One contemporary social historian describes Robin Butler as a member of ‘The Establishment’ and ‘born to rule’. With his background – Harrow, University College Oxford and a rugby Blue – Lord Butler manifestly belongs to the ruling class that the writer decries. This biography traces how, as a young man, he conformed to the image of a man born to succeed, even to rule. Yet he used his success to implement what he saw as overdue reform, campaigning hard for the modernisation of the Civil Service and later, as Master of his old college, in broadening the base of admissions to include a greater percentage of undergraduates from less privileged backgrounds. If Butler was privileged, he used that privilege to implement reform rather than to maintain or make tactical, superficial adjustments to the status quo.
The central conclusion is that he occupied the post at a pivotal time in the evolution of the ‘modern’ Civil Service, that, after occupying centre stage in Margaret Thatcher’s and John Major’s administrations, he was on the one hand marginalised by New Labour after Tony Blair’s 1997 election victory, and, on the other hand, a reassuring symbol of ‘the old order’ when the Prime Minister and his associates needed to defend the government’s decision to invade Iraq.
Michael Jago read Ancient History and Philosophy at University College Oxford before settling in the USA in 1980. For 15 years he ran an educational travel business, specialising in the battlefields of western Europe and operated the American College of Travel in Los Angeles. When he sold his travel business in 1995 he launched a football magazine that grew from its California base to be published in several states across the southwestern and midwestern USA. After acquiring a further degree as a (very) mature student at Oxford, he has adopted the writing of biography as his career.
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