Yes, very much so

Ask him about charges of nepotism in his selection, and Straw has a well-rehearsed answer: “What I would say about the nepotism thing is that in all walks of life, whether it’s the police, doctors or going into the family law firm, there are examples of children following their parents’ footsteps. That’s also been true in parliament going back many generations – there are actually now many fewer than there were in the past.”

So why is it that the inheritance of money, rather than networks, is perceived as being so awful?

Why is the Benn’s fifth generation of public office something laudable while their (very substantial) fifth generation and more of inherited wealth something that’s kept very quiet?

BTW, re the Third Viscount Stansgate. In order not to inherit the title he’s got to actively protest in order not to inherit it. Within one year I believe. So, anyone know whether he’s started that yet or not?

18 comments on “Yes, very much so

  1. Being the son or daughter of a policeman or doctor gives you no special advantage in becoming a policeman or a doctor.

    You don’t need lower A level results to get to medical school if your mum is a GP.

    Nor is the fact that your dad is senior partner at a small family solicitors firm in Ipswich going to get you a place to read jurisprudence at Oxford.

    However having a dad who is a Labour MP does open up doors to get selected for a safe seat.

  2. Name recognition alone is very helpful in the public sphere. Would we have even heard of Peaches Geldof if she had taken her mother’s surname instead of her father’s?

  3. In terms of the succession do remember that Stephen Benn is the eldest son and he isn’t a politician, unlike the Hilary Benn his younger brother.

  4. Shinsei1967 – “Being the son or daughter of a policeman or doctor gives you no special advantage in becoming a policeman or a doctor.”

    Actually those are two professions where that is probably not true. For a start, no one wants to be a policeman. It is a vile thankless job. A lot of policemen are the children of policemen these days. I bet it plays well at interview.

    As for doctors, let’s ignore the genetics which might well suggest the child of a doctor does much better than the child of a plumber. There is a vast amount of soft and untaught knowledge in being a doctor. You have to do an interview a lot of places and a practicing doctor can tell you what to say. Even if your Dad doesn’t coach you, you know what the job involves. Which gives you a leg up on a coal miner’s daughter.

    “Nor is the fact that your dad is senior partner at a small family solicitors firm in Ipswich going to get you a place to read jurisprudence at Oxford.”

    It won’t hurt and it may help if he was in Chambers with the right people. I have relatives who are City Lawyers. Oddly enough so are all their children who didn’t actively want to do something else. I fully expect their grandchildren to go to Oxford and become City Lawyers.

  5. “Why is the Benn’s fifth generation of public office something laudable while their (very substantial) fifth generation and more of inherited wealth something that’s kept very quiet?”

    Because from a politician’s point of view, when public office is effectively inherited they are not gaining any personal benefit, they are simply passing on the onerous duty of being a humble civil servant, selflessly shouldering the noble burden of caring for the rest of us.
    (That’s not an interpretation that I would wholeheartedly support, to say the least.)

  6. Oh, come off it.

    The fact is that if you’ve got the right ear in politics, you can walk into the job of MP because of safe seats, which are a by-product of the FPTP system. If you look at where Jack Dromey, Hilary Benn or Julie Kirkbride were MPs they’re all safe seats.

    And yes, the son of a solicitor may become a solicitor, but how many of the 600 highest earning solicitors also become one of the top 600 solicitors? If you look at footballers, a lot of brothers and sons of famous footballers become footballers but very few of them enter the elite.

  7. SMFS

    I don’t doubt that having parents who are doctors/lawyers doesn’t help with a spot of networking, interning during the holidays, knowing what’s involved etc.

    But to get to Medical School in the first place you still need straight As in difficult sciences. Ditto for a law place at a decent university.

  8. For a start, no one wants to be a policeman. It is a vile thankless job.

    I’m not surprised. When I went to an open day for careers at Greater Manchester Police there was nothing about catching criminals but more than plenty on social work. If I wanted to be a social worker I’d have gone to a social services career fair, not a police one. I don’t know whose fault this is, but the police must have to shoulder some of the blame.

  9. I’m more interested in the claim, some years back, that Hillary Benn’s estate was improperly exempted from some government restriction or other, than I am about who his ruddy father was.

  10. If I wanted to be a social worker I’d have gone to a social services career fair, not a police one.

    Only amongst wannabe social-workers can the police reliably find the ignorance, intransigence and pig-headed self-righteousness that are the backbone of public-facing policing throughout the world.

  11. Apparently the fruit of Tony and Cheri’s vile couplings is casting around for a safe seat. Truly horrifying.

  12. The Grauniad cites Will Straw’s admission to Oxford and his Fulbright scholarship as evidence of his talent and against the allegations of nepotism – what bare-faced cheek! They are prime examples of favouritism for the son of the UK Home Secretary by a British University and later for the son of the UK Foreign Secretary by an American University. He lacked the academic standards that an ordinary guy would have needed to achieve these.

  13. Some people, like Chris Dillow I think, and the regrettably late Norm Geras, turn this round and ask why, if inheritance of money or liabilities for slavery are so wrong, why it’s OK for people to have an ‘unfair’ genetic inheritance.

    I think there’s a very deep pit at the end of that particular path.

  14. Because the first two are a matter of politics. And the last is a matter of nature.

    The Handicapper General strikes again.

    BTW: the world isn’t “fair” and no matter how much thoughtful communist angst is expended writing about it, it ain’t never goin’ a be. But I ought to be preaching to the converted?

    And DBC and Arnald, of course.

  15. ‘And the last is a matter of nature.’

    It is, isn’t it? And it’s debatable whether there’s anything else to us, so the unfair thing that’s being objected to is the fact that humans are humans, or human individuals, and suggests the only fair society would be one of clones.

  16. Although I reckon that if you’re going to argue that, which I would, it also follows that inherited wealth isn’t ‘nature’. You could add that while you have an absolute claim to the fruits of your own endeavours but not those of anyone else. And that this absolute right doesn’t extend, Pharaoh-like after your death.

    Which might combine to an argument for inheritance tax, perhaps above a highish threshold.

  17. But that, Peter, is what I said? Your “inheritance of money” is also your “inherited wealth”.

    And I said “that’s a matter of politics.” To permit, deny or tax. We can argue how much that should be taxed. Which depends, imnsho, on how it was taxed arriving.

    “Fairness” is for toddlers, poorly parented nursery school kids, and politicians failing to find a sound bite.

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