Alan Milburn, Tit.

Social Mobility, a ‘Motherhood & Apple Pie’ issue, but which boils down, in practice, to “what sort of school did you go to?” about which an astonishing amount of cant is spoken.

The Labour narrative is that a self-selecting caste of Public Schoolboys deny entry to the upper echelons of public and business life. Snobbery and the old-school tie represent impenetrable barriers to the working class, however talented”. While Labour accept upward social mobility happens, it is a near totemic belief in the movement that the vicious class enemy must be watched, lest they slip back to their evil ways of only hiring the sons of people with whom they play Golf / Rugger /Polo / Bloodsports (delete according to taste).

The Tories think social mobility is due to either Grammar Schools or Thatcher’s banking reforms.

There are intelligent views on social mobility, like Chris Dillow at Stumbling and Mumbling whose position on the subject can be characterised as Marxist High Tory is one worth reading.

For some reason only known to David Cameron, Alan Milburn was asked to prepare a report on Social Mobility which contains the absolutely astonishing idea that I should declare whether or not I received Free School Meals to a putative employer. the Company should then collect this information and transmit it to Government. Of couse you already disclose your education to your employer (you submitted a C.V. didn’t you?) But Alan Milburn seems to think this should then be collected, for audit by some Government authority. OfSnob? OfPosh? To what end? A maximum number of public schoolboys? A public register of people called ‘Rupert’? Quotas for same? “Naming and Shaming” for companies whose directors went to Charterhouse together?

I cannot see any sane policy which could possibly fall out from these data. So why collect the information? Just let people be. People fron similar backgrounds go into similar employment. The best predictor of what you do, is what your parents do. They’re your role models and frame your idea of ‘normal’. So this should not be seen as a problem, it’s just people prefer the company of people like them and so people from similar backgrounds tend to make similar choices. Politicians need to understand some WANT to be soldiers, nurses or builders. And thank goodness, otherwise the bayonets won’t be fixed, the patients tended or houses built. Not everyone WANTS to be a Lawyer, if they did, we’d be America. Stop putting people in little identity boxes so they can be counted. The very act of counting them will strengthen in-group bias by reinforcing trivial differences between individuals into impenetrable barriers. Stop collecting data whose only existence is so Government can homogenise society in its own image. Stop assuming that any difference in outcome between groups is down to prejudice. It might be down to choices. Stop telling people who don’t want to be Lawyers that they’re shit.

One of my political heroes, Sir John Cowperthwaite who ran Hong Kong banned officials from collecting economic data “lest some damn fool try to do something about it”. Hong Kong was the Fastest Growing economy for the second half of the 20th Century. If you leave them alone, people tend to make better choices than Government.

11 replies
  1. JimmyGiro
    JimmyGiro says:

    It's my duty, by your democratic mandate, to spend your money upon making you more like me.

    Those failing to be more like me will have their benefits reduced after 6 months, unless they enrol on a government sponsored "Being more like me" course.

    Those better than me, will pay a higher level of tax.

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Until women stop having babies, choosing to be nurses and hairdressers they will never take up 50% of QC and CEO jobs.

    Nevertheless it is all the fault of men, according to Ms. Harman.

  3. Luke
    Luke says:

    I'd like to know more about Cowperthwaite. Given that he refused to collect statistics, it might be difficult to check what the outcomes were, but worth researching. Links anyone?

  4. banned
    banned says:

    The Daily Telegraph obituary pages usually contain articles about Captains Of Industry "From humble beginings, his father was a boot swaddler from Salford, educated at Kings Grammar….he went on to Oxford…"

    As that generation dies off Britain will be stuffed. That talent stream will be wasted by Comprehensive education and the Top Jobs will be even more reserved for the output of public schools to the delight of the Socialist envy mongers and High Tory fathers of dimwits.

    Both sides (and the libs) prattle on about the decline in Social Mobility while refusing to accept that it has been caused by the near destruction of the Grammar schools by all of them.

  5. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    Seriously, do you believe your own publicity, your get out of jail card?

    Oh aye. Probably you do.

    You know, people do want to do what their parents did, keep up the family tradition. Being a similar person to my father, I aspire to follow his path. I am content to spend my life as a bin man, to fulfill my destiny. Never wanted to be a lawyer. Of course not. I know my place.

    You should know yours. Here's my take.

    Educated beyond his intelligence, with no grasp of issues, a sense of entitlement and an attitude very last century.

  6. Malcolm Bracken
    Malcolm Bracken says:

    Fair point, anon. I should have made clear that while bin men shouldn't be denigrated, they or their children who want to climb the greasy pole should be encouraged and facilited, not least by a decent education.

    For this reason, Gove's school reforms represented the best reason to vote tory at the last election.

  7. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:


    I do appreciate your temperate response. It makes feel apologetic because you are so reasonable.

    But I can't feel guilty. You may be a reasonable individual but you have no idea what life is like for those of us who have no advantages.

    For that reason, I will never vote for the Tories because collectively, you are working for yourselves, your interests. There may be an odd decent bloke like you but most look after their own.

    I can't stand the Millibands but I will vote for them before I vote for Cameron and his Etonian cronies, who don't mind if the less fortunate get a look in, but not at their expense.

  8. Surreptitious Evil
    Surreptitious Evil says:

    Hmm, the S-E social mobility thing.

    Let's see.

    Paternal great-grandfather: train driver.
    Paternal grand-father: builder.
    Other paternal great-grandfather: wastrel drunk and general scumbag.
    Paternal grand-mother: mostly housewife but was the cash clerk in a Sainsbury for a time.
    Father: grammar school boy then college lecturer.

    Maternal great-grandfather: coal miner.
    Maternal grand-father: ambulance driver.
    Maternal grand-mother: midwife.
    Mother: grammar school girl then, eventually, IT systems manager.

    Me: Public day-school, Services officer then company director & author.

    Mrs S-E:

    Paternal Grand-father: squaddie then bus driver.
    Father: builder.
    Maternal Grandfather: nursery manager.
    Mother: Housewife.
    Herself: Comprehensively maleducated, college lecturer, now director & some-time trainer.

    Offspring: still waiting to see, really.

  9. Single acts of tyranny
    Single acts of tyranny says:

    SE, great idea, so

    Father, lorry driver
    Mother, retail worker
    Me ~ stopped comprehensive school at 14 due to total disinterest and violent bullying. Yet at 24, University and now company director.
    Offspring ~ Private school while I have kidneys to sell, Oxford if it is still relevant in 16 years or Harvard or University of Bejing as appropriate.

    Contribution of government to the same. Nil.


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