The Spectator

What Cameron should have said

What Cameron should have said
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Here’s what I wish David Cameron had said when discussing social mobility with John Humphrys this morning.

The reason I’m in politics, John, is to address the problem you’ve just highlighted. Belief in social mobility is stamped in the DNA of the Conservatives – and perhaps the most scandalous failure of Labour these last ten years is the way it’s failed to covert prosperity into social cohesion. The truth is that 5.3 million people are on out-of-work benefits. Now don’t interrupt me, John, you may not think it’s relevant but this figure is never aired in public and it cuts to the core of the social mobility problem. One in seven of our working-age population are on welfare, John, and they are not breaking out of it. The economy's growing, but the welfare rolls stay the same. Job vacancies suck in 1,500 immigrants a day.


Gordon Brown’s accomplishment, if you can call it that, is to combine mass immigration with mass joblessness. The two are seldom together. But his policies have been designed to produce a grateful electorate, not pursue social justice. Or social mobility.


Next, look at sink schools. The state will next year be paying £5,750 per pupil on education, one of the highest figures in the developed world. In deprived areas, it’s even more: £9,600 per pupil in the Hackney City Academy where I visited last week. So let’s not kid ourselves that cash is the problem. The problem is that this money is being siphoned off by bureaucrats and special interest groups – the sort of people who operate hand in glove with this tawdry Labour government. Only a Conservative government can break the mould, and release to schools the money which the taxpayer sets aside for them.


And if you want social mobility, let’s look at the countries that do it best: Sweden and the Netherlands. Both spend less than we do on secondary education. But neither have sink schools. If a school is bad, no one goes to it – that’s because they have a proper school choice system, where any two teachers can set up a school without being blackballed by local authority cartels. Bureaucrats won’t open new schools if there are vacancies in bad ones, John, and that’s why social mobility has got steadily worse under the comprehensive education experiment. It’s an experiment that only the Conservatives would end. Pouring more cash into the same failed system hasn’t worked for Gordon Brown over the last ten years, and the people in these council estates can’t afford another year of his medicine. That’s why Britain needs a general election, right now.