Master of judgement

Jacob Rees-Mogg remembers a man who knew how to handle people

Sir Eric Anderson KT 1936-2020

Sir Eric Anderson was Head Master of Eton 1980-1994, then Provost, and teacher of three prime ministers. Guy Walters recalls a stern and awe-inspiring figure while Graham Stewart asked colleagues, friends and former pupils, including Tony Blair, for their memories of a hugely influential educator


During the 1987 general election, which was my last half at Eton, I was taking trips out to campaign in the marginal Slough constituency. At the bumping races, somebody threw an egg which unfortunately collided with the lower master’s neck. The whole school was gated. I went to see the Head Master to say, “Look, I wasn’t at the bumping races and if I had been, I wouldn’t have thrown an egg. Would you mind awfully if I carried on going out to campaign in Slough?” And he said, “Well I do understand, but I can’t make a blanket exception for you. That would be unfair. So, you can only go there three times a week.”

He knew that I knew that three times a week was as much as I was ever going to go to Slough anyway. But he cleverly ensured that the rule was applied in such a way that it seemed reasonable. It would have been ridiculous to have allowed me to go to Slough five times a week. And if he’d said, “No, you can’t go at all” it would have seemed unreasonable. He had very good judgment.

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