Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Forget immigration, the big issue in 2015 should be the death of social mobility

By accepting vast inequalities of wealth, the political class has acquiesced in the continual erosion of opportunity. 

By accepting vast inequalities of wealth, the political class has acquiesced in the continual erosion of opportunity.
Eton boys, perched on the wall, watch the traditional wall game. Photograph: Getty Images.

"In every single sphere of British influence, the upper echelons of power…are held overwhelmingly by the privately educated or the affluent middle class." 

Which radical scion of the establishment could have said such a thing? Tony Benn? Dennis Skinner? Or even Leon Trotsky perhapsThe answer is former Conservative prime minister Sir John Major, that well known scourge of capitalism and tribune of the working class. When the man who privatised British Rail and launched propaganda campaigns against single mothers believes society is insufficiently meritocratic it ought to be clear that the UK is heading in the wrong direction.

And a closer look at the top of British society demonstrates that, rather than turning into a bleeding heart in his retirement years, Sir John is simply stating the obviousJust 7 per cent of Britons are privately educated yet, according to a government report published in August, 33 per cent of MPs, 71 per cent of senior judges and 44 per cent of people on the Sunday Times Rich List went to fee-paying schools. If you were waiting for some sort of media outrage about such an appalling state of affairs then you may have to wait a little longer: 43 per cent of newspaper columnists and 26 per cent of BBC executives hail from the private school system too.

Even the grittier sections of the music industry, which once gave expression to working class authenticity, are increasingly dominated by the affluent. In 2011, music magazine The Word found that the majority of UK chart acts were either privately educated or from exclusive stage schools. This compared with 1990, when it found that nearly 80 per cent of artists in the Top 40 were educated in state schools...