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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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  1. Chris Ship

Major 'possibly trying to be helpful' with energy remarks

It's worth remembering that these comments from Sir John Major were made to a lunch of Westminster journalists. You can't for a minute say that he didn't think that these would reach a wider audience.

It's quite possible that he was trying to be helpful, flying some kites for the Government, so if they did soon make an announcement on energy policy it wouldn't look like Labour leader Ed Miliband was calling all the shots.

If that was the case, Downing Street were doing a very good job of hiding it today - saying they have no plans for a windfall tax.

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."

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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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