Reaching the Cabinet: A British Cursus Honorum?
16 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2013 Last revised: 28 Feb 2013
Date Written: February 21, 2013
One of the clichés of British politics is that it is dominated by Oxford PPE graduates with little or no experience of jobs outside politics. The accusation goes beyond the long noticed professionalization of politics. The suggestion is that British politics has developed a version of the Roman cursus honorum, the sequence of offices through which Roman politicians advanced from their military careers to the consulship. This paper examines the evidence for such a sequence using data on 890 MPs in the 2005 and 2010 parliaments. It asks whether variables such as holding an Oxford PPE degree and having taken a job as a ministerial special adviser or as a researcher to a Member of Parliament are related to attaining cabinet rank. It concludes that there are three such routes: through attendance at the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford and a job as a special adviser or researcher; through universities other than Cambridge and Oxford via a job in the media, a job working as an employee of a political party and also a job as a special adviser or researcher; and finally, solely through PPE at Oxford.
Keywords: British politics, elites, members of Parliament, ministers
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