Social mobility falls as Labour crashes

Last evening after a day pounding the streets of Henley I went to see a Beating the Retreat at the Officers’ Mess at REME in Arborfield in my constituency. It was such a pleasure to find a small corner of Labour’s great public sector where the people are professional, courteous and keeping high standards. Even more encouraging, I found when talking to the younger officers a varied range of backgrounds amongst people who were using the discipline, education and training that the army still offers to make their way in the world. They are proud of what they are doing. There was an ease of communications between the differing ranks and the differing ages. They organised their evening with precision, and were attentive to their guests in a way that is so often absent at other public sector events.

The latest survey shows that all too many people in our country do not think they are making headway, and think class still plays an important role in people’s futures and achievements. The worst feature of the NU Labour years is the way that having a rich Dad has become so important to getting a good education. The growing gap between what the best public schools achieve, and what is achieved elsewhere in many comprehensive schools is alarming. The best public schools turn out well mannered self confident people capable of reading and writing to a high standard. All too many comprehensives struggle to achieve the necessary levels of attainment in the basics, and struggle to remedy a lack of success at the primary level in equipping young people for life.

The Henley by-election result reminds us just how Labour has lost the plot. I found so few standing up for Labour during my canvassing. The general view was the government had failed, was in its long death throes, and needed to be told again just how badly it is doing. People feel stretched financially, and dislike the bossy incompetence that is the government’s main hall mark. If the government could find ways to raise standards in schools, and raise the sights of the many young people who feel they do not have a chance because of their background, they would earn more respect. If they could apply the lessons of the army to other parts of their rambling public sector that too would help.The cruel irony is that because the services retain a quality which does work, and still have that ability to bring leadership out of people from humble backgrounds, they have been starved of cash whilst other parts of the public sector have been showered with it. Labour is reaping what it has sown. They have seemed to dislike the emphasis on discipline, training and politeness which characterise the armed forces. Instead, they should have applied those values in parts of the government where they did spend so much money.

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10 Comments

  1. Stuart Fairney
    Posted June 27, 2008 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    I really am no fan of Labour or socialists anywhere. But when the BNP outperform the government in a parliamantary election that should set alarm bells ringing for the entire political class and for people everywhere.

  2. Chuck Unsworth
    Posted June 27, 2008 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    As a former soldier I note your reference to Public Schools, but am disappointed that you do not mention Grammar Schools, nor apparently did you find yourself in conversation with any commisioned officers who had come up through the ranks.

    In my day many of the finest and most competent officers had come from those two sources. Perhaps that was due to a wider experience of life and people than those who had come through the narrower channels of Public School and/or University

  3. Neil Craig
    Posted June 27, 2008 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    You correctly imply that Grammar schools were a way out of class restrictions. Unfortunately because we have an electoral system that allows only 2 parties forced to debate only over the minutia of the "middle ground" political debate on such things is stultified.

  4. Rose
    Posted June 27, 2008 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    The trouble is the army is hierarchical and unashamedly elitist – in the true sense of that latter word, and that will never be allowed back in civilian life. As the Prince of Wales once said, "If you don't have elites, how do you ever get anything done?" Look what has been done to the standards of the police, and of universities, hospitals, and schools. I am surprised the army method of education and training still survives to the extent it does and has not been reformed away by political correctness.

    True elitism, paradoxically, as distinct from moneyed advantage, is the most effective way to bring about social mobility, as your own life has shown.

  5. Richard
    Posted June 27, 2008 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    It occurred to me earlier today that the Labour party is in very, very serious trouble for a number of reasons;

    1) Upcoming Scottish referendum – If they lose it before 2010 they'll find themselves without a prime minister, transport minister, etc as well as a lot of their safest seats.

    2) Financial bankruptcy

    3) Electoral wipeout in European and Local elections – Fewer councillors than ever, very few MEP (even with PR in place)

    Jack Straw could easily find himself leading a rump opposition and struggling to hold third place in Parliament.

  6. mikestallard
    Posted June 27, 2008 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

    I learned very early on in my teaching career that smartness and politeness and respect for exact, truthful answers was the key. The army, where your life depends on it, has know this for ages.
    Once you substitute other things – egalitarianism, levelling down, blaming other people instead of yourself, pretend rewards and letting things slide you get Labour Britain very soon.
    Today, for instance, in our village, I picked up a plastic bag full of children's drinks which someone had dumped in the street.
    The really encouraging thing is that people seem ready (at last!) to return to sanity.
    And let's hope that Michael Gove is as good as his word over Swedish Schools.

  7. Matthew Reynolds
    Posted June 27, 2008 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

    Well John might I suggest sacking as many MOD civil servants as possible whie putting more contracts onto the open market to get better hardware at better value and getting extra cash to the frontlines in Iraq & Afghanistan . How on earth can QUANGO's cost £100 billion a year while we fight terror on a shoestring ? These pointless bodies need either merging to cut out duplication or hived off so that they are funded by people paying for their services directly with no taxpayer money at all . Most would be out of business quite quickly and enough cash could fund a bigger military budget . This would mean better pay for the troops , better accomodation , improved hardware , more forces personnal overall and a greater number of high quality of tanks , planes etc

    Why match Labour spending plans when you can axe or merge or hive off QUANGO's and thus sack the Labour appointed jobsworths to provide a better deal for the armed forces ? Time for Dr Fox and George Osborne to have a little chat I think….

  8. Bazman
    Posted June 28, 2008 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    Strikes, famine, war and peace. England has never closed this gap.
    Labour has utterly failed to make any progress in social mobility, but in the last hundred years the Conservatives have been the dominant political party. Grammer schools are private schools for the middle classes paid for by the taxpayer and the army as an example of social mobility is laughable.
    It's not what you know…. Will get you less far than it did but still very far.
    As quoted by the great anti-hero Withnail in the cult film Withnail & I (1987). "I dislike relatives in general. In particular my own"

  9. Adrian Peirson
    Posted June 28, 2008 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

    Another example I like to give of people working together for the Greater good is an Orchestra.

    Yet Another example of how the country ought to be run is Wimbledon, I recently visited with my two children, we camped overnight in one of the Parks, the very friendly, pleasant staff organised over 3000 campers then arranged queue positions.
    We were lucky enough to get hold of Centre Court tickets.
    At all times in the queing there were plenty of staff on hand, inside were members of the Armed Forces, again Friendly and Knew exactly what they were supposed to do and able to give accurate directions and information.

    By the way, the Over night camp arranged by Wimbledon was FREE, no fleecing of the Public at every opportunity.

    Basic entrance was £20, centre court cost me a little more at £57.

    I have been to the Wimbledon Championships a number of time and always marvel at the Friendly atmoshpere and flawless efficienct organistion of the staff and Stewards.
    I don't know how many thousands of people there were but Not a hint of any Trouble.

    It always strikes me that this is how the country and People should be working, but sadly, Once the day is over I'm back to reality, Tube staff who do not know that my Rail ticket is actually valid on the Tube, forcing me to walk 45mins to the Rail Station (I'd run out of money) Only to be told I could have used the Ticket on the Tube.
    I was then directed Left to my Tube rather than right potentially sending us in the wrong direction.
    A Govt fleecing me at avery opportunity as it trise to redistribute my wealth to the EU, Quangos etc.

    Back to our Cut throat, disorganised melee that is life in Modern Britain.

    Many thanks to Wimbledon, their Stewards, the Armed Forces and the Players and the British Public for a Great day for my two children.

  10. Matthew Reynolds
    Posted October 17, 2010 at 12:45 am | Permalink

    Well John might I suggest sacking as many MOD civil servants as possible whie putting more contracts onto the open market to get better hardware at better value and getting extra cash to the frontlines in Iraq & Afghanistan . How on earth can QUANGO's cost £100 billion a year while we fight terror on a shoestring ? These pointless bodies need either merging to cut out duplication or hived off so that they are funded by people paying for their services directly with no taxpayer money at all . Most would be out of business quite quickly and enough cash could fund a bigger military budget . This would mean better pay for the troops , better accomodation , improved hardware , more forces personnal overall and a greater number of high quality of tanks , planes etc

    Why match Labour spending plans when you can axe or merge or hive off QUANGO's and thus sack the Labour appointed jobsworths to provide a better deal for the armed forces ? Time for Dr Fox and George Osborne to have a little chat I think….

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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