In a week when Nick Clegg delivered a lecture on social mobility, a reflection on the coalition members social background is irrelevant, writes Matthew Miles. The coalition’s policies should be the only mediator to analyse whether they will tear down the barriers to opportunity and fairness.
Indeed Clegg’s ‘Daddy’ effectively delivered on a plate a coveted internship at a Finnish bank that ordinary children across the UK could only dream of. But is the fact that they accepted it their fault or to the detriment of their own moral voice? Of course not. Labour MP John Mann has accused the coalition of “total hypocrisy” for attacking internships when they themselves have benefited from their connections. But wouldn’t we rather our elected representatives use their advantaged backgrounds to make our class system more fluid? The real question is, are they hindering or advancing social mobility.
Labour’s speculative rhetoric of a ‘lost generation’ due to mass spending cuts serves to exacerbate ones insecurity about their future. Trebling tuition fees, abolishing the Educational Maintenance Allowance and the Future Jobs fund sounds very frightening on the face of it.
However, living standards in the UK for all but for those few in extreme poverty is internationally admired. The core values needed to reach British societies higher echelons are not unobtainable. More difficult for a lower working class child to reach, yes, but it is not simply an exclusive elite for the privileged few. If you are determined, talented and willing you will rise to a standard of living that quenches your ability. For the £12 textbook for an A level subject, it did not take £30 a week EMA to achieve academic success. Labour’s notion of chucking money at an issue without targeting or specificity failed and has inadvertently done more harm to social mobility than any singular spending cut.
The Tories recent ‘auctioning off’ of internships was distasteful and abhorrent in many eyes and rightly so. There is no place for such entrenchment of privilege in a so-called meritocracy. In policy, however, when one looks past a sound bite and analyses the substance, the coalition’s decisions may prove to assist social mobility by restoring the nation’s holistic wealth. On tuition fees, the legislation has put the cost on the successful graduate who will benefit from their education, not the average tax payer. That is right for equality and fairness.
The raising of personal allowance, whilst not being synonymously acclaimed as New Labour’s Minimum Wage, will make a great difference to the lowest paid and incentivise work through work and not the tax system. Networking through family connections is, one hates to admit it, a natural process that’s not going to be curbed by legislation. A golf course attracts the affluent, ‘who you know’ matters across all class divisions. The private wealth of the cabinet is repulsive to some; nonetheless, those who have prospered from facets other than their own ability are not completely inept in ironing out inequalities and injustices.