This book is well worth a read, in fact, it’s probably an essential read for anyone who wants an insider’s view of the immense privilege and entitlement of a small group of former Oxford graduates who took charge of the country’s political systems, its newspapers and even such stalwart institutions as the NHS.
Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, David Cameron, Dominic Cummings and Jacob Rees-Mogg all attended Oxford University, debated each other and ran for election against each other. Eleven of the fifteen post war British prime ministers went to Oxford.
In his short book, ‘Chums’ former Oxford graduate and journalist, Simon Kuper describes how a small group of men and women have shaped modern Britain in all sorts of ways. According to Kumar, the origins of Brexit can even be traced back to what happened at Oxford in the 1980s. Oxford’s pro and anti-European students held many of their debates in the Oxford Union where they practised and honed their skills of oratory and rhetoric.
In fact, many of them arrived at Oxford already brimming with confidence. “School had given them the confidence, articulacy, and know-how to bestride the university.” These were the future ruling caste, who believed they were destined to take control at Westminster. Kuper explains how Johnson and Cameron sauntered from public school through Oxford to power.
However, unlike previous Oxbridge prime ministers from the 1940s to 1970s, this new generation had not fought in a world war. Wars had helped to turn former prime ministers into serious rulers. “They had learned that decisions taken by Etonians in military HQ or behind Whitehall desks could kill people.” However, the last MPs who were veterans of a war left Parliament in 2001.
Cameron and Johnson were, “the most privileged members of the luckiest generation of a country that for 300 years had avoided revolution, dictatorship, famine, civil war, invasion or economic meltdown…they longed for their own heroic project.” Unfortunately, they found it in Brexit!
To learn more, have a listen to Sam Leith of The Spectator, who interviews Kuper in his podcast show, and where the author argues that, “the PM’s love of winging it was nurtured in the tutorial culture of his Balliol days, that the dynamics of Tory leadership contests are throwbacks to the Oxford Union, and that Brexit – the grand project of this generation – was at root a jobs-protection scheme for the old-fashioned ruling class.”