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The number of old Etonians in David Cameron's inner circle is 'preposterous', said Education Secretary Michael Gove yesterday.

The dominance of one school in public life did not exist in any other country and its continuation in Britain was 'ridiculous', he argued.

Mr Gove, who is soon to become the first Conservative education chief to send his daughter to a state secondary school, suggested that children should be given the impression that anyone can get to the top.

Eton-educated David Cameron has four other former pupils of the famous public school in his inner circle - minister for government policy Oliver Letwin, Jo Johnson, head of his policy unit, chief of staff

Ed Llewellyn and Rupert Harrison - George Osborne's chief economic adviser. The Chancellor himself attended St Paul's private school in London.

In an interview, Mr Gove recalled the early 20th century Cabinet of the Eton-educated Tory premier Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, who was criticised for alleged nepotism and cronyism. 'The phrase 'Bob's your uncle' came about and all the rest of it. It is preposterous', he said.

'It doesn't make me feel personally uncomfortable because I like each of the individuals concerned, but it's ridiculous.

'I don't know where you can find some such similar situation in a developed economy.'

Mr Gove, who went to a fee-paying school, is a close ally of the Prime Minister and his comments have been seen as a sign of his determination to change the education system rather than a personal attack.

He told the Financial Times it was important to transform state education so every child could be 'the author of their life story'.

The public school dominance of the corridors of power, he said, was 'a function of the fact that... more boys from Eton go to Oxford and Cambridge than boys eligible for free school meals'. Downing Street insists that Mr Cameron draws advice from a wide circle.

But some Conservatives have warned that No 10 is too elitist. Tory MP Pauline Latham said last month: 'There are six people writing the manifesto and five of them went to Eton; the other went to St Paul's.'

Labour has also attacked the number of Old Etonians - and a lack of women - in David Cameron's inner circle and some Conservatives fear it could prevent the party being seen as on the side of working-class people.

In a wide-ranging interview, Mr Gove said he wanted to champion a new generation of 'free schools' set up by parents, religious groups or charities.

He also denied wanting to be Tory leader, claiming that he lacks the 'extra spark of charisma and star quality' possessed by Mr Cameron, George Osborne or London Mayor Boris Johnson.

Comment: How political of you Mr Gove. But if this group of pompous, jeering fools are the height of charisma and 'star quality', then we are way beyond doomed!

List of cabinet ministers and where they went to school:

David Cameron, Prime Minister: Eton College (£33,000 a year), Oxford University

Nick Clegg, Deputy Prime Minister: Westminster School (£32,000 a year), Cambridge University

William Hague, Foreign Secretary: Ripon Grammar School (state), Oxford University

George Osborne, Chancellor: St Paul's School (£31,000 a year), Oxford University

Danny Alexander, Treasury Chief Secretary: Lochaber High School (state), Oxford University

Theresa May, Home Secretary: Holton Park Grammar (state), Oxford University

Philip Hammond, Defence Secretary: Shenfield School (state), Oxford University

Vince Cable, Business Secretary: Nunthorpe Grammar (state), Cambridge University

Iain Duncan Smith, Work and Pensions Secretary: St Peter's RC School, Solihull (state), Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst

Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: High Wycombe Royal Grammar (state), Cambridge University

Michael Gove, Education Secretary: Robert Gordon's College (£11,000 a year), Oxford Uni

Eric Pickles, Communities Secretary: Greenhead Grammar (state), Leeds Polytechnic

Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary: Charterhouse School (£33,000 a year), Oxford University

Owen Paterson, Environment Secretary: Radley College (£32,000 a year), Cambridge University

Justine Greening, International Development Sec.: Oakwood Comp. (state), Southampton Uni:

Alistair Carmichael, Scottish Secretary: Islay High School (state), Aberdeen University

Ed Davey, Energy Secretary: Nottingham High School (£12,000 a year), Oxford University

Patrick McLoughlin, Transport Secretary: Cardinal Griffin RC (state), Rodbaston College

Maria Miller, Culture Secretary: Brynteg Comprehensive (state), London School of Economics

Theresa Villiers, Northern Ireland: Francis Holland School (£15,000 a year), Bristol University

David Jones, Welsh Secretary: Ruabon Grammar School (state), University College London

Lord Hill, Leader of the House of Lords: Highgate School (£17,000 a year), Cambridge University

Fees are those currently advertised on each school's website