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.

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

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).

Shirley Willliams

Being away from home this week I’ve started on Shirley Williams’ biography because it’s the only one I have paperback (and so is easy to carry). Luckily, it’s brilliant.

During a several hour flight delay the story of her early life carried me away from a dull airport gate and into her riproaring childhood. From the outset Williams was adventurer, flinging herself into mischief whenever possible, and remaining unflummoxed even in the face of her evacuation to Minnesota when aged only 9 (accompanied solely by her 12 year old brother). Williams enjoyed the free-spirited nature of school life that she found in the US – no uniforms, and a feeling that a child’s social life was important.

Returning to England in 1943, she found school here quite different. She does talk somewhat positively of St. Paul’s Girls School, at least about its teaching:

“Academically, St. Paul’s was outstanding. It encouraged its pupils to engage in discussion with the teachers and with one another, not a common phenomenon in girls’ schools sixty years ago. The emphasis was on academic and artistic excellence. The school yielded nothing to conventional views about the limited capacity of girls to master science and mathematics.”

The strict discipline, however, was too much for Williams:

I dreamed up ways of breaking school rules and shocking my teachers, not least to impress schoolfellows. I was good at climbing, so I shinned up the lead pipes that clung to the side of the science block to the third story. I recall staring into the window of the chemistry class, only to confront the appalled expression of the chemistry teacher. I must have seemed as much nightmare as reality.”

On another occasion she crept on the school stage and began grimacing behind the head who was making a speech, much amusing the other pupils.

So far Williams is the first Ed Sec whose biography talks of flagrant rule-breaking. Even those not enthusiastic about school (e.g. Hogg) at least felt order was important. I am excited to see whether  this has an impact on her later dealings at the DfE.

I’m currently finishing Quintin Hogg’s “The Door Wherein I Went” which started off horribly but actually got quite good. He’s funny. Much funnier than expected.

But my mind got a little distracted yesterday when a copy of Edward Short’s “I Knew My Place” arrived. Disappointingly, the blurb says the book is only about the first ten years of his life. Not particularly useful when you’re trying to assess someone’s time in political office.

Unperturbed I flicked open the book and glanced at the first thing I saw, which just so happened to be this:

“About ten years later I was cycling to Appleby and I saw cycling up a  hill about a hundred yards ahead of me, Eddie Robson, a boy of my own  age from New Hall farm, with whom I was friendly. A huge, laden lorry pulling an equally laden trailer passed me. When it reached Eddie it had been slowed down to a crawl by the steep gradient and, no doubt wanting to save himself a lot of pedalling over the remaining mile and a half into Appleby, he got hold of a tarpaulin rope but, tragically as it turned out, on the near side of the trailer. The last I saw of him alive was when he disappeared over the brow of the hill with the lorry gathering speed.

A few minutes later I breasted the hill myself and found him lying in an enormous pool of blood, his head and the upper part of his body pulverized by the wheel which had passed over him. The unfortunate driver was quite unaware of what had happened and I was alone with the mangled body of my friend. Cars were few and far between in those days. The nearest house was only a quarter of a mile away but I could not leave him though I was sure he was dead. Scarcely knowing what I was doing, my heart going sixty to the dozen, I extricated his body from the grotesquely twisted bicycle. Some dreadful contortion one of the hand grips had penetrated his mouth and was visible through his cheek.

I straightened his body as gently as I could, loosened his shirt and tried, without hope, to find a faint heart beat. But there was nothing -only death, silence, destruction, blood. I sat on the grass verge holding his hand – in retrospect a silly thing to do.”

It was fifteen minutes before a car helped Short and took the body of Eddie down to the village. About fifteen minutes after that Short was violently sick and then he cried and cried. He wrote:

“The world on that fine morning looked very grey – not the soft diffused grey of the sky or the fells but a harsh, oppressive great, and I felt that at the heart of it all was a great well of unassuagable sorrow into which I peered that morning.”

Michael Gove2Today is Michael Gove’s birthday. Huzzah!

To celebrate, here are some facts you might not know…

  1. Michael Gove turns 46 today. This is young by Ed Sec standards. The average age on entry is 50.
  2. The only other Ed Sec to turn 46 while in post is….. Margaret Thatcher.
  3. Gove is currently the 7th longest-serving Education Secretary having recently overtaken Kenneth Baker.
  4. He has another ~160 days before he steals 6th place (from Thatcher).
  5. He is the first Ed Sec in 46 years to have previously been President of the Oxford Union. Four other Ed Secs have held that role (Quintin Hogg, Michael Stewart, Edward Boyle & Anthony Crosland).
  6. He is the second Education Secretary to be born in Edinburgh. The first was Florence Horsbrugh, born in 1889 (79 years before Gove).
  7. He is the only Ed Sec known to have been raised from birth by adoptive parents.
  8. The most common degree subject for an Ed Sec is History. Second is Politics. Gove is unique in having studied English.
  9. He shares his birthday week with past-Ed Secs Anthony Crosland and Edward Boyle (both also past-Ox Union Presidents)
  10. Gove has said he shall never stand as leader of the Conservative Party.
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