1. She is the first child of the ’70s to take the role. Born on 1st October 1972, Morgan is 8 years younger than the average age of entry to the Education Secretary circuit which runs at 49.

2. Morgan was born in Kingston-Upon-Thames, making her the 10th Edu Sec to be born in a London Borough. (That’s about a third of them).

3. So far, all Education Secretaries born after 1952 attended private school. Morgan is no different. She attended Surbiton High School an independent, Anglican school for girls aged 4-18.

4. At university, Morgan studied Jurisprudence. She is the fifth Conservative Edu Sec to do so, trailing Mark Carlisle, Keith Joseph, Ken Baker and Ken Clarke.

5. In another predictable twist, Morgan studied at Oxford. However, she is the first to come from St. Hugh’s College, so at least that’s novel. (You laugh, but more Edu Secs studied at Christ Church than comprehensives).

6. Her full name is Nicola Ann Morgan. She is the first female Edu Sec to be officially known by a shortened version of her first name.

7. Morgan has one child. The average for an Edu Sec is now 1.76. The most common number is still zero.

8. Though many Edu Secs studied law, few practised it. Morgan, however, worked as a Corporate Solicitor advising on mergers and acquisitions. This will likely do her some favours when dealing with the thorny legalities of academies.

9. Morgan’s predecessor, Michael Gove, was in power for 1525 days – almost double the average for an Education Secretary. To match this longevity Morgan would need to still be in post on 16th September 2018.

10. Finally, 42 words and phrases rhyme with the word ‘Morgan’. Start drafting your blog headlines now.



Stanley Baldwin to Butler: “That was a good speech, Rab. But I got damn bored. You went too fast; you need not think everybody has a quick brain” (p.38)

“If ever we were careless with our food, Mary Thring would say: ‘Captain Scott would have given his eyes for that egg.’ We came less and less appreciative of the great explorer” (p.8)

Churchill, on Ghandi: “(it was) alarming and also nauseating to see Mr Gandhi, a seditious Middle Temple lawyer, now posing as a fakir of a type well-known in the East, striding half naked up the steps of the Viceregal Palace” (p.40)

Today is Quintin Hogg’s Birthday so I am reblogging his best quotes. Enjoy!

Quintin Hogg

1. “Incidentally, the difference between those who are admittedly first class in their own field, and those who are not, lies very often precisely in this, that the first are able to give coherent accounts, in lucid terms, of what they are trying to do, and what they believe, whilst the others are not.”

2. ” ‘Doing what comes naturally’ can cover almost any kind of moral obliquity and permissiveness. Indeed, since we are all inhabitants of the natural world, there is practically no sort of action, good or bad, which cannot, in some sense be described as natural.”

3. “Civil society is not a voluntary organization in its nature, and all talk of a social contract or compact which can bind its members is specious and pretentious nonsense”

4. “All religion has its myths. Anti-religion has its myths and its mythmakers no less. Two of the great myths of our time owe their origin to Sigmund Freud & Karl Marx… they have, I believe, done more to undermine Christian philosophy than any two men since the Crucifixion.”

5. “I think that the modern world needs loyalty and respect for authority more than anything else”

6. “Law is, of course, in a sense, no more than a gigantic confidence trick. If enough people did not obey the law it would be totally unenforceable.”

7. “The Labour Party never presented to me a package which I would have been happy accepting for myself”

8. “After four months of office this was promotion with a vengeneace. But strangely enough I was not at all pleased. I had given my heart to the Navy, and I believed I was popular”

9. “At the time, like most educational enthusiasts, I was a dogmatic supporter of the raising of the compulsory school leaving age to 16. I am now, at best, an agnostic, at worst an unbeliver”

10. “I do not wish in any way to reduce the credit of Harold Macmillan in achieving this. But I do not think he could have done it without me.”

11. “Some of the makers of opinion are beyond reach, because they are on the other side. But before an election even these can be pressed into service. They can be made to take notice, to twitter with rage and scream in derision and, if they can be made to twitter and scream at the wrong things, or, rather, from their point of view, at the wrong things, powerful allies can be wheeled into support from sources normally neutral, or, occassionally, even unfriendly.”

220px-Tristram_CroppedTristram Hunt is not an Education Secretary. But he was announced today as the new Shadow Education Secretary.

So: What do we know?

1. Hunt was educated at University College School, an independent school. This is not unusual. 93% of previous Edu Secs were educated at selective schools. 

2. His birthday is 31 May 1974. Until 2004, no Edu Sec had ever had a birthday in May. If Hunt became Edu Sec in 2015, he would now be the third. 

3. Hunt was born in Cambridge. No Edu Sec has ever been born there. Or within 60 miles of there.

4. Hunt studied History at university. This is the most common degree for an Edu Sec to study. *Yawn*.

5. Hunt attended Trinity College, Cambridge. He would not be the first Edu Sec to go there. Geoffrey Lloyd also attended.

6. Hunt will be 40 at the next election. If elected, he would be a whole decade younger than the average Edu Sec taking up post.

7. Hunt has three children. This is the same number as four past Edu Secs, including Ed Balls (who was also 40 when he took up post).

8. He would be the first Edu Sec with the name Tristram.

Sir David Hancock

I have a filter in my RSS reader that picks up obituaries with the word ‘education’ in them. Sounds morbid, I know, but few things are more inspirational than reading about people whose lives were used to improve schools.

Last week Sir David Hancock appeared in the feed. Working as senior civil servant for the DfE during the tenure of Keith Joseph and Kenneth Baker, he is credited with getting the Education Reform Act 1988 onto the statute books (arguably the most important reform since the 1944 Act).

What surprised me as I read the obituary is how influential Hancock clearly was, and yet how few of the Edu Secs biographies so far have really discussed the role of civil servants, at least not in complimentary ways. I’ve started reading Maurice Kogan’s “The Politics of Education” in which he interviews Edward Boyle and Anthony Crosland, and dissects the way education policies are implemented. While short shrift is often shown to civil servants, he quotes a senior official saying:

“I can honestly say that there is not one new policy in my sector of responsibility that I have not either started or substantially contributed to over the last twenty years”

If this is true, does treatment of one’s civil servants matter? Do the Secs who eschew thanking others end up being considered more “great” simply because they have stolen the limelight from others more deserving? Or can their civil service relationships affect whether or not policies are successfully implemented?

It’s another thing to watch for as I continue reading….

So it’s true….. you read Shirley Williams’ autobiography in a blitz only to find out that a newer biography of her is about to be released. Typical.

It came out via Biteback Publishing last week. So that’s another one for the book pile….

Am currently pondering starting Michael Stewart’s “Love & Labour” versus Maurice Kogan’s “The Politics of Education: An interview with Anthony Crosland & Edward Boyle”. Am starting to suspect Stewart will win.

Shirley Williams Biog

Quintin HoggTwice-Education Secretary Quintin Hogg died in 2001, however his words on ‘twitter’ are remarkably apt to today’s political context.

In his 1975 autobiography he wrote the following about his time as leader of the Conservative election strategy:

“Some of the makers of opinion are beyond reach, because they are on the other side. But before an election even these can be pressed into service. They can be made to take notice, to twitter with rage and scream in derision and, if they can be made to twitter and scream at the right things, or, rather from their point of view, at the wrong things, powerful allies can be wheeled into support from sources normally neutral, or, occasionally, even unfriendly

Two things are remarkable about this quote. One: if you put a capital letter on the word ‘twitter’ it would make absolute sense in the context of today’s social media use. And, two: this tool has been an absolute mainstay of Gove’s time in office. He has been unbelievably canny in using soundbites to start a twitter storm of opponents shouting out against things they would otherwise normally be more sensible about, or pushing them to be more extreme in their reactions and hence framing themselves as unreasonable.

It’s a good trick, but it’s an old one. And it’s one worth bearing in mind as we head further into party conference season.

Shirley Willliams

I’ve finally finished Williams’ autobiography (though apparently she has a new one coming out, so I may have wasted my time). What came across throughout was her fearlessness in dealing with new situations and a spirited love for all things political. Though she spent a fair amount of time in education, both as a Junior Minister and Secretary of State, those are not the pages that really sing. Hence, in the quotes below, education is barely mentioned. These were, however, the parts that stood at to me as revealing the most “Williams” moments of the whole book.

1. On coming from a political family – “What I did understand was that no one would pay me any attention unless I engaged in political conversation too. ‘You’re only interested in Hitler, not me,’ I informed them at the age of five. I confused the Reichstag fire in February 1933 with that of the Crystal Palace in November 1936; they all became one great big conflagration in my mind.”

2. On the lesson of attending a local primary school – “One family in my class took turns to come to school. I asked one of them why. Between them, they had only two pairs of boots and the children had to share them. I asked my mother why I had four pairs of shoes and two sandals while they only had half of one.”

3. On schooling in the US – “The absence of accent as a defining feature enabled Americans to present themselves as whatever they wanted to be.”

4. After being asked to the high school prom by the much-desired quarterback-jock – “I was furious. Dancing was a sissy occupation, and who wanted to waste a whole evening on some pink-faced boy? I refused, to the consternation of my school, whose counsellors concluded that I must be emotionally troubled because I was far away from home. I wasn’t.”

5. On working in Accra: “I wrote the submission to the Monckton Commission on the Central African economy for the leaders. I tried to explain to Dr Hastings Banda, an authoritarian with all the confidence of the old-fashioned general practitioner he had long been. As far as he was concerned the submission might have been written in some utterly strange language, but since it was written by a young woman it didn’t really matter anyhow.”

6. On her appearance – “My father, ever keen to advance my career, had once introduced me to the first ever woman MP to take her seat, the wealthy and acerbic Nancy Astor. ‘She wants to be an MP,’ my father said. The great lady looked at me with distaste. ‘Not with that hair!’ she declared. She had already perceived what was to be a negative factor in my political career.”

7. Describing Tony Crosland’s Saturday night “brain trust” meetings – “On Saturday nights, the regular time for the brains trust, we would firmly be told that there would be a break in proceedings, when Tony, as regular in his Saturday habits as I was in attending Mass on Sundays, would watch Match of the Day, a glass of whisky in his hand, slippers on his feet, sometimes wearing his old Para beret and jacket to help him feel utterly relaxed. Before and after this sacrosanct time, we would discuss comprehensive schools, tertiary and sixth-form colleges, how to integrate the state system and the public schools…abolition of the eleven-plus examination, under which less than a quarter of the nation’s children were selected for a grammar school education, was our guiding star”

8. On being Prisons Minister – “Some prison officers thought that the appointment of a woman minister to this forbidding job was absurd. In one or two of the prisons I visited, it was made clear that no toilet facilities could be found for me.”

9. On reflection – “I was born at a time of political and economic misery…Eighty years later, from where I am now, it looks as if history might be repeating itself.”

10. Reflections on political careering – “Being an MP is like being a member of an extended family. You learn to love your family in all its knobbliness, perversity, courage and complexity. You learn respect and build trust. That is why every poll shows that people think more highly of their own MP than of politicians as a whole. You belong to them.”

Reading Shirley Williams’ autobiography I was struck by the sensitive way she talked about the breakdown of her first marriage. Originally married to the philosopher Bernard Williams their relationship ended after a gradual drifting apart culminated in Bernard having an affair with Patricia Skinner (wife of historian Quentin Skinner). Williams is sensitive in her writing and at pains to describe the difficulties without ascribing blame.

Likewise, I haven’t read all of David Blunkett’s enormous autobiography yet, but the description of his marital breakdown in the introduction to the book is also written with striking sincerity and respect.

This got me thinking about the relationships of Education Secretaries and whether they might have influence on people’s careers and the decisions they make in office. A wonderful book, “One Nation Under Sex” details how the romantic relationships of American politicians significantly impacted domestic and international policies. In follow-up research I found that the most commonly referred to ‘pioneers of American education’ also had romantic relationships which shaped their ideas about schooling and politics.

Moving forward I shall therefore be keeping an account of relationships and considering how partners may, or may not, influence policies – even if indirectly.

In the meantime, the stats on marriages are as follows:

0 Ellen Wilkinson 0
Florence Horsbrugh 0
Edward Boyle 0
Estelle Morris 0
1 Rab Butler 1
Richard Law 1
George Tomlinson 1
Michael Stewart 1
Patrick Gordon Walker 1
Edward Short 1
Margaret Thatcher 1
Reg Prentice 1
Fred Mulley 1
Mark Carlisle 1
Kenneth Baker 1
John MacGregor 1
Kenneth Clarke 1
John Patten 1
Gillian Shephard 1
Charles Clarke 1
Ruth Kelly 1
Alan Johnson 1
Edward Balls 1
Michael Gove 1
2 David Eccles 2
Anthony Crosland 2
Shirley Williams 2
Keith Joseph 2
David Blunkett 2
3 Quintin Hogg 3

The only person I don’t have is Geoffrey Lloyd. Can’t find any mention of his relationships (or lack of them).

With mutterings about Cabinet reshuffles I was interested to see Rachel Reeves mentioned as a potential Shadow Education Secretary (though word on the street is that this is now unlikely). Reeves is great, but she’s still quite young. If she became Shadow Sec, and Labour won in 2015, and she remained in post – she would be the youngest ever Edu Sec.

That is not necessarily a problem. Both Rab Butler & Edward Boyle were in their 30s when they took the role and are regularly named as being among ‘the greats’. However, Ruth Kelly’s disasterous turn at the helm has since made people nervous of youth.

Fun Facts!

Mean age on entry – 50 

There is also most no difference between the parties. Labour average age on entry is 50.5, Conservative is 49.5.

The youngest EduSec is Ruth Kelly, who started age 36

The oldest was Keith Joseph, who began when he was 63

Age on Entry

Ruth Kelly 36
Rab Butler 38
Edward Boyle 39
Edward Balls 40
Michael Gove 42
Richard Law 44
Margaret Thatcher 44
Anthony Crosland 46
Shirley Williams 46
John Patten 46
Estelle Morris 48
Quintin Hogg 49
Mark Carlisle 49
David Blunkett 49
David Eccles 50
Reg Prentice 50
Kenneth Clarke 50
Kenneth Baker 51
John MacGregor 52
Charles Clarke 52
Ellen Wilkinson 54
Gillian Shephard 54
Geoffrey Lloyd 55
Edward Short 55
Alan Johnson 55
George Tomlinso 56
Fred Mulley 56
Michael Stewart 57
Patrick Gordon Walker 60
Florence Horsbrugh 62
Keith Joseph 63
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