Liz Truss’s new ministers are nine times more likely to have gone to private school than everyone else

·Freelance Writer
·3 min read
Prime Minister Liz Truss hosts the first cabinet meeting with her new cabinet in Downing Street in London. Picture date: Wednesday September 7, 2022.
Prime minister Liz Truss hosts the first cabinet meeting with her new team in Downing Street. (PA)

The appointment of Liz Truss as prime minister means the UK has its third female prime minister – as well as the most ethnically diverse cabinet in history.

For the first time, none of the four great offices of state are held by a white man.

Aside from the PM, the three remaining senior positions are filled by people from an ethnic minority background – Kwasi Kwarteng being the new chancellor, Suella Braverman the home secretary and James Cleverly the foreign secretary.

Kwarteng has Ghanaian heritage, Braverman’s parents have Indian heritage and Cleverly’s mother is from Sierra Leone.

(COMBO) This combination of pictures created on September6, 2022 shows (from top L to down R) Britain's new Home Secretary Suella Braverman, Britain's Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, Britain's new Health Secretary Therese Coffey and Britain's new Chancellor of the Exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng leaving 10 Downing Street after a meeting with Britain's new Prime Minister Liz Truss in central London. - Liz Truss on Tuesday officially became Britain's new prime minister, at an audience with head of state Queen Elizabeth II after the resignation of Boris Johnson. The former foreign secretary, 47, was seen in an official photograph shaking hands with the monarch to accept her offer to form a new government and become the 15th prime minister of her 70-year reign. (Photo by ISABEL INFANTES / AFP) (Photo by ISABEL INFANTES/AFP via Getty Images)
(From top L to down R) Home secretary Suella Braverman, foreign secretary James Cleverly, health secretary Therese Coffey and chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng. (Isabel Infantes/AFP/Getty)

The appointments have been welcomed on these grounds, with former No 10 race adviser, Samuel Kasumu, telling The Guardian: "The new cabinet is another reminder that people from all backgrounds can go far within the Tory party.

"The challenge for us is to have this diversity reflected among who votes for us. It will be key to the party’s future success.”

However, many have highlighted that there is a lack of diversity in the educational backgrounds of the new team at the heart of the government.

In the new cabinet of 31, 68% went to fee-paying independent schools, meaning Truss's top team has the highest proportion of privately educated minister since John Major formed a government in 1992.

Some 7% of the population as a whole attend private school in the UK.

Over two thirds of the Liz Truss Cabinet went to private school. (Yahoo News)
Over two thirds of the Liz Truss Cabinet went to private school. (Yahoo News)

Politics professor Tim Bale tweeted: “Folk are (rightly!) celebrating diversity in the 'great offices of state’.

“But it's maybe worth noting that Kwarteng, Cleverly, and Braverman were all privately-educated.

“Fact is that, nowadays, the real lack of diversity in Parliament is class-based.”

Watch: Liz Truss' new-look Cabinet meet for first time

Furthermore, 35% of Truss's cabinet attended Oxford or Cambridge universities compared to 1% of the population.

Sarah Atkinson, CEO of the Social Mobility Foundation, said: "We should celebrate the gender and ethnic diversity of the new cabinet – brilliant.

"We should also note that 7% of the population is privately educated, but about 30% of MPs, 68% of the cabinet [are]. Class diversity matters."

Truss spoke openly during the Tory leadership campaign about her own state education at Roundhay School in Leeds – but said she was “let down” by her schooling.

She told Rishi Sunak: "The reason I am a Conservative is that I saw kids at my school being let down in Leeds – perhaps not getting the opportunities you had at your school, Rishi.”

Truss previously criticised her education, saying in 2020: “As a comprehensive school student in Leeds in the 1980s and 1990s, I was struck by the lip service that was paid to equality by the city council while children from disadvantaged backgrounds were let down.

Prime Minister Liz Truss speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London. (Photo by House of Commons/PA Images via Getty Images)
Liz Truss attended PMQs on Wednesday with her new cabinet, that has been praised for its diversity. (House of Commons/PA/Getty)

“While we were taught about racism and sexism, there was too little time spent making sure everyone could read and write.”

Research from the Sutton Trust taken in 2020 found that 30% of Theresa May’s cabinet went to independent schools – a figure that more than doubled when Johnson replaced her.

Tony Blair and Gordon Brown’s Labour cabinets were made up of 32% of privately-educated ministers.

Half of Johnson’s Cabinet also went to Oxford or Cambridge, with another 8% attending other Russell Group universities (excluding Oxbridge).