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Sunday Times letter 30 June 2013

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On 23 June 2013, The Sunday Times carried an interview with Alan Milburn, the Coalition government's Social Mobility 'Tsar', in which he complained that David Cameron had been ignoring him. The following week, the paper published my letter responding to Milburn's complaint. The full letter is given below (an edited version appeared in the paper).

Dear Sir,

Alan Milburn, head of the government’s Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, complains that David Cameron is not listening to him (News Review, 23 June). I hope it’s true.

Milburn claimed in a 2009 report that ‘birth, not worth’ determines people’s life chances, and described Britain as ‘a closed shop society.’ But if the population is divided into three social classes, more than half of us end up in a different class than the one we were born into, and by far the biggest driver of individual attainment is ability (as measured by IQ).

In 2011, Milburn told the BBC Today programme: ‘We live in a country where, invariably, if you’re born poor, you die poor.’ But 81% of men raised in poor households escape poverty as adults.

Now Milburn tells the Sunday Times it is ‘not remotely possible’ for a child born on a council estate today to emulate his achievement in rising to be a cabinet minister. What an inspiring message to send to the nation’s youngsters!

Ignore him? Cameron should have sacked him long ago.

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