‘Fairness’ means nothing if you wont talk about class….
Will Hutton has a rather excellent piece in the pages of Comment is Free arguing that not only does class still matter but it ‘effects everything we do’. He argues that;
Britain is a chronically unfair and increasingly closed society and private education plays a central role.
His piece severely undermines the notion that Britain is a functioning meritocracy which it most defiantly is not. Also, he effectively undermines the Cameron-inspired insistence that the solution is a ‘Big Society’; pointing out that philanthropic giving is actually down. Central to Hutton’s argument is the premise that private education allows the middle and upper classes to perpetuate themselves.
Bridging this gap will take more than increased investment in the state sector; it would have to mean the effective abolition of the private sector in education. Something that none of the three main political parties is willing to countenance but is the only way to make sure equality of opportunity exists in real terms.
Voices like Hutton’s are increasingly likely to become stronger as an ‘austere’ Cameron government makes social mobility even harder with its naïve belief in a ‘big society’. More people will invariably feel the pinch and less will come to believe that Britain is somewhere where any kind of meaningful equality of opportunity exists. Labour, possibly under the leadership of the ‘Ed Miliband generation’ (and possibly the man himself), will probably respond with an appeal to ‘collective social action’.
How the Liberal Democrats will respond is another matter entirely. Because we want to talk about fairness without talking about class; even in the haphazard way Labour does, the Lib Dems will probably end-up with nice rhetorical flourishes and the odd innovative and inspired policy (like reforming the tax system). However, while ignoring the ‘elephant in the room’ ie, class the sum will add-up to being less than its parts.