Sunday, 16 March 2014

Etonians at Westminster

From the BBC

In an interview in Saturday's FT, the education secretary said: "It doesn't make me feel personally uncomfortable, because I like each of the individuals concerned.

"But it's ridiculous. I don't know where you can find a similar situation in any other developed economy."

The FT said Mr Gove was reflecting on the number of those close to the prime minister who were educated, like Mr Cameron, at the boys' independent school.

The reason is the same as the reason why we've had 2 Milibands in parliament, a couple of Bottomleys, The Wintertons, Kirkbride/McKay, Mr and Mrs Dromey, Mr and Mrs Ed Balls, a clutch of Benns and the Eagle sisters, and that is that we have the First Past the Post electoral system and most of the world doesn't. And one of the results of that is you get "safe seats" where anyone can win for your party. So why bother picking the best candidate when you can give the job to your mates/wife/brother?

And it's also why the USA has the same problem with Kennedys, Clintons, Bushes, Ron and Rand Paul and so forth. Because they have the same rotten electoral system with little competition for most seats.

That's not to say that there shouldn't be these connections, but if you look at genuinely competitive markets, you see a lot less of them. Take football: there's lots of footballing families, but you don't find many cases where someone who hit the top of the game has a son or brother who also hits the top of the game. There's the Charltons, the Redknapps and the Nevilles, and that's about it.


Mark Wadsworth said...

I think Tim Worstall did a post or two about this.

There is also loads of nepotism in film acting and fashion (Stella McCartney, Victoria Beckham, FFS) because people just follow the crowd and if your dad was Kirk Douglas you are off to a flying start.

But you see little of this with pop music, because it appears that magic spark of talent or chance meetings of two songwriters is not particularly hereditary.

The Stigler said...

The thing with acting is more than anything about opening the door.

It's not so much that Michael Douglas only got the job because of his Dad. It's more the case that he got the job over thousands of other equally talented actors because of his Dad.

Someone is hiring Kirk, Kirk introduces his son, producer decides it might be wise to take a look at the kid to keep Kirk happy. Finds he's good enough for the job and hires him over lots of others.

Pop music has few barriers to entry. Justin Bieber became a pop star by posting YouTube videos of himself singing.

But film is changing - a semi-pro DV camera is a couple of thousand. You can edit it with maybe a grand of hardware and software. It's increasing opportunities (it's also why I get pissed off with women complaining about the lack of female directors - there's no excuse for anyone now).

Leave Victoria Beckham alone. The longer she stays doing fashion, the less possibility of the Spice Girls reforming.

Ross said...

Are dynasties really less common in countries with different electoral systems?

Ireland seems to have loads of dynasties despite a PR system- although perhaps that is simply because it's a small country.

In my opinion the amount of nepotism in a field depends on relative importance of talent and connections.

Acting and politics require little talent, whereas writing a song or playing football requires a lot.

The Stigler said...


You may be right, and PR may be no better because the party selects the MPs you get. If I find spare time, I'll do the research.

Acting is a bit split on talent. As a rule, bad guys are talented actors, good guys aren't.

L fairfax said...

Colombia is an example of a country with a genuine open political system in that the president in 2002 left his party and still won elections.

However it is still a country with lots of dynasties. Two of Uribe's ministers were second cousins!