Kathy Gyngell: Young victims of the great social mobility delusion

I kept checking my news feeds yesterday, but still no announcement came that the Bishop of Burnley was standing down.

After his Thought for Today and his solemn appeal to conscience, that the problem of social mobility lies not just with the government but also with us, I thought he must.

Sacrifice your rental incomes for ‘fair rents’, he’d exhorted second home owners. Lower your profits and reduce share dividends, you employers and shareholders, be ready to forfeit them for fair pay! If greater access for the poor to university means a bright kid with better-off parents forgoing his place, sacrifice your child!

The bishop left no table unturned in his modern Temple of Inequity.

Surely, though, it could only be a matter of time before he realised that his inspiration, ‘If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven’ (Matthew 19:21), had to apply to him too. That social mobility logic must mean giving away your job too.

But no. I’m afraid that virtue signalling, as my colleague Dr Jules Gomes explained this weekend, comes at a rather cheaper price than personal sacrifice.

It is not my intention to trouble Dr North’s own conscience, rather to wake up his brain. For like so many denizens of the media and political establishments, he is in the grip of the social mobility delusion.

This is the mental disorder that conflates poverty with (lack of) social mobility and puts both down to inherent capitalist unfairness. You can be sure that anyone you hear rehearsing ‘if you are poor you die poor’ (Alan Milburn) or that ‘patterns of inequality are imprinted from one generation to the next’ (Nick Clegg) or even ‘our social mobility rate is morally indefensible’ (Michael Gove, to his shame) is in the grip of the condition.

The irony that two of the three - Alan Milburn, born in 1958 of a single mother and brought up on a council estate in County Durham, and Michael Gove, adoptive son of an Aberdeen fish skinner and cutter -  demonstrate the very opposite has passed them by.

Not that the chippy Mr Milburn, just removed as the government’s ‘Social Mobility Czar’, seems very grateful for anything. The angry, self-delusional one told Marr on Sunday that his fate had sealed it: ‘There is little hope now of progress to a fairer Britain.’

Not once, in the seven years on the government’s gravy train since the witless Nick Clegg appointed him to the role of chief grievance inciter, has Mr Milburn stopped to properly examine the evidence for his ludicrous claims.

There is none. Sociologist Peter Saunders’s exposé of politicians’ cynical exploitation of this myth has been in the public domain since 2012. He concluded then that ideology and preconceived beliefs have driven the debate, not facts.

Contrary to received wisdom, we are not a caste society; the evidence of social mobility in Britain is extensive:

  • More than half of us are in a different class from the one we were born into and the same proportion of us are downwardly mobile out of our class as are upwardly mobile.
  • Four out of five children who grow up in poor households do not end up poor themselves.
  • Social mobility is the norm in Britain, not the exception, and it covers the range from top to bottom.
  • International comparisons show that our social mobility rate falls around the middle of the rankings.

Research on class mobility simply does not support the claim that social mobility has been falling, and several studies show the reverse to be true.

But, he says,  it suits politicians in both main parties to believe we have a social mobility problem, even though we don’t. It fits Labour’s egalitarian conviction to believe that rich kids get unfair advantages and that working class children are prevented from improving themselves. For the Cameron ‘modernisers’, he continues, attacking private schools and elite universities is a way of showing that the party has changed its spots, and that it now cares about ‘ordinary people’.

On this, May is the spawn of a Cameron-Miliband marriage. Like Labour, she assumes that where there is difference it must mean a problem of unfairness;  where there is any association between origins and destinations, it must be the result of unfair social advantages or disadvantages.

Politicians may say they want a meritocracy, but few will face the truth that in a meritocracy there will always be some association between class origins and destinations. Nor do they want to know that innate intelligence explains about half of the variance in cognitive test scores, or, as research like Saunders’s finds, that cognitive ability is about three times stronger than class origins as a predictor of people’s eventual social class destinations in Britain.

So they continue to define the wrong problem while remaining wilfully blind to the real one. Britain does not have a serious ‘social mobility problem’ but it does, as Saunders argues, have a serious ‘underclass problem’.

The problem of underclass children growing up in welfare-dependent households, frequently abandoned by their fathers and brought up by young mothers who cannot cope, exposed to substance abuse in the home, with no structure in their lives and no positive adult role models, is not one of lack of opportunity, but one of fundamental neglect.

‘Breaking down barriers’ has little relevance to their problems. Nor will forcing universities to accept youngsters without qualifications, or pushing positive discrimination policies on to employers, have any significant effect on social mobility rates which, Saunders says, have hardly varied despite fifty years of radical educational upheavals. They will, though, do lasting damage to our economy by preventing the recruiting of the best on purely meritocratic principles.

In the meantime, the government’s fiscal individualism encourages lifestyle choices that could not create a more effective barrier to children’s life chances, or be more cruel.

You might put that in your conscience pipe, Bishop North, and smoke it.

Kathy Gyngell

  • richardofkent

    The social mobility of the 70s created adults from working class backgrounds that not only succeeded but moved their political allegiances from the moribund labour party to Margaret Thatcher. Perhaps that is why labour seem to be so content to keep their constituents poor !

    • David R

      The prospect of social mobility for anyone was metamorphosed by the Blob into a promise that every child can become a captain of industry, regardless of the inability to read and write exhibited by many on leaving school. As for mental arithmetic …

      Yes it can be done, but not every apprentice will become Lord Hives. Not every child will become even an MP let alone PM, and there are no formal qualifications needed for that job.

      As to “50% of children will go to University”, this simply means that perfectly good Technical Colleges (and some bad ones) were relabelled as Universities. The degrees they offer are epitomised by “Golf Course Managemet” which is a skill best learned “on the job”.

      • martianonlooker

        “Yes it can be done”.
        You couldn’t possibly be alluding to the likes of Jess Phillips and Diane Abbot, could you?

      • CRSM

        The vast majority of workplace skills are best learned on the job. All that is needed initially is for parents to ensure that their child can read and has good basic numeric skills by the time they start primary school and to enthuse the child about finding things out. The rest will come naturally.
        Obviously the amount of parental contact with the child up to the age of 5 to be able to do this is considerable and needs the child’s mother to be sufficiently educated and to be at home all the time. We have neither of those in place at the moment, but if this could be done we would see the ‘virtuous circle’ feedback loop come into play and things, as was once prematurely said, “can only get better”.

        • Ed McA

          I’d prefer that you changed parental contact to include considerably more years beyond 5 as family educational ethos needs to continue through secondary school, perhaps university.
          Additionally, why should the mother be responsible for education? The only time my wife took off work was during maternity leave but then we both had parents nearby who doted on their grandchildren but with the break-up of family this advantage is too often unavailable to others.
          I was actually the prime educator with my three as, while I did this, my wife usually made the evening meal!

          • David R

            Actually during the early years of WW2 I was left with elderly neighbours who taught me to count, then to play cribbage, then to play chess, all before my fourth birthday. My mother was back teaching after being sacked for the unforgiveable sin (in 1938) of getting married.

        • gunnerbear

          “The vast majority of workplace skills are best learned on the job.” Best get the jobs created then…..

      • Alan Llandrindod Wells

        The noxious Blair said 40%, it was the poor, old, moron, Major that said 50%.

        Let the ones that wish to leave at 16yrs.
        Shut the worst 20 universities.
        Abolish the apprenticeship scheme, which is bureaucratic stupidity.

        Then get radical.

      • Ed McA

        Yes, the closure of ”techs” was a disaster and I watched in shock as good lathes etc were thrown out and what we now have is a college offering no worthwhile qualification.

      • gunnerbear

        Before you knock the educational standards on offer, perhaps you might pause and reflect on how “Management” is spelt. 🙂

    • gunnerbear

      Pity those jobs disappeared then under the same govt. and the one she helped to create in her image….

      • richardofkent

        Don’t blame her for New Labour. As to the job losses, those were mostly in old heavy industries where, unfortunately, the UK was not as efficient as other countries. The confidence that was generated in the mid to late 80s allowed the UK to compete on an international stage.

        • gunnerbear

          Speaking o’ jobs that went…can you guess who this lament about the long term damage done by the closure of the mines is by… “Those mining communities had good working class values and a sense of family values. The men did real men’s heavy work going down the pit. There were also some very close-knit communities which were able to deal with the few troublesome kids. If they had any problems they would take the kid round the back and give them a good clip round the ear and that would be the end of that. Many of these communities were completely devastated, with people out of work turning to drugs and no real man’s work because all the jobs had gone. There is no doubt that this led to a breakdown in these communities with families breaking up and youths going out of control. The scale of the closures went too far. The damage done to those communities was enormous as a result of the strike.” Go on guess which politician said that….go..take a guess….

        • gunnerbear

          The UK shipyards had to compete against unfair competition from abroad as foreign governments poured cash into their own countries industrial bases….here in the UK, tools and fools in London (all political colours), did nothing and now wonder why there is hard fixed inter-generational unemployment in some parts of the the UK…

          …the foreign coal that UK miners were competing against was never cheaper….they too were competing against unfair competition and the tools and fools in London (all colours) did nothing.

          Now the tools (all colours) in the HoC wonder, even as we stand on an island made o’ coal, how to keep the lights on…

          Germany gave its still steel industry cash to modernise (pretending it was for environmental reasons)…when the UK steel industry was under pressure, the utter tool who is Sajid Javid went on holiday….

          http://www.telegraph.co.uk/

          ..when event the DT is saying to a Blue ‘You’re a moron…” then that says it all.

          Meanwhile, in between Blue HMGs, the Reds threw open the gates of the UK to all and sundry – thus truly raining cold urine on those in low and no skilled jobs….

          …I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if you’re towards the bottom of the pile in the UK, it matters not a single damn iota who runs the UK – Red or Blue – because you’re still gonna get the end of a very pointy shaft.

  • martianonlooker

    ” virtue signalling………. comes at a rather cheaper price than personal sacrifice. It seems that the Church and parliament are infested with such examples. how are Cooper’s Syrians?

    “damning indictment of politicians’ cynical exploitation of this myth”. In the advice handbook for MPs there must be instruction on how to never let facts get in the way of a narrative.

    • Woman at home

      The current political rule is to avoid facts at all costs. Make up a narrative, cherry pick convenient myths and accuse your opponent of your own failings. Job done.

      I’m not joking.

  • Colkitto03

    ‘Four out of five children who grow up in poor households do not end up poor themselves’.
    This is very true. Every sizable town in the country will have its ‘rough estates’
    These estates exist because, in every generation, the clever, hard working and talented born into these communities leave them. They get out, they might even say escape.

    The point is that sink estates are created because of the people who allow themselves to be left behind. The people who don’t and wont and cant improve their lot.move up. No government policy can change this.

    • Bik Byro

      Nor will throwing money at it unfortunately. A rough council estate in a town several miles from me just had over a hundred thousand pounds spent on an adventure playground. Within a fortnight it had been vandalised and wrecked.

      • paul parmenter

        Right with you there. I have had a grandstand view of something similar happening on my doorstep, in a so-called deprived area. £35 million of taxpayers’ money later, all spent and virtually nothing to show for it. Those who were the prime movers in getting to decide how the money got spent surprisingly ended up with big new cars and big new houses – well away from the deprived area.

    • TheRightToArmBears

      I came from a council estate.
      Most of my contempories became professionally qualified, as I and my two brothers did.
      The problem with council estates was and is that there has never been any system of evicting problem residents. The decent/normal tenants were driven out, creating the sink estate.
      Now, common purpose controlled NALGO staffs do their worst to evict the last white tenants, filling every estate with Muslims, ensuring a crushing Labour vote.

      • Bik Byro

        The trouble with evicting problem residents is you then have to put them somewhere else. Much as you want to, you can’t just make them disappear. Maybe our ancestors had the right idea shipping them off to the other side of the world. Not Australia this time though, I like Australia.

      • gunnerbear

        Does NALGO even exist any more…? “Now, common purpose controlled NALGO staffs do their worst to evict the last white tenants, filling every estate with Muslims,” Evict…wow, I take it you’ve got evidence for that because that sort of gerrymandering is illegal – ask Dame Shirley Porter about that – and the Police should be informed

        • sirnigelgresley

          1993:

          NALGO + NUPE + COHSE = UNISON

          Nalgo was affiliated to the TUC but the membership consistently voted against affiliation to Labour.

  • Jonathan Tedd

    Nail on head. It is strong families that enable the best chance of success and hard work of course. I meet many Indian families who started with nothing but grit. All of their children go on to the professions.

    Stop paying singe parents, giving them homes and other incentives!

    • Ed McA

      I’d agree with your last sentence but I would distinguish between different groups of single parents. For example, a hard working family lose a member through a road or industrial accident or some disease and so should be looked after, if in need.
      …..but let’s face it, this will not happen!

      • sirnigelgresley

        It used to be the case that the children of a parent who was single as a result of bereavement, fared far better than those of other single parent families, although I’ve seen no stats on that for years.

        • Groan

          It is still the case. Its a topic I have kept up with because that’s what happened to me. A key factor is if the dead parent is still part of the family, i.e. they are remembered now and again and children have a sense of the dead parent as a person. In much the same way its important for the non resident parent to play a part in children’s lives. Crucially in bereavement the child is not rejected. The worse is where a parent leaves and it appears to the child that part of this is a rejection of them. In the real world there are better ways to do things and worse ways, and we do no one a service by hiding this information from people.

          • sirnigelgresley

            Completely agree with the points you make. I saw it with my sister whose husband died suddenly in his early forties, and on their youngest son’s sixth birthday. The house was full of family photographs, almost all including her husband, and the children used to love looking through albums of happy holiday photos and talking about their father, and asking questions .

            My sister had stopped working after the birth of the youngest but returned to full-time work after her husband’s death, but only when she thought the family could cope emotionally and when she was satisfied she had adequate support in place. Her children, all grown up now, are a credit to her, and have always been exceptionally close and supportive of my sister and of one another.

  • Colonel Mustard

    The universities are apparently churning out grievance theorists who go on to lucrative positions influencing governments and corporates to incorporate grievance theory into practice, which is like sawing off the branch of the tree you are sitting on.

  • Glass 9/10 empty

    “Politicians may say they want a meritocracy…….” On this basis, most would be out of a job.

  • Sean Toddington

    Quite a confusing article. Firstly the image and headline at the top suggests that Michael Gove is proposed as a young victim of the social mobility delusion. Secondly, by way of the usual vitriol about Alan Milburn, the Bishop of Burnley, Nick Clegg et al , she makes her point: there is no problem with social mobility. Then in the second to last paragraph, she seems to say there is a problem with social mobility, but that it is caused by the Tory party’s fiscal individualism. Or something.

    Negative, sour, poorly constructed and above all perplexing.

    • TheRightToArmBears

      Aren’t you supposed to be commenting as Bobworth today?

  • Flaketime

    There are very few who really want a meritocracy and all that entails. We have had a Labour government in power now for the past two decades, with no sign of that changing.
    People on these forums themselves are wholly and staunchly opposed to people of talent & ability being allowed to rise to the top, after all it means someone inferior already there being displaced, and they simply don’t want that to happen.

    Only Margaret Thatcher as PM was in favour of a meritocracy, all the rest for the past 1000 years were in favour of transfer of wealth position and almost everything including jobs by inheritance.

    You cannot have anything approaching a meritocracy when you have no inheritance tax, which is what has happened in Britain. Now those whose parents own property which has grown in value, never been taxed and is unearned through any virtue can expect to take possession of that property without any kind of loss to the state, giving them a massive advantage over anyone more deserving.

    Until we raise the inheritance tax – and use that to lower income tax then we can never have social mobility. If you expect Labour red or blue to do that then you’re in for a very long wait.

    • Bik Byro

      The other side of the coin is to say that children need to inherit the full amount from their parents without any tax taken off in order to get themselves decently on the housing ladder.

      • Flaketime

        That’s the whole point Bik! Bingo you answered the question! If your parents don’t have anything to leave you because they are poor then you won’t as you say be able to get yourself decently on the housing ladder and thus the issue of social mobility is succinctly proved!

        Well done!

        Now if everyone started off from an equal base point where the issue of your parents is removed the playing field is levelled and house prices will inevitably fall as a result !

        • Bik Byro

          Sorry. I’ve worked hard for my assets. I want to hand them over to the people I love and can be trusted to use and spend them wisely.
          Not to a government who will fritter it away on some virtue signalling pet project I care nothing for.

          • Flaketime

            Well then you have to stand up and say that you do not believe that people should succeed by their merits but by the merits of something their distant forebears did, and resign yourself to the fact that talent is not welcome in the UK as it wasn’t at the time of the brain drain.

            It would be a pointless exercise if the government merely raised more tax from this, the suggestion is that they raise the tax on unearned undeserved income, and lower it on earned income such as income tax thus incentivising hard work and achievement.

            No wonder so many people who are poor think it’s just not worth it anymore, and that they’re better off on benefits, because they’re right !

          • Bik Byro

            I am in favour of low tax. All tax. Whatever form it takes.

          • Flaketime

            Low tax or zero tax?
            The burden has to fall somewhere, and my argument here is that reducing it to zero on inheritance means that income has not been fully taxed in order to achieve that.
            All I am arguing for is a levelling of the playing field and rewarding the efforts of the talented not those who do nothing to deserve it.

          • Bik Byro

            I’m all for the rewarding of talent. But I have to balance that against passing on my assets to people I love and trust versus handing it over to an organisation who I suspect will probably blow it on some Venezuelan rabbit breeding project.

          • mudlark1

            You’ll never be able to create a level playing field, unless of course you believe in communism. It’s not just inherited wealth you would need to regulate. It’s also the investment in children’s health and education parents make and which are arguably, more important than money. Are you going to force parents to feed their children junk food and encourage them to stop educating and supporting their offspring? If you’re not, then there will always be huge differences. You mentioned talent but you can’t ignore the part our genetic inheritance plays in that or whether or not our parents recognise and nurture a child’s aptitude.

        • CRSM

          But most people buy their first house well before either parent has died.

    • tamimisledus

      Inheritance Tax is a tax on giving.
      It is legalised theft.
      It is immoral and obscene.

      • Flaketime

        So is all tax perhaps we should have no tax and you can pay your way as you go like in Tudor times?

        That way it’s OK to murder someone just so long as their family can’t afford to have someone arrest you and bring you to trial?

        • Bik Byro

          The tax on assets has already been paid. Stamp duty. VAT on any home improvements. VAT on the furniture and electrical items in the home.
          This is charging tax on the same items twice.

          • Flaketime

            No Bik Byro it isn’t! I came across someone complaining about inheritance tax prior to it being abolished on a house in Wembly which had cost the owner something like £4K back in the day and sold for something around £1.5 million. There was no VAT for much of the period and it wasn’t sold with the furniture & electrical goods which were worn out anyway.

            Worse than that though for your point is that stamp duty on homes wasn’t introduced until the 1950s and was never paid in this case.

            I’d say that this is pretty much an open and shut case personally!

            Why is it the case that if instead of buying a home the money had been used to buy shares or art, there would be at lease some capital gains tax, but in the case of a home there is none?

          • Bik Byro

            Yes Flaketime it has! [insert exclamation mark]

            You cherry picked one anecdotal example to try and support your point. How many real families in Britain do you think are represented by your ridiculous one-off example?

          • Flaketime

            Very many my own included !

          • gunnerbear

            “How many real families in Britain do you think are represented by your ridiculous one-off example?” How many aren’t?

        • tamimisledus

          It is patently untrue that all tax is a tax on giving. Only inheritance tax is tax that paid when purely when you give money to someone else, in this case after death.

        • tamimisledus

          Your analogy makes no sense.

          And an analogy proves nothing anyway.

        • tamimisledus

          You need to understand what tax is and how it works before you start talking about tax.

    • tamimisledus

      The value of property has NOT grown (except through the efforts of its owner.
      The price has increased.
      That price is the price required to buy a house of the same value.
      Taxing property based on price rises means buyers will have to pay more for a house of the same value.
      Taxing property is immoral and obscene.

      • TheRightToArmBears

        The price has not increased.
        The worth of the shin-plasters issued as money has diminished because the government keeps printing more and more, and then giving shiploads of them to gimmigrants.

    • tamimisledus

      There is no moral law that says everthing has to be taxed.

      What next? Tax on the air? Tax on movement? A window tax? A salt tax. A tithe.
      The current tax system is obscene and immoral.
      It reached its current most obscene point when Kenneth Clarke first taxed insurance premiums.
      Expect Labour to do their utmost to best him.

      • Flaketime

        And where does anyone suggest that there is?

        There is however a moral law which says that tax is the price of living in a civilised society.

        At the moment this is a socialist country stealing money from other generations and expecting them to pay back what we in this generation have spent on ourselves. We simply aren’t paying enough tax to cover the outgoings.

        Raise inheritance tax to 50% and close the tax planning loopholes make sure we cease spending more than we are earning.

        Of course you are entitled to disagree with this and the solution is to vote for uncle Jeremy who will gladly steal the next generations tax from them.

        • tamimisledus

          Uncle Jeremy (Corbyn?) is not a solution to anything.

        • tamimisledus

          “There is however a moral law which says that tax is the price of living in a civilised society.”.

          No, there’s no such thing. Society imposes society imposes society’s laws.
          You (and others) just made up that “law” because it suits your purposes to claim “higher laws”, just like religions claim higher laws.

        • tamimisledus

          “And where does anyone suggest that there is?”
          I not only suggest it, I claim that you yourself use this fantasy.

          Here what you say.
          “….. property which has grown in value, never
          been taxed and is unearned through any virtue …. without any kind of loss to the state …..”.

          The implication is that there is some morally wrong with such property being taxed.
          Quite apart from the fact that the “state” never possessed any of this, so could not “lose” it.
          Your whole sentence is incoherent – wrong words, and not in any sensible order.

        • tamimisledus

          Why not raise it to 100%?
          If it makes sense to raise to 50%, it must make more sense to raise it to 100% …. that is if you are actually trying to make sense, although it is not apparent from what you say.

      • Reborn

        I find it hard to believe, but this government taxes firms that take on apprentices.
        If I am wrong, please tell me so, it would make my week.

    • Sargv

      > Until we raise the inheritance tax – and use that to lower income tax then we can never have social mobility.

      I used to have the same (very unpopular) opinion until I realised, that inheritance over biological lines is the most important driving factor for people to accumulate wealth. It’s a cornerstone of capitalism. Inheritance is the accumulated capital over the lifetime.

      If you de-personalise the process with the state taxation, people will stop saving. What’s the point? I can’t help my kids – so I’ll have a good time instead.

      It might sound nice in theory, but it will kill the economic growth in practice. Same goes, unfortunately, with wealth taxation. So we are stuck with income/spending taxes, if we expect from the state to provide social services.

      • gunnerbear

        “It might sound nice in theory, but it will kill the economic growth in practice.” Except spending is taxed and spending drives growth…

        • Sargv

          > Except spending is taxed and spending drives growth.

          Well, “borrow & spend” should be the most viable strategy for perpetual economic growth then.

          • gunnerbear

            Seems to have been for years… 🙂

          • Groan

            Hence periodic “crashes” as lenders get cold feet about getting their interest or capital back. The new ruse “QE” has been to use the opportunity to create money without needing to print it. We sail blithely on but there will be another …. it’ll have another name of course… as the obvious problem of borrowing for consumption catches up with us again.

          • gunnerbear

            ” The new ruse “QE” has been to use the opportunity to create money without needing to print it.” Hellfire, could you imagine the bill from the printers….if the stuff really had to be printed…

    • tamimisledus

      “Until we raise the inheritance tax – and use that to lower income tax then we can never have social mobility.”

      This is just gesture politics.

      Neither raising inheritance tax or lowering income tax will ensure social mobility.
      Income tax has been reduced quite considerably for most in the last seven years. Not the slightest increase in social mobility has been observed.

    • tamimisledus

      “…. massive advantage over anyone more deserving.”
      Could tell me who these individuals are, what groups they belong to and why they are more deserving?

    • tamimisledus

      “…. massive advantage over anyone more deserving.”

      Could quantify this “massive” advantage, with justifications?

    • tamimisledus

      “…. massive advantage over anyone more deserving.”

      Could you tell me how much of this massive advantage should be given to the more “deserving”, and why the more “deserving” should have this massive advantage after that massive advantage has been taking from someone else?

  • tamimisledus
  • tamimisledus

    Why is it that, no matter how hard we try, fifty percent of the population remains stubbornly below average?

    • tamimisledus

      Are they just not trying hard enough?

    • richardofkent

      We should legislate that those in the top 75% are above average and those in the bottom 25% are average.

      • tamimisledus

        At the same time, we should legislate that the value of pi be set at 22/7.
        The last time (to my knowledge) that anybody tried it was rejected.

        • Bik Byro

          Just goes to show that “post truth” and “fake news” are not new – they go at least as far back as 1894

        • CRSM

          You could set it as that on a non-planar surface 🙂

          (Just checked. No you can’t. 22/7 is actually larger that the value of PI).

          • Bik Byro

            Aaargh. Stokes’ theorem! I’m triggered.

          • CRSM

            “I am a bear of very little brain and Tensor Calculus bothers me”.

          • tamimisledus

            It seems that irony has gone the way of the rhetorical question.
            By the way, whatever did happen to the rhetorical question?

          • CRSM

            Irony. Is that a substance that gets rusty if left in a damp place?

          • tamimisledus

            I would actually like you to prove, or offer proof that the “value of PI” differs in non-Euclidean spaces.
            But in any case, PI always refers to the ratio between the radius (and diameter) and of a circle in Euclidean space.

          • CRSM

            I was thinking of the 2D inhabitants of Edwin Abbott’s ‘Flatland’. These beings can only perceive two dimensions, so if the universe on (not in) which they live is actually the surface of a 3D sphere, then a circle there will have a circumference slightly smaller than D * Pi. The effect will be more pronounced, the smaller the 3D size of their 2D spherical surface.
            Although this is not something that ‘A Square’ and his friends would perceive, perhaps some Flatland mathematicians (all of whom would be many-sided polygons or even circles) might have given the idea some theoretical consideration?
            😉

      • Labour_is_bunk

        After all, 75% of people make up three quarters of the population.

    • therealguyfaux ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

      George Carlin explained it thusly: “Think how dumb the average person is, and then realise, if that’s ‘average,’ there must be plenty who are even dumber than THAT!” And I cannot gainsay his logic here.

      • Bik Byro

        One of my favourite quotes

        • Alan Llandrindod Wells

          Everybody should get a degree in their chosen subject.
          Awarded at 12 years old.

          • Ravenscar

            prizes for all!

            it’s OK, because jezza says.

          • Alan Llandrindod Wells

            I would love to blame Jezza.
            But it was Blair, Major, and Cameron what done it.

          • HappyCheese

            As you say, Jezza’s never held a position of power in his life. It was the oh-so-reasonable ‘centre’ that got us into this mess.

          • tamimisledus

            Does that mean Jezza is not now Prime Minister, and he never has been?
            I am sure that if Jezza became Prime Minister [perish the thought], he would soon give you plenty of reason to blame him.

          • Alan Llandrindod Wells

            Blame him for what?
            Would he be worse than useless, gutless, Theresa the Appeaser.

          • tamimisledus

            Yes he would.

          • Alan Llandrindod Wells

            Only people with welfare-dependant parentage, or who are of ethnic origin, should be allowed first class honours.
            And they should get their degrees at 11 years old.

          • Alan Llandrindod Wells

            Alan.
            Professors and lecturers should only be appointed if they have memorised, and can repeat ,10 pages of Das Kapital, and 3 pages of the Communist Manifesto.

    • CRSM

      Probably because people don’t understand simple statistics.

    • tamimisledus

      I have just had a blinding flash of inspiration.

      It is not that the lower 50% are not trying hard enough to get into the upper 50%.
      The upper 50% are just not trying hard enough to get into the lower 50%.

      This must change.

  • Kenneth

    Bishop of Burnley … one of a long parade of stars lined up by the BBC to brainwash us into its line of thinking.

    That’s not enough though. Even the BBC’s massive reach is having trouble getting to youngsters.

    Never fear! The BBC have so much of our money left over that they are going on a brainwashing roadshow:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-42242630

    Now your child and many others will have the BBC’s politics rammed into them – just in case they missed the Bishop.

  • therealguyfaux ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    In all seriousness, one must ask, as a better question, “What percentage of people move off the bottom rung to a higher rung, albeit not necessarily the highest?” To the extent that a large-enough bloc of the population end up in absolute terms better off than they started, however modest the gain may be, isn’t that the metric you want to know?

    • Bik Byro

      And notwithstanding the fact that some people lack the initiative to move off their current rung, no matter how much encouragement and resource you throw at them.

      • getahead

        The other aspect being those above average not being provided with the means of a further education.

        • Bik Byro

          On the contrary, nowadays we give further education to anyone who can get a student loan regardless of their intelligence. More fool us, I say.

        • It’s the wrong type of further education. I my day one of the main sources of further education for ‘ordinary’ people were the Technical Colleges and Polytechnics Both my wife and I were educated this way, and I continued to study part-time until well into my twenties to obtain what was considered by most employers to be equivalent to a university degree. Now they are all third-rate pseudo universities.

  • Labour_is_bunk

    “Lower your profits and reduce share dividends, you employers and shareholders”…

    Which will mean lower pensions all round in the future. Explain what’s “fair” about that, your Bishopness.

    Many things about the Left make me smile (some make me want to cry), but an example of the former is someone of their ilk wittering on about “social mobility” when in truth one of the Ultimate Crimes in their eyes is working folk who rise above their peers to a better life – they then become “class traitors”, and shock, horror, may even end up voting for the Tories.
    On a similar theme, another undesirable facet of lefty working class culture is disdain for people showing any form of gratitude to their employers, or “forelock tugging” as they’d put it.

    • gunnerbear

      “On a similar theme, another undesirable facet of lefty working class culture is disdain for people showing any form of gratitude to their employers, or “forelock tugging” as they’d put it.” Employers cut people at the drop of hat and whine they can’t pay decent wages as the suits collect millions in wages. Decent employers get loyalty…s**t employers don’t, it’s as simple as that and if you’re the sort of person that can’t grasp that….

  • HappyCheese

    “The problem of underclass children growing up in welfare-dependent households, frequently abandoned by their fathers and brought up by young mothers who cannot cope, exposed to substance abuse in the home, with no structure in their lives and no positive adult role models, is not one of lack of opportunity, but one of fundamental neglect.”

    The problem is feminism in other words, and its (a) insistence that the non-nuclear family is preferable to the stable, two parent, two income “normal” nuclear family ideal; and (b) its relentless reduction of men, their achievements and social status. If there are no suitable husbands around, there is no marriage to begin with after all.

    • Royinsouthwest

      In fairness the problem is much wider than feminism. It takes two to tango and women are not solely responsible for marriage breakdown. It is true, however, that damaging men does absolutely nothing to help women, quite the contrary.

      • Sargv

        “The problem is feminism” is a mirror image of “the problem is the Patriarchy”.

        • tamimisledus

          Men ,may be the mirror image of women.
          Feminism is not a mirror image of Patriarchy.
          Though I would agree that some feminazis would like to see women (themselves) take a dominant dictatorial role over all society.

          • Sargv

            > Feminism is not a mirror image of Patriarchy.

            That’s not what I said.

            What I said is that men, saying that “our society has a problem, and that is feminism”are not much different from women blaming the Patriarchy. Above all, it’s the shifting of responsibility. But we created this mess together.

  • grrlpower

    #MeToo has been named as TIME magazine’s Person of the Year.

    This is a great victory for women everywhere!!

    • Royinsouthwest

      Does “everywhere” include Rotherham, Rochdale, Newcastle, Yeoville and all the other places where feminists have ignored numerous real cases of sexual abuse and have been quite happy about the cover ups?

      • Sargv

        But of course! TIME already sent a copy of their magazine to every Rotherham victim to show that they care.

    • MorganCourtenay

      Really? The culture of making allegations to strangers on Twitter and then demanding belief as opposed to making a formal statement with the authorities is a victory for women?

  • When I went to Grammar School in the lat ’40s-early ’50s there seemed to be social mobility. There were quite a few boys from what would now have be called deprived areas who were at the school and the thing that one noticeable about these boys is that they were all very hard workers and near the top of their classes.

    The reason was that, in those days, there was the desire by parents for their children to do better in life than their parents had done. Their children had been given the opportunity and parents were determined that they should make the best of it; these were the ‘pushy’ parents of that time. It was a matter of pride for parents that their children should get on.

    This situation no longer seems to apply; there no longer seems to be the ambition to get on and do well. Mediocre schools no longer inspire children to get on, and, even when they do want to get on, it is hard to swim against the stream. I believe that the Grammar Schools made a great contribution towards social mobility by educating children from the poorer areas who had ability and ambition. It removed their education from the influence of those with no desire to learn and encouraged them to widen their horizons.

    • gunnerbear

      “This situation no longer seems to apply; there no longer seems to be the ambition to get on and do well.” There is but then you need to get a good job to ‘get on’….not a f**kin’ s**t ZHC one or one based on false ‘self employment’. Of course in your day when you left school, you had the pick of jobs you could walk into… …thanks to the governments older people voted in back in the day, the days of chopping and changing jobs at the drop of a hat are gone along with decent apprenticeships & low cost housing and any thought of a decent ‘works pension’…. …and the Conservatives sit back and wonder why the a**ehole who is Corbyn is breathing down their necks as he hoovers up the votes of younger people……you couldn’t make it up.

      • When I left school there was certainly no job to ‘jump into’. I had a job in a factory inspecting electrical equipment. Hourly paid, clocking in and out. But I took it because they gave me a paid day off for college to study and I also spent three nights each week studying. This was for three years until I managed to get a slightly better job as I passed my first set of exams. Another two years of evening classes and more exams. Nothing laid on a plate for me or most others in my generation. Hard slog to get anywhere if you didn’t want a low grade hourly paid job in a factory. I had five different jobs before I finally qualified as a Chartered Engineer.

        • gunnerbear

          “Hourly paid, clocking in and out. But I took it because they gave me a paid day off for college to study and I also spent three nights each week studying.” And in your day there was stacks of jobs with that route…they were called Apprenticeships….now thanks to HMG those sorts of Apprenticeships are rarer than rocking horse s**t.

          • Mine was in effect an apprenticeship, but there was never a formal agreement.
            Even if there were still apprenticeships, there are now no Technical Colleges where the academic side can be studied.

        • Old Nick

          Come to that, after obtaining my doctorate I was in six different jobs in seven years, in three countries, two states and the District of Columbia. The two consecutive years made no use of my qualifications.

          • My daughter got her doctorate whilst working as a civilian member of a police force. She said its only use there was when she attended high level meetings when it gave her more “status” than plain Mrs !

  • LoveMeIamALiberal

    This article is rather confused. It begins by arguing that social mobility is not a problem but then goes on to note – quite rightly – the problem of underclass children. If social mobility is not a problem then any underclass would be small or non-existent. Both statements cannot be true.

    The data is not conclusive but there is evidence of a growing underclass with limited social mobility. What Milburn and the rest of his useless Commission have failed to do is to define the reasons for this problem, which are largely due to marriage breakdown, or its non-existence, leading to children with no fathers in their lives and the consequent lack of stability impacting on their education. This site has been making this point since its creation.

    One must also make the point not clearly stated in the article that Milburn’s post and commission are useless and should be scrapped.

    • Sargv

      > If social mobility is not a problem then any underclass would be small or non-existent. Both statements cannot be true.

      They can. “Mobility” doesn’t mean “always up”. Mobility means you can go up if you try hard, and you will fall down if you don’t. When a lot of people stop trying in a society with a good level of social mobility, the underclass will grow.

      • LoveMeIamALiberal

        This is semantics. An underclass (as opposed to a lower class) is by definition not mobile; the children of that class stay in it. So if the underclass is bigger, there is less social mobility.

  • Sargv

    I might be wrong (I am not Christian after all), but the Bishop’s thoughts sound pretty much Christian to me.

    • You are wrong 😉
      God does not condone the principle of allowing two people to get together and vote to expropriate the private property of another, which by the way, is completely different from giving all your own money to serve God as in Matthew 19:21.

    • Kathy Gyngell

      I am sure they are in intent, but because he misconstrues a child neglect problem as a social mobility problem, they may prove less Christian in effect.

  • AR Devine

    Excellent piece. The issue of underclass culture (distinct from the working classes and indulged in by those in middle class income brackets too) exhibits itself in a hedonistic, consequence free approach to life with no regard for the detrimental effects one’s short term impulsive choices can have on one’s own future and on others. There is a moral vacuum underpinning many of the social problems Britain has faced for decades that few people are willing to talk about honestly in the mainstream media & parties.

    • Groan

      Though I generally agree I do think it is not the case that this vacuum is what people want. Both where I work and my work brings me constantly in contact with the “under class” . I think its important to point out that people generally aren’t intending the mess they perpetuate. Quite genuinely there appear to me (and research on attitudes and aspirations would tend to confirm this) to be a gulf between what people to aspire to in life and what happens. People experience life as if it “happens” to them. In something akin to the notion of education being about self discovery, we have lost the clear “route maps” which can advise or illustrate to folk about “how to” get the life they aspire to rather than the one that “turns up”.
      It probably appears condescending to suggest this but the loss of the ability of Church or other institutions to advise and guide leaves people at a genuine loss. Constantly there are pushes to “earn” and be a worker, but actually no real reasons advanced as to why and how that helps one make a better life. Now coming from an industrial suburb of the “respectable working class” there was clarity about patriotism and a good leavening of “non conformist” Christian ethics with dollops of Christian Socialism. In fact no end of advice and guidance which one could adopt or jettison. What I see is that this is largely absent (the route map not the particular ones I experienced) and for people who simply can’t invent their own lives in the manner of the middle classes or very intelligent.
      Personally I think it an outrageous dereliction of duty on the part of all social institutions to adopt a value free approach which enables them to avoid debate and challenge. It is cowardice, and the price is paid most by those who deserve more consideration from those fortunate enough to navigate life successfully.

  • David

    If landlords suddenly cut their rents from the market level to something significantly lower, the supply of new properties would stop completely. Of course there is an absolute shortage of new housing being built in the UK, and it has been like this for decades. The reasons for this sorry state are complicated. Clerics often issue these ideas without thinking through the implications of such actions within our market economy. Of course a non-market (Communist) economy, which the good Bishop I suspect would prefer, would create even greater shortages, of everything.