walk the walk

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Who else can recall Mrs May promising to build a “country that works for every one of us and not just the privileged few”? Eighteen months on and it would appear that, following the resignation, en-masse, of the board of the Social Mobility Commission, and the departure of her spunky education minister, Justine Greening, Mother Theresa’s memory is failing her a little.

Rather than be forcibly relocated to Work & Pensions, the Right Honourable Member for Putney, fell on her cabinet sword yesterday in defence of those she felt needed her attention the most. Alan Milburn, former chair of said commission, described the departure of the Rotherham comprehensive-schooled education minister, Justine Greening, “a loss as far as the social mobility cause is concerned. She was making a real difference in improving life chances” for those living in areas which the PM had earlier identified as ‘being left behind’.

Britain is an unequal society and with, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 400,000 more children falling into poverty since 2012, it’s most likely that if you’re born poor, you’ll die poor. It’s safe to say Ms. Greening truly wanted to do something about it. Somewhat surprisingly, Lenin also believed in social mobility but argued vociferously for the abolishment of the social class structure, rather than movement between them. It’s essential we keep this in mind, as even when well-intentioned, the concept of social mobility depends upon the very hierarchies it proposes to overcome!

Made famous by bohemian aristocrat, novelist and one of the 1920s ‘bright young people’, Nancy Mitford, coined the terms ‘U’ and ‘non-U’ to distinguish the language and lifestyle used by the upper classes. She also had the foresight to realise social mobility starts early, very early: By attending the right prep school, it was a language a child could learn but one an adult could never attain. U was even more than language, it was an attitude, and it was an attitude reflected in the inclusion of their very own who’s who, the chronicler of the British aristocracy for over 250 years, Debrett’s Peerage and Baronetage.

But fear not my young mud-lark urchins for the social bible is reinventing itself as an engine for social change and mobility and is now offering courses in good manners and getting your grubby, malnourished foot in aristocracy’s door. Specifics include The Art of Persuasion, Selling & Relationship Building and Corporate Dining & Hosting and your inclusion, irrespective of your current social standing or class, can be had for the paltry sum of only £2350 + VAT per module. Book early.

May talks the talk but without any commitment to loosen the U’s grasp on privilege, her empty rhetoric counts for nowt.