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Friday, 26 May, 2000, 13:10 GMT 14:10 UK
Oxbridge blues, and reds

Tony Blair did, and William Hague. So did John Prescott, Geoff Hoon, Ann Widdecombe and Michael Portillo.

But Jack Straw, Robin Cook and Margaret Beckett didn't. Nor did Mo Mowlam or David Blunkett.

Incidentally, the question under consideration is which of today's top politicians went to Oxbridge?

The comments of Chancellor Gordon Brown over Laura Spence, the Tyneside teenager turned down by Oxford University, have blown open the age-old argument over Oxbridge.
Margaret Beckett, Mo Mowlam and Ann Taylor
Here's to redbricks - three cabinet ministers who never went to Oxbridge

For centuries the "dreaming spires" of Oxford and the "backs" of Cambridge have been proving grounds for some of Britain's most ambitious citizens.

Nowhere has this been more true than in politics. Former prime minister John Major is one of only a handful of leaders of the country not to have attended Oxford or Cambridge.

But glance at the educational background of the current cabinet and shadow cabinet, and Mr Major's vision of a classless society begins to cloud.

A third of Tony Blair's 22-member cabinet (36%) have been educated at Oxford or Cambridge. Significantly though, many of those who occupy the top jobs, including Robin Cook, Gordon Brown and Jack Straw, received their education elsewhere. (John Prescott attended Ruskin College, an independent college based in Oxford for mature students.)

William Hague's shadow cabinet is dominated by graduates of these two distinguished seats of learning. Sixty-four percent of the 22-member team are Oxbridge alumni, including all those in the leading posts.

Oxbridge cabinet ministers:

  • Prime Minister, Tony Blair - Oxford
  • Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine of Lairg - Cambridge
  • Defence Secretary, Geoffrey Hoon - Cambridge
  • Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, Chris Smith - Cambridge
  • Northern Ireland Secretary, Peter Mandelson - Oxford
  • Leader of the Lords, Baroness Jay of Paddington - Oxford
  • Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Andrew Smith - Oxford
  • Secretary of State for Wales, Paul Murphy - Oxford

    Oxbridge shadow cabinet ministers:

  • Leader of the Opposition, William Hague - Oxford
  • Conservative Party Chairman, Michael Ancram - Oxford
  • Shadow Chancellor, Michael Portillo - Cambridge
  • Shadow Chief Secretary, David Heathcoat-Amory - Oxford
  • Shadow Foreign Secretary, Francis Maude - Cambridge
  • Shadow Home Secretary, Ann Widdecombe - Oxford
  • Shadow Education and Employment Secretary, Theresa May - Oxford
  • Shadow Leader of the House, Sir George Young - Oxford
  • Shadow minister Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Tim Yeo - Cambridge
  • Shadow Secretary of State, Archie Norman - Cambridge
  • Shadow Minister for Transport, Bernard Jenkin - Cambridge
  • Chief Whip (Commons), James Arbuthnot - Cambridge
  • Shadow Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, Peter Ainsworth - Oxford
  • Shadow Social Security Secretary, David Willetts - Oxford
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    26 May 00 | Education
    Leak fuels Oxford admissions row
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