John Major is right. It's shocking that a public school elite runs every single sphere of British influence. But the even more shocking thing is that, not so long ago, it didn't used to be like that.
As I said on the Today Programme this morning – debating the issue with Owen Jones – David Cameron is the first public-school-educated Tory Prime Minister since Alec Douglas-Home, who left power 46 years before Cameron came to office. Tony Blair was the first public-school-educated Labour Prime Minister since Clement Attlee, who also left power 46 years before Blair came to office.
What happened in the interim? Grammar schools were almost completely eradicated by both Tory and Labour governments. In the early 1960s, Oxbridge was largely dominated by those educated at grammar schools; dodgy private schools were on the verge of collapsing, so far behind the grammar schools were they in academic excellence.
But then the grammar schools were largely eradicated, and social mobility, which had been improving, started going into reverse. The thousands of grammar school pupils who would have produced rivals to Cameron, Clegg, Osborne and Boris no longer existed. The last Tory leader to benefit from a grammar school – Michael Howard – had an education as good as he'd have got at any public school. When I went back to his old school, Llanelli Grammar, when he became Tory leader, I found it rather difficult – it had been demolished, to be replaced by a comprehensive.
The guilty men and women who got rid of the grammar schools were a mixed bunch. There was the usual brigade of privately-educated education secretaries who pulled up the drawbridge behind them: Shirley Williams (St Paul's Girls' School and Somerville, Oxford) wanted to eradicate all private schools and grammar schools; Tony Crosland (Highgate and Trinity, Oxford) said he wanted to destroy every "f***ing" grammar school in the country. Tristram Hunt (UCS and Trinity, Cambridge) and Nick Clegg (Westminster and Robinson College, Cambridge) are continuing in the same vein, insisting that free schools must have qualified teachers and follow the national curriculum, when their brilliant schools weren't hamstrung by these government impositions.
I'm afraid the sainted Margaret Thatcher is one of the guilty, too, in closing down grammar schools; as are every Education Secretary and Prime Minister since the 1960s, including John Major, who have failed to reverse the closure of grammar schools.
Interesting facts:The University of Roehampton is a campus university in the United Kingdom, situated on three major sites in Roehampton, south-west London.
The university has its roots in the traditions of its four constituent colleges, all of which were founded in the 19th century...