Friday, 8 April 2011

Annoying thing

When you are talking politics with French person and you make the complaint that our Cabinet has a ridiculously high number of men who went to the same £30,000 per year private school (Eton) and they reply with "Aah, it's the same here, they all went to ENA*".

Although I do love the way they say ENA. (Ennarrrrr)

*Ecole Nationale d'Administration, an extremely prestigious graduate school that turns out graduates for very senior civil service posts, and is FREE and EXTREMELY MERITOCRATIC.


  1. Hello !
    I'm one of those French girl who say "Aah, it's the same here, they all went to Ennarrrr" :) (sorry for my bad English). I understand English people can't see what we mean. Indeed, ENA is free and meritocratic... but free in name only because in reality most students are pulled strings and come from a distinguished family, secretaries, politicians etc. You can read this article, one of many articles on this subject (in French):

  2. Well, if your lot hadn't buggered-up the education system over the last 40 years, perhaps we'd have fewer Etonians and more grammar school boys in the cabinet. Just a thought ...

    The difference between ENA and Eton is the difference between a prerequisite and an advantage. It's not the case (mercifully) that to succeed in UK politics, an ENA diploma is a must. In fact, until recently, an OE tie was a positive disadvantage, as poor old Hurd discovered in the 1990 leadership election.

    What many French people object to in the ENA hegemony is that its alumni tend to the same centre left / centre right / Tweedledum / Tweedledee brand of politics. Nobody could accuse Eton, which has given us Alan Clark and Tam Dalyell, George Orwell and Ian Fleming, of producing clones!

  3. Hello, Anonymous. Where did you find my blog? Is this Daniel?

    I agree there's a problem with too much heterogeneity in a country's political class, so I can certainly see why "They all went to ENA" is a valid complaint. It's just not the same thing as an "They all went to Eton" complaint, which points to an underlying unfair class structure in UK society and politics. It's an unfair advantage, is my point.

    As for an OE tie being a disadvantage, your "until recently" comment is about right, but since the election of the current Cabinet, it's clear that the institutional privilege of going to a school that like really, really pays off. And come on, if my education "disadvantages" me to the extent that it did Hurd's, ie. by my ending up as Foreign Secretary, than I won't be complaining... losing an election is hardly evidence of being disadvantaged in one's career!

    I don't agree with everything Labour has ever done. I don't think of them as "my lot", more the party that most closely aligns with my currently developing political beliefs.


  4. My natural sense of honesty and fair play compels me to admit that the Conservatives have been just as bad when it comes to grammar schools, not least the Sec of State for Education 1970-74, one M. Thatcher ... My equally rampant pedantry wishes I could correct that second paragraph, whose first sentence, of course, should read 'it's not the case that to succeed in politics an Eton education is a must'. Hey ho.

    Yes, it is me, by the way :)

    I quite agree that the class structure is grotesque, and not just in politics. The media too is now dominated by public school boys and girls. It's not so much that they have an unfair advantage though, more that a state school education, with several notable exceptions, not least yourself, is now an unfair disadvantage. We can hardly blame employers for giving jobs to the best-qualified candidates. The question is, why are comprehensives failing so completely, despite all the money thrown at them in recent years, to match even the middling public schools?

    This is why it always amazes me that supporters of grammar schools are invariable dismissed as a fringe of the antediluvian right. If I were socialist, and wanted to give the brightest kids a chance to shine, I'd have a grammar school in every town.