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Liberal Democrat News 25th May 2012

May 25, 2012 1:20 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

"We will track social mobility" - Clegg

This week Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg strongly re-stated his personal commitment to increasing social mobility when he introduced the first update on the Government's social mobility strategy. He was addressing the Sutton Trust and opened by reminding his audience of statistics that reveal the stark gap in life chances between the worst and better-off in society.
"One in five children are on free school meals. Only one in a hundred Oxbridge entrants are," he said. "Only 7 per cent of children attend independent schools, but public schools provide 70 per cent of high court judges and 54 per cent of FTSE 100 CEOs. One in five children from poorer homes achieve five good GCSEs, compared to three out of four from affluent homes."
The Government was now publishing a set of 17 'trackers' to measure how well the Government is doing in making society fairer. The trackers will monitor policies to tackle social mobility and, unlike previous measures, will be published annually avoiding a long time lag. It will be the first time that any government in the world had published such data.
"And let me get something out of the way right now", said Nick.
"I know some people say that my birth, my education, and my opportunities mean I have no right to speak up. I couldn't disagree more. If people like me who have benefited from the system don't speak up, we will never get anywhere."
He referred to 'the three myths of social mobility'.
"Reducing inequality is a good and laudable aim. But unfortunately it's not the straightforward route to social mobility. I wish it was. Life would be much simpler. Our goal would be clear: redistribution of income would do the job.
"Myth 2 is that social mobility is a project for economic good times.
"Partly this myth comes from those who think our spending plans are dismantling the state's capacity to help. That we are turning the clock back to the 1930s.
"This is simply not true. At the end of this Parliament, public spending will still account for 42 per cent of GDP."
"The link between economic growth and mobility is not straightforward. A growing economy will often do a good job of increasing absolute social mobility - simply by making everyone better off. But growth does not necessarily improve relative social mobility.
Myth 3, he believed, was that the promotion of social mobility meant lowering standards, or somehow 'dumbing down', to 'socially engineer' a particular outcome.
"Nonsense," he said, "And usually peddled by those who benefit from the status quo - and therefore want to keep things the way they are.
"Social engineering is what's happening now: the unfairness in our society, and the system that perpetuates it."
The Government needed to prove the depth of its commitment to a fairer society. It was not just throwing money at the problem and hoping it would go away.
"That's why", Nick concluded, "we are putting in place the mechanisms to hold our own government and future governments to account: a powerful set of indicators to show our progress; a Ministerial Group on Social Mobility to co-ordinate our work across Whitehall; and the establishment of a statutory Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, to report independently on our progress."