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Major: Dominance of privately educated 'truly shocking'

Former Prime Minister Sir John Major has criticised the number of privately educated and wealthy middle-class in the “upper echelons” of power in the UK, which he dubbed "truly shocking".

Sir John Major went to a comprehensive school in south London and left with three O-levels. Credit: PA

In a speech at South Norfolk Conservative Association on Friday, Major gave a stinging assessment of social mobility in 21st century Britain, with remarks that will hurt Conservative leader and Old Etonian David Cameron.

"In every single sphere of British influence, the upper echelons of power in 2013 are held overwhelmingly by the privately-educated or the affluent middle class.

"To me, from my background, I find that truly shocking."

However, the former Conservative Prime Minister levelled the blame for the collapse in social mobility with previous Labour governments, who left a "Victorian divide between stagnation and aspiration".

Iain Duncan Smith mocks John Major's 'cones hotline'

Iain Duncan Smith has taken a swipe at his former Tory rival John Major today over the former prime minister's traffic cones hotline initiative during the 1990s.

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions hit back after Major this week questioned his former colleague's ability to reform benefits.

Iain Duncan Smith mocked John Major as ‘an intellect that brought us cones hotline’ Credit: PA

Duncan Smith told the Evening Standard: “Well, as I say, I never really get too fussed about what people think about their own intellects. I’m always happy to be in awe of someone whose own intellect delivered us the cones hotline, I must say.”

Major's infamous telephone hotline was set up for people to call to complain about unattended roadworks and has gone down in political history as one of the most ridiculous initiatives launched by the British Government.

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Major: 9-10% energy price rises 'not acceptable'

At the moment I do not see how it can be in any way acceptable that with energy prices rising broadly 4% in terms of costs that the price to the consumer should rise by the 9-10% that we are hearing.

I do not regard that as acceptable at all by the energy companies.

And it is not acceptable to me, it ought not to be acceptable to anyone, that many people are going to have to chose between keeping warm and eating. That is not acceptable.

So if we get this cold spell the government, I think, will have to intervene and if they do intervene, and it is costly, I for one would regard it as perfectly acceptable for them then, subsequently, to levy and excess profits tax on the energy companies and claw that money back to the Exchequer, where their primary job is to get the economy working and people back to work.

– Former Prime Minister Sir John Major

PM's spokesman: 'No plans for levy on energy firms'

Downing Street has said the Government had "no plans" for a windfall tax of the type proposed by Sir John Major.

David Cameron's official spokesman told a regular Westminster media briefing: "The Prime Minister's view on this is that this is an interesting contribution. We have no plans for this."

"What the Government is doing is legislating around forcing energy companies to put customers on their lowest tariffs and more competition in energy markets."

Asked about Sir John's concerns about people having to choose between eating and heating this winter, he said:

"There are a number of initiatives that the Government has to support vulnerable people, such as the cold weather payments.

"We have a range of ways in which support is given and those are the right ones."

Miliband: Major 'makes Labour's argument' on energy

Labour leader Ed Miliband said former Prime Minister Sir John Major was making "Labour's argument" by calling for energy companies to face an excess profits tax.

Major 'calls for excess profits tax on energy firms'

Former Prime Minister Sir John Major has reportedly called for energy companies to pay an excess profits tax if the Government is forced to make winter fuel payments due to the rise in bills.

Bloomberg's political correspondent Kitty Donaldson wrote on Twitter:

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Former PMs claim £115,000 allowance

Tony Blair claimed the maximum £115,000 allowance for public duty costs Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Former Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Sir John Major both claimed the maximum allowance in public duty costs in the last financial year.

Government figures show Gordon Brown was just a few pence short of the £115,000 limit.

The payment is to reimburse ex-PMs for continuing to fulfil public duties.

Miliband: Something 'went very wrong'

Labour leader Ed Miliband told the Leveson Inquiry into press standards that something went "very wrong" with the way some journalists dealt with individuals. He said police had "not investigated properly" and politicians had not spoken out.

There is clearly something which has gone very wrong with the way parts of the press dealt with individuals. A failure to get to grips with these issues ... by the press, the police, who did not investigate properly, and I think politicians, who were aware of some of what was going on and did not speak out.

Organisations like News International had huge power and I think politicians were reticent to speak about some of these practices that were exposed. I include myself in that."

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