Connect to share and comment
The new prime minister's election reinforces Oxford University's dominance in British politics.
OXFORD, United Kingdom — The British election has finally ended. After a few twists and turns what seemed inevitable a few months ago has come to pass: David Cameron is prime minister. Cameron ran on the simple slogan "Time for Change." And while he might change some things about this country, one thing will stay the same: Oxford University will continue to exercise disproportionate influence on British political life.
In the last 50 years Britain has had 10 prime ministers. Eight, including Cameron, earned their undergraduate degrees at the university. By comparison, in the same half century, only one of the 10 American presidents attended Harvard as an undergraduate — John F. Kennedy.
Cameron's inner circle further reasserts Oxford's historic dominance: The Conservative Party leader's best friend, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, Foreign Secretary William Hague and Education Secretary Michael Gove, all attended Oxford in the 1980s. And London's mayor, Boris Johnson, was a classmate and rival of Cameron's back in the days when both were members of Oxford's notorious upper-class boozing society, the Bullingdon Club.
The special relationship of the Cameroons has already been chronicled in a television play, "When Boris Met Dave," written by Toby Young, a rough Oxford contemporary of Cameron. It aired on Channel Four, whose then-chairman Luke Johnson is also part of the Oxford crowd.
But Cameron's prospects really took off when The Sun newspaper announced it was backing the Tories. The Sun is owned by Oxford grad Rupert Murdoch.
The Cameron government will be scrutinized constantly by news organizations run by Oxford grads including the biggest: the BBC. Mark Thompson, the Beeb's director-general, is a graduate, as is political editor Nick Robinson. The BBC's "constitutional expert" is Cameron's former tutor, Oxford professor Vernon Bogdanor.
The lighter and corrupt side of the new government will be lampooned in Britain's leading satirical magazine, Private Eye. Editor Ian Hislop calls Oxford his "alma mater."
The Oxford connection is also a factor in America. Professional atheist Christopher Hitchens and uber-editor Tina Brown attended Oxford a generation before Cameron et al. Professional gay-conservative-Catholic controversialist Andrew Sullivan's time at the university fell between Hitchens and Cameron.
There are 133 universities in the United Kngdom. Surely one or two others might produce top-flight political leaders. Why in the 21st century should Oxford grads still dominate public life?