times Rich List.

My personal belief is that this should be no surprise to anybody – I’ve known it ever since the then-headteacher at my high school proudly announced that the only sixth-former on their way to Oxford, one year back in the 1980s, was his own daughter. Even then it wasn’t about what you knew but who Daddy was.

At least it is official now.

The person who should be least surprised by these findings is Commission chairman and Labour turncoat Alan Milburn. He does not come from a nobby background but has been absorbed into the group – possibly in gratitude for a series of betrayals of his own kind that began when he entered government.

Milburn was one of the Labour MPs who embraced neoliberalism in the 1990s. His reward was a place in the Cabinet as Minister of State for Health, then Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and then Health Secretary. He was also honorary president of the neoliberal thinktank Progress, which works hard to foist right-wing ideas onto the Labour Party.

It is no wonder, then, that Milburn subsequently became the darling of David Cameron’s Coalition government, being offered a role as ‘social mobility tsar’. It is in this role that he has delivered the current report on elitism.

According to that great source of knowledge Wikipedia, Milburn’s role was about “advising the government on how to break down social barriers for people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and help[ing] people who feel they are barred from top jobs on grounds of race, religion, gender or disability”.

Nearly four-and-a-half years into a five-year Parliament, Milburn came out with this report, and I’m willing to bet that, if a similar document had been compiled before Labour left office, evidence would show that the situation has worsened, not improved.

Even now, David Cameron is probably congratulating Milburn on what a great job he has done – achieving nothing.

In fairness, even a man like Milburn could not ignore such clear findings and the report describes the situation as “elitism so stark that it could be called social engineering“.

What is more interesting about the situation is the fact that it has been described as a ‘closed shop’, a term more readily-associated with those bitter opponents of privilege – the trade unions.

A closed shop is an agreement under which an employer agrees to hire union members only, and employees must remain members of the union at all times in order to remain employed. That is definitely what the report is demonstrating and, considering the elite’s antipathy to the unions, it is further demonstration of the high-handed and corrupt attitude of these types – their belief that they should be a law unto themselves.

This in fact provides us with the only positive element to come out of this report. It gives jobseekers a decent reason for being unable to secure work – all the best jobs are being hogged by overprivileged twits!

Owen Jones’s Guardian article suggests of the situation: “In the case of the media this has much to do with the decline of the local newspapers that offered a way in for the aspiring journalist with a non-gilded background; the growing importance of costly post-graduate qualifications that are beyond the bank accounts of most; and the explosion of unpaid internships, which discriminate on the basis of whether you are prosperous enough to work for free, rather than whether you are talented.”

That is not my experience.

I did my post-graduate journalism course with help from a training scheme run by the Tory government of the time – the Department of Social Security paid for my education in that respect. My recollection is that I was one of the highest-achievers on that course; considering my future career, this indicates that there is truth behind the ‘closed shop’ claim of the new report.

My experience on local newspapers is that they are more likely to offer a way in for aspiring “non-gilded” reporters now than when I entered. While I was fully-qualified when I was hired by my first employer in Bristol, here in Mid Wales the papers have seemed happy to hire people with no qualifications at all, and train them up. There are no unpaid internships here, to my knowledge.

That being said, management practices in the press are so bad that I am constantly amazed anybody bothers trying to work for these idiots at all.

My first paper was passed from one company to another in a “gentleman’s agreement” on a golf course. It meant that I took an effective pay cut, being forced to travel 30 miles further to work and receiving a lower-than-normal pay rise when I became a senior reporter.

Another paper was doing quite well when I joined, offering healthy bonuses for all employees at Christmas. I never got to benefit from this, though, because bosses foolishly took on at great cost a ‘general manager’ who managed all our profits away and then persuaded them to sell up to a much larger firm that stripped the operation to the bone and hoovered up all the profits. Quality plummeted and (after I left) so did sales.

A third paper’s solution to declining sales was a plan to cut back the number of reporters while keeping the management structure intact. That’s right – they reduced the number of people writing the stories that sold the papers. Then they attacked the remaining reporters for the continued drop in sales and absolutely refused to entertain any notion that they might have got the situation arse-backward.

That is why I agree with the UK Commission for Education and Skills, which said that “poor management hinders UK competitiveness”, and with the comment on that report in Flip Chart Fairy Tales, that “poorly managed firms drag a country’s score down and Britain has more than its fair share of them”.

The Milburn report puts the seal on the problem: Firms are poorly-managed because the people at the top are over-privileged fools who got into their position thanks to Daddy’s money rather than any talent of their own.

As the banking crisis – caused by these very people – and the subsequent, slowest economic recovery in UK history demonstrate starkly for all to see, these private-school, Oxford and Cambridge ignoramuses are worse than useless when it comes to managing an economy.

There is nothing you can do about it while a Conservative-led government is in power because that is exactly how David Cameron and his cronies like it.

(What am I saying? Of course they like it – they and their friends are the private-school, Oxford and Cambridge ignoramuses who are cocking up the system!)

You only need to read the ‘Revolving Doors’ column in Private Eye to see how these goons lurch from one failure to another – always finding a new job after each disaster because of the Old School Tie.

It is long past time we saw a few highly-prejudicial sackings but our sad, fat ‘captains of industry’ just don’t have the guts.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

Join the Vox Political Facebook page.

Buy Vox Political books and help our mission to
reveal the elite who hoard society’s rewards!

Health Warning: Government! is now available
in either print or eBook format here:

HWG PrintHWG eBook

The first collection, Strong Words and Hard Times,
is still available in either print or eBook format here:


Vox Political needs your help!
If you want to support this site
but don’t want to give your money to advertisers)
you can make a one-off donation here:

Donate Button with Credit Cards


  1. Ulysses August 29, 2014 at 10:41 am - Reply

    I’ve seen my fair share of Working class “general manager” hatchet men in industry, in my time too, Mike, you could spot them a mile off.
    A HNC or HND in Business Management in their mind made them the next Theo Paphitis, while running a formerly profitable company with a happy and highly motivated workforce in to the ground. You went from being excited to jump out of bed in the morning, to ennui and depression followed by lots of sickies ’cause you couldnt be arsed turning up anymore. Erosions of worker rights, erosions of legal break times, arm twisting to work longer hours for the same money, arm twisting of personal circumstance.
    Yeah, HND boys, you could spot ’em a mile off as they spouted out the same soundbite bollox that they were taught rote at nightschool

    • Mike Sivier August 29, 2014 at 10:50 am - Reply

      Only one of the people I mention in the article was this type of person, mind – and he was an employee of the private school/Oxbridge types who are the basis of the piece.

  2. Mr.Angry August 29, 2014 at 11:15 am - Reply

    Brilliant article Mike sadly Joe public have no understanding of what really goes on, has done and always will. The privileged few will never ever let the commoner inveigle into the corridors of power, they may reveal the truth and surely not have the correct handshake, enough said.

  3. David K. August 29, 2014 at 11:31 am - Reply

    These reports rarely mention the elite ‘closed shop’ in academia. When I did my first degree at a red brick university in the early nineties, most of the lecturing staff were public school educated and had degrees from Oxford or Cambridge. In the 20 years that followed, the cap on student numbers was lifted and the number of postgraduates continuing to doctoral study multiplied. Up to the year 2000 there was a brief window whereby postdocs who started off at state comprehensives could find their way into faculty jobs on open-ended (‘permanent’) contracts. However, under Labour, the Research Assessment, begun under the Tories to determine the state research grant received by university departments, began to have an effect on staff recruitment, as universities began to recruit to manipulate their RAE scores. This meant that regardless of how good your scholarship and teaching skills or how important your contribution to knowledge, you would not get an appointment beyond a three-year contract unless you could produce sufficient volume of publications from your doctoral research, such as in the form of a book and several journal articles.

    When you consider that immediately after completing a doctoral thesis and passing a viva exam, newly qualified academics face several challenges including finding a permanent home, paying the rent or mortgage and bills, securing paid employment, setting up home and, if they are parents, getting children to and from nursery, fed, bathed and put to bed of an evening, there isn’t a great deal of time for publication, especially if you are having to do dogsbody research work for a professor on a topic quite unrelated to your own research interests that takes up your whole working day. It’s not hard to imagine how this situation might favour middle and upper-middle class job applicants who can afford to go without paid work for a few months while they edit and package their research findings for publication, and who might not have to worry as much about housing costs if they can rely on parents to help with a deposit and the odd mortgage payment, and stand as a mortgage guarantor, and who might not have a lot of fixing up to do because they might be able to afford a home in better condition.

    If privately educated and Oxbridge postdocs have an advantage of time and resources when it comes to jumping through all the new hoops to secure academic employment that were introduced under the Labour government, should it be any wonder that academic literature reflects the perspectives, assumptions, interests and concerns of the upper-middle class and that it neglects the insights of working class people except as data: interviewees, survey respondents and objects of study?

    • Mike Sivier August 29, 2014 at 11:38 am - Reply

      That seems like the Law of Unforeseen Consequences in action, rather than any intention by Labour to stop the less privileged from having opportunities. These are people from Labour’s natural constituency, after all.
      I wonder whether you are trying to divert blame onto Labour when this is clearly an institutionalised problem that has been in place for far longer than Labour has been around to fight it.

      • David K. August 29, 2014 at 12:04 pm - Reply

        Indeed it is a case of unforeseen consequences, but it arose out of Labour’s keenness in the 1990s and beyond to embrace the audit culture. The whole purpose of the RAE was to force universities, departments and individual researchers to become more competitive and operate within a marketplace. Instead of having a formula to decide how much funding universities should get for research, the idea was to make them all compete for it, so past performance determines future capacity, the best performers scoop the pot, and the worst either stop being research institutions altogether or fold, thus breaking the link between active, live research and teaching. Because it takes no account of the realities of academics’ lives, it is yet another instance of Labour’s misplaced faith in educational opportunities leading to a dead end.

        • Mike Sivier August 29, 2014 at 12:28 pm - Reply

          From what you’re saying, it looks more like yet another instance of NEW Labour’s misplaced faith in the neoliberalism that had been embraced by the Conservatives ever since Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister. THATCHER is the root cause of your problem!

  4. Nick August 29, 2014 at 1:21 pm - Reply

    I’ve always known this having worked in the city. top jobs like i had before my retirement were always offered to those with connections only

    The education part thou is not the top priority as when it comes to the crunch only those whose parents were distinguished as in my case were you as a child given priority

    distinguished however means who your parents worked for or connected to as it’s the word of mouth which rules the day and not your wealth or education

    i myself am not educated but none the less ended up as a diplomat in which at the time i felt was a remarkable achievement

    If it were not for my father however who knows what would have happened as back in the early seventies it was all winks and nods of which i hadn’t a clue

    once your in the inner circle however providing you stay fit all is well till your death but should you fall ill or disabled then with regret your out and you’ll stay out

  5. Smiling Carcass August 29, 2014 at 7:14 pm - Reply

    When, I wonder will one of these (expensive?) reports tell us something WE DON’T KNOW!

    • Support August 29, 2014 at 8:22 pm - Reply

      I guess it’s useful to have a situation confirmed, in order to do something about it.

  6. James Drummond August 29, 2014 at 9:33 pm - Reply

    Yep and getting in to the “best” uni’s is supposed to be conditional on A and A*. However we have had the benefit of our Fiscal situation constantly F***ed up for the last 60 years. Cut, save, can’t afford, drugs to expensive let the poor F***ers die. The latest F***ed up government has not only F***ed the Fiscal situation (yet again) but basically they have F***ed the entire country. If you aren’t part of a PROFIT making scheme your life is at an end. There is no room for people who cannot fend for themselves so why even try to help them. I believe that the figure of deaths is 11000 per year for the last 3/4 years. The first published used only as an average but I would suspect the Government has suppressed the real figures because they are horrendous. Conservatively I would put the figure at 80000+. No I am not offering readers immunity for their part in the murder by benefits. The people responsible will be hunted down and taken to the Hague for CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY. The UN has finally caught up with the appalling treatment of benefit claimants. They should chuck the UK out for the government has deliberately and maliciously broken faith with the CHARTERS on HUMAN RIGHTS and the CHARTERS on the DISABLED. Do you think anyone in the UN will support this Government when they find out what has been going on? If they want any help there will be 10s of thousands ready to tell their story.

  7. thelovelywibblywobblyoldlady August 31, 2014 at 8:46 pm - Reply

    …Where’s Oliver Cromwell when you need him?

    “I was by birth a gentleman, living
    neither in any considerable height,
    nor yet in obscurity.
    I have been called to several employments
    in the nation-to serve
    in parliaments, and
    ( because i would not
    be over tedious )
    i did endeavour to discharge the duty of
    an honest man in
    those services, to
    god, and his people’s interest, and of the commonwealth;
    having, when time
    was, a competent acceptation in the
    hearts of men,
    and some
    evidence thereof.”

    – On himself, speech to the First Parliament of the Protectorate, Sept, 1654.

Leave A Comment