"All men are weak; public school men are weaker; and Wykehamists are the weakest of the lot!"

Did the Prime Minister who relied so heavily on Willie Whitelaw OW, Ian Gow OW, and Geoffrey Howe OW in her battles with Etonians really say that? Perhaps John Whittingdale OW, her former political secretary, knows the truth. If there is ever another OW Members of Parliament dinner, I shall ask him.

As a school of the church, it is probably not that surprising that Winchester has produced only one Prime Minister – the now largely forgotten Viscount Sidmouth. That famous school of the court, founded in 1440, has produced twenty. Winchester might only have one man to have made the top job, but many have served the nation in parliament and in Cabinet over the centuries. The most eminent twentieth century Winchester politicians — Hugh Gaitskell, Stafford Cripps, Richard Crossman and Douglas Jay — were Labour men.

To mark Founder’s Obit this year, I spoke about the Wykehamist who led the working-class movement between 1955 and 1963 – Hugh Gaitskell, the man who might very well have become the school’s second Prime Minister had he not died just before the 1964 election.

In the past ten years at Winchester, as a History and Div don, I have often treated my pupils to extracts from a book that lists the worst MPs in British history. This book has Wykehamists at numbers one and two! But just this once, when thinking about William of Wykeham and the legacy of service, I wanted to focus on the contributions made to the nation by the men educated within these walls. Given that another regular guest at the OW MPs dinner currently occupies 11 Downing Street, the moment may be just right to do so!

Written by Laurence Guymer
Head of MP and V Book Div

© 2020 Winchester College

Winchester College Society, Donovan's, 73 Kingsgate Street, Winchester, SO23 9PE
Registered Charity no. 1139000