18 JANUARY 1957, Page 19


SIR,—The Spectator and its contributor, Mr. Christopher Hollis, are both to be congratulated on the candid, yet good-natured, analysis of 'Govern- nient by Old Etonians.' But, like practically every other commentator, Mr. Hollis seems to equate Eton with the aristocracy. Surely this is not so at all?

The House of Commons is packed with Old Etonians who are no more members of the aristocracy than I am. The Government benches are crowded with Members of Parliament who are Old Etonians only because their fathers could afford to send them to that school. In no other sense are they agents of an elite. They are, rather, the representatives of a money- bags plutocracy, however much many of them may try to disguise their origins. The House is crammed with first-generation descendants of bard-faced men who have done well for themselves in trade of every sort—honourable and otherwise.

Now and again, it is true, Eton is seen to be the exact political equivalent of aristocracy, as in the case of Lord Salisbury. But, more often than not, Eton is the connotation of nothing more remarkable than a big bank balance.

As Mr. Hollis says, Eton today provides ten times as many Members of Parliament as any other school. As for the Cabinet, why—it is unbalanced by Old Etonians.

• But it is no use blaming the Old Etonians them-

selves. The fault, surely, lies with constituency selec- tion committees. One after another they are over- awed, bowled over by the very sight of a would-be candidate in an OE tie—dumbstruck by a yard of black cloth with a blue stripe.

Why is it?

It is because the local associations realise that, with three feet of that particular fabric round their necks, those young men will very quickly be elevated to positions of influence, power and political patronage. Therefore they are preferred to men of true distinc- tion, whether in the professions, in commerce, or otherwise.

And mostly, as I say, the Old Etonians are chosen on the basis not of real aristocracy—however meritorious that may be—but of money. Money lies at the bottom of the Old Etonian dominance.

It seems to me to have been a pretty poor founda- tion.—Yours faithfully, House of Commons, SW!