Downing Street defends ‘diversity’ of 60% private-educated Cabinet

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Downing Street has insisted Boris Johnson leads “one of the most diverse cabinets in history” after figures showed 60% attended private schools and almost half went to Oxbridge.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman pointed to the background of Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi, who was “able to rise to this important position from a family of immigrants” as evidence of the diverse nature of the Government’s top team.

Mr Zahawi, who was born in Iraq, initially went to a comprehensive before being privately educated at King’s College School in Wimbledon.

A view of Oxford (William Conran/PA)
A view of Oxford (William Conran/PA)

Challenged on the diversity of Mr Johnson’s top table, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “It is factual to say it is one of the most diverse cabinets in history.

“All members of Cabinet will be united in the work around levelling-up and building back better from this pandemic.”

Mr Zahawi “went initially to the comprehensive Holland Park School and has talked very personally about his own background and how he has been able to rise to this important position from a family of immigrants, coming in at a young age”.

The percentage privately educated is down slightly on the Prime Minister’s previous cabinets, data from the Sutton Trust suggested.

The figure was 64% in his first Cabinet in 2019, and 65% in a 2020 reshuffle, the charity said.

In its analysis of the educational background of the new Cabinet announced on Wednesday, the trust said the 2021 percentage for private education compares to 29% when it comes to all MPs in the House of Commons.

The Sutton Trust said there has been a slight increase in the proportion of the new Cabinet educated at comprehensives, from 27% last year to a third now.

While 46% of those in the latest Cabinet studied at Oxford or Cambridge, the figure compares with 27% of all Conservative MPs, 18% of Labour MPs and 24% of all MPs.

New Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, Housing Secretary Michael Gove and Chancellor Rishi Sunak all attended Oxford University.

The trust said just over a quarter of Cabinet ministers attended both independent schools and Oxbridge.

The trust said its analysis includes 30 ministers and assumes Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg and Attorney General Suella Braverman will attend Cabinet.

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