George Carey

Diary – 28 December 2012

Well, what a year it has been. Another one full of financial doom and gloom. I’ve never known such a prolonged period of anxiety and pessimism in my lifetime. With our breakfast news we imbibe daily the latest glum forecasts. George Osborne talks of a ‘healing’ of the UK economy but at the same time he warned of years of economic pain ahead. Where is the ‘can-do’ attitude that I’ve seen recently on several trips to America? Though the election exposed the US as a very divided society, there is still a definite spirit of entrepreneurialism over there. There is still an ‘American dream’ that even the poorest and most humble can succeed.

The worst pieces of news in 2012 were to do with youth unemployment and ‘social mobility’. OECD figures last spring showed that Britain has the lowest social mobility in the developed world. Most damning of all was the statistic that the top 1 per cent of the UK has a greater share of national income than at any time since the 1930s. In particular, there is a basic failure in our education system. The same OECD figures found that parental influence has a bigger impact on a child’s outcomes in education than in any other developed country. Yet the quiet revolution in Britain is the growth of academies and free schools: 55 free schools opened in September. In May 2010 there were 203 academies; two years later there were 1,807. The spreading of their benefits throughout the education system is one of the greatest factors in counteracting this dearth of social mobility. I applaud Andrew Adonis, Tony Blair and Michael Gove for their vision.

So does it matter that Old Etonians currently inhabit the ‘top jobs’ — Mayor of London, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Prime Minister, and now Archbishop of Canterbury? Not in the least.

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