Almost all the very worst MPs campaigning for Britain to remain in the European Union studied the same subject at Oxford University – Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE).
By “worst”, I suppose I mean most especially those in government who have professed to flirt with Euroscepticism in the past to ingratiate themselves with their constituents – including, of course, Prime Minister David Cameron, as well as William Hague, Teresa May, Philip Hammond and Elizabeth Truss – but have then chosen to do the dirty. (See Guido for the full list of inners and outers). (If you wanted to add Sajid Javid to the list you almost could, except he didn’t get in to Oxford and had to go to Exeter instead)
Other Conservative “Remainers” who read PPE include Matthew Hancock, Damian Green, Nicholas Boles, Mark Harper, Jeremy Hunt, Philip Dunne, Sam Gyimah and Jane Ellison.
There are many Oxford PPE graduates among the Labour “Remainers” too, including Yvette Cooper, Angela Eagle, Maria Eagle, Geraint Davies, Paul Farrelly, Kevin Brennan, Meg Hillier, John Spellar, Rachel Reeves and Rushanara Ali.
It is also notable that pretty much every single one of the most noisome creeps from the previous parliamentary term were Oxford PPE graduates too. Step forward – boo hiss – Ed Balls; “Sir” Ed Davey; Chris Huhne. It goes without saying that had they not been booted out of office, every one of them would also have voted to Remain shackled to the European superstate.
The correlation between Oxford PPE and Remain is, I would suggest, far too strong to be a mere coincidence. (Yes there are Oxford PPE graduates – respect, sirs! – who are voting Out. But only two of them, so far as I can gather: Alan Duncan and Andrew Tyrie, with Rory Stewart as yet undeclared).
How is it that one course can produce so many people so averse to sovereignty, free markets and smaller government? Why do they all become such dutiful little Bilderbergers?
It’s well worth reading a piece Nick Cohen, himself an Oxford PPE graduate, wrote a couple of years ago in the Spectator.
If graduates from an architecture school designed buildings that were unfit for human habitation or doctors from a university’s medical faculty left death in their wake, their teachers would worry. The graduates of Oxford’s Politics, Philosophy and Economics course form the largest single component of the most despised generation of politicians since the Great Reform Act. Yet their old university does not show a twinge of concern.
He went on:
Oxford’s issue is not what it thinks but how it thinks.
Last week Vernon Bogdanor described his astonishment that the man he called ‘my ablest pupil’ (David Cameron, PPE, Brasenose College) was drawing up a new constitution on scrap paper. You don’t rush fundamental change with barely a moment’s thought, the visibly shaken Bogdanor told the BBC. Cameron’s behaviour was ‘absurd’.
As Professor Bogdanor’s least able pupil, I hate to be the one to break it to him, but banging out ideas with barely a moment’s thought is exactly what PPE students do. They study three separate disciplines yoked into one course. In the first year, they must produce essays on John Stuart Mill one minute and parliament the next; on microeconomics, modern French history, Rousseau, Marx, formal logic, the US Congress and whether it is better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied.
‘I always invited PPE-ists to my parties,’ said Madeline Grant, who left Oxford last year. ‘They could talk about anything. Whether they knew anything did not bother them in the slightest.’
I don’t dispute that Oxford produces world-class thinkers, but it also churns out world-class bullshitters.
As an Oxford graduate myself I have to agree with this analysis. Except I would qualify it by saying that though Oxford has undeniably turned out some of the most shallow, cynical and worthless people in politics (and elsewhere), it also continues to produce many of the world’s best.
Michael Gove – the principled politician who, I believe, will now make the biggest difference to the Out campaign – is, after all, an Oxford graduate. (Like me, he read English, not PPE).
So too, of course, is Boris Johnson, who read Greats (ie Classics).
My favourite Boris Johnson line is the one he comes up with whenever someone points out that whereas he only got a 2:1 at Oxford, his fellow Old Etonian (and long time rival) David Cameron got a First.
“But only in PPE,” Boris likes to say.