A distinctly old-school feel to a 'new generation'

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The Independent Online

When Ed Miliband addressed Labour members as their leader for the first time just two weeks ago, he promised a "new generation" had arrived at the helm of the party.

But while there are a number of fresh faces in his first Shadow Cabinet, as well as a far higher proportion of women, there is also a distinctly old-school dimension to the group. One third of the 28-strong shadow team were privately educated and went to Oxford or Cambridge. All but two are white.

Ten members, including Harriet Harman, the shadow International Development Secretary, John Healey, the shadow Health Secretary, and Tessa Jowell, the shadow Olympics minister, went to private schools. The same number hold degrees from Oxbridge.

Six of the seven who attended Oxford even studied the same subject. Mr Miliband, Yvette Cooper, Ed Balls, Angela Eagle, Maria Eagle and Meg Hillier all read philosophy, politics and economics. Only Mary Creagh dared to differ, instead studying modern languages. Sadiq Khan, the first ethnic minority MP to be elected to Labour's Shadow Cabinet and now the shadow Justice Secretary, is the only Muslim in the group. Baroness Scotland, appointed as shadow Attorney General, is the other non-white member. Only one of the Shadow Cabinet, Angela Eagle, is gay.

That is only a marginally better record than that of the current Coalition Cabinet. Baroness Warsi, the minister without portfolio, is its only member from an ethnic minority. There are no openly gay figures among David Cameron's team.

The number of shadow ministers who went to fee-paying schools may hinder their scope to attack the Cabinet as coming from privileged backgrounds, although more than half of Mr Cameron's team were privately educated. Mr Cameron, Oliver Letwin and Sir George Young went to Eton. Nick Clegg attended Westminster School. Two-thirds of the Coalition Cabinet attended either Oxford or Cambridge.