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Chums/Simon Kuper

The central thesis of Simon Kuper’s book is that a tiny caste of Oxford graduates of the 1980s took over the running of the country and the origins of Brexit are to be identified there.

The clear flaws in this theory are that Nigel Farage and the 52% that voted leave were not educated there.

Furthermore, two of the last three Oxford-educated Prime Ministers – David Cameron and Theresa May were Remainers.

Simon Kuper was born in Uganda and had his early schooling in the Netherlands before going to Oxford.

He is now a feature writer for the Financial Times.

He does not appear to have met at Oxford the personalities he castigated and prays in aid James Wood, an Etonian often quoted for his anti-Eton views, and republican Australian politician Malcolm Turnbull.

Not that I totally failed to enjoy his book.

A provocative work can be stimulating.

I learned about the electoral processes of the Oxford Union presidency, which honed the campaigning talents of what Kuper called the Chumocracy, and I never knew Pritti Patel was at 23 the Press Officer of James Goldsmith’s Referendum Party or that Ferdinand Mount and James Cameron were first cousins.

I was at Cambridge University between 1972/75.

The last Cambridge PM was Stanley Baldwin and Christ Church Oxford has produced as many PMs (14) as the whole of Cambridge.

Yet many a cabinet, notably Margaret Thatcher’s and John Major’s, were dominated by Cambridge graduates.

Some of the students whom I knew that came from northern grammar schools were socially, rather than politically, aspirant and – conversely – some from the well-known public schools very radical.

I would therefore neither generalise nor draw conclusions.

Simon Kuper’s solution is to make Oxbridge a post graduate university, which seems daft to me, especially as both universities – especially Cambridge – are so diverse that public school is now more of a hindrance to admission than asset.

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About Miles Piper

After university, Miles Piper began his career on a local newspaper in Wolverhampton and has since worked for a number of national newspapers and magazines. He has also worked as a guest presenter on Classic FM. He was a founder-member of the National Rust board. More Posts