The BBC asks a good question. Why has Eton produced so many MPs and PMs?
With its Victorian-era uniform, and rules dating back through the centuries, Eton is often perceived as a rigid, conformist institution.
But according to Nick Fraser, author of the book The Importance of Being Eton, the school’s success actually lies in the extraordinary range of freedoms it grants to pupils.
They are particularly well-prepared for a life in politics, he believes, because so many school societies, sports clubs and other activities are run by the pupils themselves.
No doubt Eton and Westminster and the other famous schools now represented in the new Cabinet have emitted their fair share of cads and scoundrels down the years.
But credit where credit is due. Most Etonians I have met indeed have been confident – and courteous.
My main impression of this new leap into the British political unknown is that we are at long last free of the fetid dishonesty, banality and rudeness of New Labour Spin. We no longer have to take seriously a single word said by Campbell/Mandelson.
What a relief!
The whole point of courtesy and simple good manners is that they take other people as the centre of attention, not oneself.
The whole New Labour project, right from the start, was all about them. The protocol arrangements emanating from No 10 under Tony Blair were far too often casual, even cursory.
We had a problem getting the actual invitations from No 10 for the guests attending the lunch hosted by Tony Blair for President Kwasniewski during his 2004 State Visit, no less.
Trying to establish just who from the UK side was on the list was a painful task even the day before the lunch, with a sense of sulky bored irritation at the other end of the line that we were wasting their all-important time on such trivia.
Which in turn all came at root from Tony Blair himself – he cultivated a deliberate air of ‘just winging it’, doing as little as he could get away with for senior guests. He would invite even Heads of State to No 10 and then let them be fielded by senior officials until he deigned to ‘drop in’ for a few minutes.
Simply unforgivably rude. And in the case of the dismissive way he treated Robert Mugabe, arguably a far-reaching blunder of huge proportions.
A while back I gave you my list of key Prime Ministerial qualities. Here they are again:
2 Upholding/improving Standards
3 Clarity of Purpose
4 Ambition, tempered by Teamwork
5 Willingness to Negotiate Hard (including by accepting the responsibility of confrontation when necessary)
6 Unfailing Courtesy, publicly and privately
7 Promoting high-level Discipline through personal example
8 Willingness to lose popularity for the right cause
9 Hard-nosed focus on British interests in the EU: just Block if necessary
10 Lead the Government – don’t give the Treasury a lock on many policy processes
And one for luck:
11 Slash the ranks of spin-doctors and SpAds on the public payroll. The policies should speak for themselves.
Gordon Brown failed on most of these, but above all Nos 1 – 4 and 6.
I suspect that the whole point of the new Cameron/Clegg partnership is that without trying they will do far better in those core ‘moral’ areas.
And the whole government machine will feel the difference for the better.