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Chums: How a Tiny Caste of Oxford Tories Took Over the UK Hardcover – 28 April 2022
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THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER
Power. Privilege. Parties.
It's a very small world at the top.
'Brilliant ... traces Brexit back to the debating chambers of the Oxford Union in the 1980s' James O'Brien
'A searing onslaught on the smirking Oxford insinuation that politics is all just a game. It isn't. It matters' Matthew Parris
'A sparkling firework of a book' Lynn Barber, Spectator
'Exquisite and depressing in equal measure' Matthew Syed, Sunday Times
Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, David Cameron, George Osborne, Theresa May, Dominic Cummings, Daniel Hannan, Jacob Rees-Mogg: Whitehall is swarming with old Oxonians. They debated each other in tutorials, ran against each other in student elections, and attended the same balls and black tie dinners.
They aren't just colleagues - they are peers, rivals, friends. And, when they walked out of the world of student debates onto the national stage, they brought their university politics with them.
Eleven of the fifteen postwar British prime ministers went to Oxford. In Chums, Simon Kuper traces how the rarefied and privileged atmosphere of this narrowest of talent pools - and the friendships and worldviews it created - shaped modern Britain.
A damning look at the university clique-turned-Commons majority that will blow the doors of Westminster wide open and change the way you look at our democracy forever.
A gripping read ... exquisite and depressing in equal measure -- Matthew Syed ― Sunday Times
A sparkling firework of a book -- Lynn Barber ― Spectator
Incisive, insightful and timely -- Richard Beard ― New Statesman
Fascinating ... The picture Kuper draws is of a nation with a decadent and deeply unprofessional ruling class, a diagnosis with which it is impossible to disagree -- Hugo Rifkind ― Times
Immensely entertaining ... a tremendous romp jam-packed with delicious indiscretions -- Tim Luckhurst ― Daily Mail
A brilliant book -- John Harris ― Guardian Weekly Politics podcast
A penetrating analysis of the connections that enabled an incestuous university network to dominate Westminster and give birth to Brexit ... perceptive and full of surprises -- Tim Adams ― Observer
Johnson, Cameron, Rees-Mogg, Gove and Cummings all feature in this look at the hidden depths of our current political establishment and its inextricable link to Eton and, in particular, Oxford University -- 50 Best Books for Summer 2022 ― Sunday Times
Shows how the culture of Oxford decisively influenced the tone of British politics and led to Brexit. Brilliantly written, it gripped me -- Paschal Donohoe ― Irish Times
Kuper is alert to the deficiencies of the Oxford Union style, the tendency to substitute some glib debating point for hard-headed analysis ... Engagingly brief with delightful details -- Andrew Gimson ― Conservative Home
Intellectually bracing ... a deep dive into the culture of the upper-crust public schools and university that produced ten of the UK's 15 post-war prime ministers -- Andrew Lynch ― Business Post
Elegant, witty, economical ... it is absurd how much influence this tiny, moneyed circle has been able to wield, and deeply depressing -- Zoe Williams ― TLS
Chums is not just about the smallness of Britain's privileged elite or the early advantages it enjoys. Simon Kuper goes further ... to critique a system that attaches more importance to winning debates than shaping policy -- Mike Phipps ― Labour Hub
Praise for The Happy Traitor:
Kuper provides a different and valuable perspective, humane and informative
Truly enthralling ... a deeply human read, wonderfully written, on the foibles of a fascinating, flawed, treacherous and sort of likeable character -- Philippe Sands
The most comprehensive and insightful biography to date -- Ben Macintyre
- Publisher : Profile Books; Main edition (28 April 2022)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 240 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1788167384
- ISBN-13 : 978-1788167383
- Dimensions : 14.2 x 2.79 x 22 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 1,361 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer reviews:
About the author
Top reviews from United Kingdom
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One thought which the books sparked is that the relative stability that UK had enjoyed in the 1990s and 2000s, the end of ideological struggles after 1989 and the rise of managerialism in government, together with the greater opportunities for self-advancement in finance etc, may have made a political career less appealing to many gifted graduates, leaving the field to over-competitive toffs.
I have two criticisms - quite trivially I would have enjoyed some sensational revelations of disgusting Oxford misbehaviour (the Piers Galveston is not mentioned once), but it may be that UK's libel laws acted as a deterrent.
More fundamentally, in the final chapter Kuper proposes remedies that involve reforming Oxford (and Cambridge - relatively blameless in my biassed view), for example by turning it into a post-graduate university only. I fear that the focus on Oxford in the book merely describes a superficial symptom of a much more deep-rooted problem in England, whereby the remnants of a culture of deference towards the upper classes, tolerance of rule-breaking and abuse of institutions, abetted by the right-wing papers, enable such inadequates to rise to lead the country. Much more fundamental changes are needed to stop the UK's degeneration into a banana republic, and unfortunately this can only happen after even greater crises than those that we are experiencing at present
Interesting other review that states that these vile characters are from different generations. Cameron would have been two years below Johnson, hardly a generation.
What is much more important is the way that they get into Uni., the lack of academic rigour while they are there and the emphasis on becoming ‘upper-class spivs.’
‘We on this side of the house all know each other.’ You bet your life they do.