A remarkable feeling of confidence 

5 December 2016 tbs.pm/10245

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A Remarkable Feeling of Confidence!, produced by Rediffusion, was broadcast on Rediffusion’s last Tuesday, 23rd July 1968. In relation to it the TVTimes for that week looks at ‘the influence of public schools, and their importance when people are interviewed for a job’. This was all topical at the time as the first report from the Commission on the Public Schools, which began in 1965, was published that year. The purpose of the Commission was to look at how public schools could best be integrated with the state sector. The second report would come in 1970. There were many recommendations but ultimately few were implemented.

The TVTimes article ‘How Big is the Old Boy Network?’ examines several job areas, all of which can be seen as possessing some power and influence. These include: politics, banking, the press, the armed services, as well as diplomacy and the civil service. As this idea of privilege has never gone away so here the stats of 1968 are compared as near as possible to those of the present day.


In 1968 there were 630 House of Commons members of which 272 went to public schools: 43%. The article tots up which public schools the MPs had gone to:


School Conservatives Labour Liberals
Eton 54 3 2
Harrow 14
Other 127 68 4
Total 194 71 6


Using data (from The Sutton Trust) based on 599 of the 650 MPs elected in 2015, 32% went to public schools. 49% went to comprehensives and 19% to grammars. MPs who attended private schools:


Conservatives Labour LibDem SNP Other
48% 17% 14% 5% 24%


Almost 1 in 10 of these went to Eton, around the same as in 1968.

In 2015 89% of MPs were graduates, 28% attended Russell Group universities other than Oxbridge. The article doesn’t specify this information so the closest data is taken from 1966. MPs who attended Oxbridge:


Year Conservatives Labour LibDem
2015 34% 23% 13%
1966 57% 23% 50%


Interestingly, Labour has exactly the same percentage of Oxbridge educated MPs as it did 50 years ago.

MPs who had no higher education in 2015:


Conservatives Labour LibDem SNP
9% 13% 0% 8%


In 1968 neither of the leaders of the two main parties attended public school. Prime Minister Harold Wilson won a scholarship to a grammar school and Opposition leader Edward Heath also attended a grammar school. In 2016 Prime Minister Theresa May had time at an independent school but mostly attended state schools. Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn attended a preparatory school followed by a grammar school.





  • Lord Rothermere, Chairman of Associated Newspapers (Daily Mail, Daily Sketch, London Evening News). Eton.
  • Lord Thomson of Fleet, Chairman of the Thomson Organisation (The Times, The Sunday Times). Born in Canada, son of a barber.
  • Hugh Cudlipp, Chairman of the Daily Mirror group and the International Publishing Corporation. Left his Cardiff school at 14.
  • Derek Marks, Daily Express editor. Seaford College, Sussex.
  • William Rees-Mogg, The Times editor. Charterhouse.
  • David Astor, Observer editor. Eton.
  • Alastair Hetherington, The Guardian editor. Gresham’s School.
  • Arthur Brittenden, Daily Mail editor. Leeds Grammar School.
  • John Junor, Sunday Express editor. No public school. Honours graduate in English from Glasgow University.


  • Viscount Rothermere, Chairman of DMG Media (Daily Mail, Mail on Sunday, Metro). Gordonstoun School.
  • Rupert Murdoch, Chairman of News Corp (owner of The Sun, The Times, The Sunday Times) Geelong Grammar School – an independent school.
  • Neil Berkett, Chairman of Guardian Media Group (The Guardian, The Observer). Heretaunga College, state school in New Zealand.
  • Hugh Whittow, Daily Express editor. Haverfordwest Grammar School.
  • John Witherow, The Times editor. Bedford School.
  • John Mulholland The Observer editor. Unknown.
  • Katharine Viner, The Guardian editor. Ripon Grammar School.
  • Paul Dacre, Daily Mail editor. University College School.
  • Martin Townsend, Sunday Express editor. Harrow County School for Boys (grammar)
  • Tony Gallagher, The Sun editor. No public school – Finchley Catholic High School

1968 has some interesting instances of men working their way up in the industry, including two newspaper group chairmen. Lord Thomson started off working on local papers in Canada before eventually moving to the UK and Hugh Cudlipp similarly made his way up from junior positions. Amongst the editors there is one grammar school boy, Arthur Brittenden, and one, John Junor, who is stated simply as ‘a non-public school man’. Overall though, private school men are the majority. In 2015 this is still true, with one state school chairman and two male grammar school editors, although there is now also one female editor who attended a grammar.


19680720-04aIn 1968 all of the banks listed had chiefs who had attended public schools. The word ‘chief’ here equated with chairman. The banks and their chairmen listed were:

  • Lloyds, Harald Peake
  • Hambros, J.O. Hambro – acquired by Investec
  • Morgan Grenfell, Lord Catto – acquired by Deutsche Bank
  • Baring Brothers, The Earl of Cromer – acquired by ING
  • The Bank of Scotland, Lord Polwarth – part of Lloyds Banking Group
  • British Linen Bank, The Duke of Hamilton – acquired by the Bank of Scotland.
  • The Royal Bank of Scotland, The Duke of Buccleuch

The one head listed who did not attend a public school was the Governor of the Bank of England, Sir Leslie O’Brien, who attended Wandsworth School. He entered the bank at age 19 and worked his way to the top.
It is difficult to make comparisons to the present day as most of the banks that were listed have since been acquired. In 2016 the only comparisons available are:

  • Lloyds Banking Group, Lord Blackwell. Latymer Upper School
  • The Royal Bank of Scotland Group, Sir Howard Davies, Manchester Grammar School
  • Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney. Canadian public school

I did attempt to find information on the chairmen of the Co-operative Banking Group, Richard Pym and the TSB Banking Group, Will Samuel, but was unable to. Overall, there just is not enough information here to make a proper comparison.

Armed Services

This is not an area that immediately springs to mind when thinking about influential jobs but the 1968 TVTimes examines the chiefs of the armed services. In 1968 all went to public schools but in 2016 there is one from a grammar.

  • Chief of Defence Staff
    1968 Marshal of the RAF Sir Charles Elworthy
    2016 Air Chief Marshal Sir Stuart Peach (Aldridge Grammar School)
  • Chief of Naval Staff
    1968 Admiral Sir Varyl Begg
    2016 Admiral Sir Philip Jones (Birkenhead School)
  • Chief of General Staff
    1968 Sir James H. Cassels
    2016 General Sir Nicholas Carter (Winchester College)

Diplomacy and the Civil Service

  • Permanent Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
    1968: Sir Paul Gore-Booth (Eton)
    2016: Sir Simon McDonald, school unknown but did attend a comprehensive 6th form college.
  • Chief of Administration, Diplomatic Service
    1968: Sir Colin Tradescant Crowe (Eton)
    2016: unknown
  • First Civil Service Commissioner
    1968: Sir George Abell (Marlborough)
    2016: George Normington (Bradford Grammar School)

Permanent Under-Secretary of State at the Commonwealth Relations Office
1968: Sir Saville Garner went to school in Highgate, North London.

As with banking, diplomacy and the civil service is an area that is difficult to compare. I tried very hard to discover who the current Chief of Administration for the Diplomatic Service is but had no luck. It is possible the title no longer exists. This section has one state school person in Sir Saville Garner (also known as Joseph Garner), whose department would later be merged with the Foreign Office.



It wasn’t only independent television that took an interest in the Commission on the Public Schools. The BBC touched on the issues more than once, although it stuck to radio. On 3rd June 1965 Token Integration on the Home Service talked to children who had moved from state to public schools. On 21st February 1968 as part of the Focus series, the Home Service looked at ‘the unique advantages’ of public schools. And in late December 1968 Radio 4’s Subject on Sunday had a look at the ‘Old Boy network’.

The impact of the Commission’s reports was still being reflected on by January 1973 as Radio 4 broadcast Privately Educated, examining what public schools offered and if they really were socially divisive.

Currently it is difficult to see the issue of public schools ever going away. Certainly an MP’s educational background is still judged by many people, either positively or negatively. In recent years there have continued to be programmes that look at public schools. ITV’s School Swap: The Class Divide swapped public and state school pupils for a week. Channel 4’s Too Poor for Posh School? followed boys trying to win a scholarship to Harrow. What these programmes have always offered remains the same though; a listen at the keyhole and a peer through the window into a world the majority of the population will never otherwise enter.


You Say

1 response to this article

Barry Beaver 12 December 2016 at 4:36 am

“Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney. Canadian public school”

Specifically St. Francis Xavier High School in Edmonton, AB which is an institution of the tax payer funded municipal Edmonton Catholic School District.

So public in the actual meaning of the word, and not public in the Brit-English sense of a private school.

Carney was born in Fort Smith, NWT and did his undergraduate studies at [the private] Harvard University (founded in 1636).

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