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More Union Presidents than BME people in cabinet

Theresa May’s promotion of Damian Hinds means there are three former Presidents, compared to a single BME member

The UK Cabinet now contains more ex-Oxford Union Presidents than BME people, following this month’s reshuffle.

Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, Environment Secretary Michael Gove, and Education Secretary Damian Hinds were all Presidents of the debating society while studying at Oxford.

The only BME minister who attends Cabinet is Sajid Javid, the Secretary of State for Housing, Local Government and Communities.

Johnson was President in Trinity term 1986, Gove held the post in Hilary 1988, and Hinds in Trinity 1991.

Hinds’ addition to the Cabinet meant that the number of exUnion presidents stayed constant, even after Damian Green, former Minister for the Cabinet Office and Union President for Michaelmas 1977, was asked to leave the government after lying about concerning pornography on his work computer.

Prominent ministerial resignations in late 2017 affected the demographic balance of the Cabinet. As well as Damian Green, International Development Secretary Priti Patel was forced to resign after controversy over her unauthorised meetings with Israeli officials provoked a media outcry.

Johnson initially lost out on the position of Oxford Union President when running as a Conservative, but in 1986 he was able to win the position as a Social Democrat.

Michael Gove, a contemporary of Johnson, backed his bid for presidency.

Hinds famously defeated Tory backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg in the Union Presidential contest for Trinity 1991. Rees-Mogg served as Librarian of the Union while studying at Trinity College.

Hinds’ promotion has caught the attention of pundits, with Gove going as far as to name him as a potential future leader of the party.

Hinds’ old Union rival Rees-Mogg, who also been touted as a potential Tory future leader.

Rees-Mogg described Hinds as “an amazingly able man, and a very nice one too.

If you’ve got to lose to somebody, to lose to somebody you greatly respect is much preferable.”

The reshuffle also saw the rise of Michaelmas term 1997 President Sam Gyimah to Universities Ministers. As reported last week, his reign as president proved controversial, as he invited Saddam Hussein’s deputy to speak at the Union, and was accused of ‘overworking’ committee members.

Theresa May was an active debater during her time at Oxford, and her husband Phillip May was president for Trinity 1979.

Roland Rudd, brother of the Home Secretary who was given the additional role of Minister for Women and Equalities in the recent reshuffle, became president for Hilary 1985 while studying at Regent’s Park College.

Lucy Frazer, an MP first elected in 2015 who got her first ministerial job this week, is the only former Cambridge Union president in the government.

According to analysis by The Sutton Trust, 48.3% of the Cabinet were Oxbridge educated, a similar figure to David Cameron’s 2015 cabinet where 52% had been to either Oxford or Cambridge.

Another 34.5% of the Cabinet went to other Russell Group universites.

No members of the Cabinet did not attend university. The last member of the Cabinet who did not go to university was Patrick McLoughlin, formerly Conservative party chairman.

The Oxford Union and the Cabinet Office declined Cherwell’s request for comment.

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