So, Labour and Alan Milburn have expressed real concern at the lack of social mobility in Britain. Finally, Labour are conceding that this is not the meritocratic utopia we all thought it was. All day long on BBC Radio 4, Milburn’s comments to the Today Show were being relayed. It is, we’re told, much harder to get into the ‘top jobs’ if you didn’t go to a private school. We’re known this for a while, but it’s great to know that a Labour government has done nothing about it, instead presiding over decreasing social mobility for the last 12 years. Producing a report on the eve of several terms of Tory government will achieve, if you’ll excuse my French (or Latin?), fuck all.
Yet hearing of this shocking news via the media, and in particular BBC Radio 4, it’s even more interesting due to the frequent references made to fields such as law and medicine. I imagine it’s extremely hard to break into these fields; not only do you have to be bright and extremely driven, apparently you also need the network that goes with a public-school education.
But hang on, Radio 4! You forgot the media! In Britain, if you did not got to a public school you face a much trickier time getting into the news-gathering sections of the media, with perhaps the exception of the tabloid press (which I know little about). As much as those with great jobs in broadcasting and broadsheets might fail to mention it, nepotism and networking are just as important in ‘getting in’ to ‘the media’ as they are when securing other ‘good jobs.’ The BBC, unfortunately (for all its many qualities), is not a place where the steps to the door of employment are at the same height for all who want in. Almost two years ago I underwent a work-placement at the Milbank offices, and was even asked what school I went to. He didn’t know of it.
Yet the answer to the problems of elitism and social-mobility, whether in media, law or politics, is clearly not to be found easily, or else a centre-left government would have probably made some inroads. I currently freelance for ITN where there are such things as placements available for either skilled ethnic minority candidates or ‘talent’ schemes such as Generation Next – which was my fortunate route in. But the fact of the matter is, it’s usually very, very hard to get a foot on the ladder without knowing that special someone (not least in the midst of industry-wide hiring freezes). I’d argue that those working at Radio 4 today coudl have somehow made a passing reference to this. But with all those toffs running the rest of the country, they clearly couldn’t find the time.
Update. The dependable Roy Greenslade has picked up on this.
Related articles by Zemanta
- ‘End Old School Tie Elitism Over Jobs’ (news.sky.com)
- Improve schools to give poor children a chance at professional jobs, report says (guardian.co.uk)
- Milburn on opportunites for the young has urgent lessons for Northern Ireland (sluggerotoole.com)
- Equal opportunity is fantasy in any society this unequal (guardian.co.uk)
- The hidden benefits of private schools (guardian.co.uk)