Dear Chief Secretary to the Treasury,
I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.
Signed, Liam Byrne

(Outgoing Labour Chief Secretary to the Treasury. May 2010)

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Similar backgrounds?

Just trying to balance things.

Taken from a single article, in the Telegraph
Gordon [Brown] [born 20-02-1951] attended the [private] nursery school, taught by a Miss Bogie, in two rooms of her flat, where he met Murray - now Lord - Elder, who is still a close friend today and who was chief of staff to John Smith, the late Labour leader.

When Gordon was four he enrolled at Kirkcaldy West, the local primary school, ... Gordon excelled at sums and was set increasingly difficult tasks by his teacher, Aileen Mason.

At 10, he joined Kirkcaldy High, an ancient school ..... selective in its intake and its 1,200 pupils were given a "hothouse" education. .....

In April 1962, aged 11, he wrote an article about a church campaign in favour of television commercials against the twin demons of alcohol and tobacco. Gordon concluded his piece with a typically opinionated flourish: "Let us hope that this plan will be a success and that the sale of drink and cigarettes to the younger and older generation will fall when these [commercials] against drink and cigarettes are shown."

At 14, he passed nine O-levels and just after his 15th birthday Gordon took his Highers, the equivalent of A-levels, securing five grade As, including maths, English, and history.

Gordon was part of the E-stream - the E stood for early -
a pioneering scheme for fast-tracking the brightest 16-year-olds to university. ...

At university, ... he took a first in history [at Edinburgh, founded 1582 -
4th oldest in Scotland]
There do not appear to have been complaints about the school breaching confidentiality by giving out the details of the academic background and achievements of a former pupil.

Now for Mr Cameron, cobbled together from this this article and this one, both in the Telegraph
David Cameron, [born 09-10-1966] the Tory leader, [had] 13 classmates at Heatherdown prep school

..... So quick was the future Conservative leader’s ascent through the academic ranks at [...] school that he entered its top academic class almost two years early.

A school report emerged ... showing Mr Cameron ranked last in the elite sixth form [current Y6] at Heatherdown Preparatory School [...] following poor results in Latin, maths, geography and French. ... James Edwards, the former head teacher, told The Daily Telegraph that only the brightest boys were allowed to enter the elite form ....

Mr Cameron was as much as two years younger than the boys against whom he was competing, after teachers marked him out as “very bright” and promoted him up the school.

"To suggest he was a dunce is rather unfair because you would expect a younger boy to be behind chaps who had already sat their scholarship exams to [sic. secondary school],"
Cameron passed 12 O-levels and 3 A grades at A-level, and a '1' in the scholarship exam for PPE .... went on to achieve a first class honours degree in philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford [founded c.1188 - 3rd oldest in Western world]
(Aside - In the south it was common for a year group to be called a 'form', it certainly was when Mrs R was at school, but further north she became a little disorientated to be placed in a 'year' - which is now used nationally, although there are still 6th Form colleges.)

So you could say, couldn't you, that the educational backgrounds and outcomes were similar - both men were fast-tracked through school, spent their time in classes labelled "E", both attended selective secondary schools, and both achieved first class degrees in 'proper' subjects at very good Universities - and they both went through Higher Education when it was paid for by the state.

It's also interesting to note that their ancestral backgrounds are remarkably similar :
Genealogists at, a family history website, have studied the  1841 census, the first complete record of Scotland’s population, and found  the two men’s direct ancestors. They were tilling the same hard soil only  150 miles from each other.

John Brown, born in 1806, a 35-year old agricultural labourer living in the tiny village of Balmullo in Fife; Ewen Cameron, born in 1781, appears in the census as a 60-year-old farmer living in Inverness.

John Brown of Balmullo, Fife, had a son, John, who became a farmer;

Ewen Cameron’s son William is listed ... as a farmer at Upper Muckove, outside Inverness near Culloden.

Simon Harper, of, said ... time was a great leveller of class.

“Cameron is recognised as coming from a line of blue-blooded stock and Brown is seen as working-class, but not so long ago their ancestors were living near each other and doing the same thing,”.
And now for some differences :-

At age 11 Mr Brown had decided to wage war on both alcohol and tobacco - even though whilst at university he suggested taking empty cans beer to parties so he didn't have to contribute. At 16 Mr Cameron was, allegedly, punished for smoking cannabis.

Mr Brown, before the age of four, was taught by a lady who lived, and taught, in her flat (- imagine the furore from the agents of the state if such a thing were to happen today -) whilst Mr Cameron went to a boarding school.

According to the articles (you'll have to read them yourself) many of Mr Brown school chums have risen high within the state sector - funded by taxation; those of Mr Cameron have risen within the private sector - funded by enterprise.


Anonymous said...

Just a small point. There was a very large gap between an agricultural labourer and a farmer in 1841. A farmer might be a tenant, or part tenant/landowner. The Ag Lab was at the bottom of the pile.

Mrs Rigby said...

Yes, that's true, but if you read the extract from Ancestry you'll see that John Brown was a farmer, not an ag lab.

James Higham said...

Oh yes, there are many similarities between them and both are selling us out.

Anonymous said...

One of them has already sold us out