Gordon Brown said recently that improving social mobility is a “national crusade” in which Labour has not made enough progress.
I thought the BBC’s The Week In Westminster programme had some interesting comments from Matthew Taylor, a former advisor to Tony Blair:
I think we should be more critical than we are about the concept of ‘social mobility’, and I think we should set it against the concept of ‘equity’. You can have a society which is socially mobile but very unequal; you can equally have a society that isn’t terribly mobile but where there are high levels of equality, and probably, the evidence suggests, the thing that makes us content overall as a society is more equality than it is mobility, because the pure concept of social mobility means that for everybody who goes up, someone comes down, and generally speaking we’re more frightened about coming down than we are excited about going up.
Politicians talk about social mobility because it’s so much easier to talk about than ‘redistribution’, and because people only understand social mobility as an ‘upward’ concept. If people really thought through was was meant, for example, by a society that was quite happy to let unintelligent middle-class children not succeed then I think people might not see this concept through such rose-tinted spectacles.
For the next few days you can hear the interview here. This segment starts around 21:56 mins in.