Nick Cohen Nick Cohen

How an Oxford degree – PPE – created a robotic governing class

Most of our prominent politicians studied the same subject at Oxford. Is it any wonder we’re so badly governed?

If graduates from an architecture school designed buildings that were unfit for human habitation or doctors from a university’s medical faculty left death in their wake, their teachers would worry. The graduates of Oxford’s Politics, Philosophy and Economics course form the largest single component of the most despised generation of politicians since the Great Reform Act. Yet their old university does not show a twinge of concern.

Alex Salmond spat out ‘Westminster’ as if he meant ‘Babylon’, and every time he did, thousands of Scots decided to leave Britain. Ukip, a vehicle for another cynical demagogue, convinces its growing band of supporters that all politicians are liars (apart from Mr Farage, of course). Beyond party labels and nationalist sympathies is an ‘anti-politics mood’ that captures citizens of all beliefs and none (although ‘mood’ strikes me as too mild a world for the derision and the fury). Will Jennings of Southampton university pointed me to research which showed 80 per cent agreed with the proposition that ‘politicians are too focused on short-term chasing of headlines’, with just 3 per cent of respondents disagreeing. ‘You never see results like this,’ he said.

A remarkable number of the politicians voters despised for their tricks learnt their politics at Oxford: David Cameron, William Hague, Theresa May, Jeremy Hunt, Ed Davey, Danny Alexander. Matthew Hancock, Ed Miliband, David Miliband, Ed Balls, Yvette Cooper, Angela Eagle, Maria Eagle, Rachel Reeves and Stuart Wood. There are more PPE graduates in the Commons than Old Etonians (35 to 20). Remember I am not talking about Oxbridge-educated politicians, who make up 50 per cent of ministers and 28 per cent of MPs, but the graduates of just one Oxford course.

Ambitious young men and women now believe they must study politics at Oxford if they want to get on in politics.

Already a subscriber? Log in

Keep reading with a free trial

Subscribe and get your first month of online and app access for free. After that it’s just £1 a week.

There’s no commitment, you can cancel any time.


Unlock more articles



Don't miss out

Join the conversation with other Spectator readers. Subscribe to leave a comment.

Already a subscriber? Log in