Treasury boss looks back on time when talent mattered more than connections

During a Back to School event in Westminster, Lord Deighton said he feared that a 'golden age' of social mobility was over

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The Independent Online

Poorer children have less opportunity to move up the social ladder than previous generations, according to one of the Treasury’s leading officials.

Lord Deighton, the son of a factory foreman who is now Commercial Secretary to HM Treasury, said he feared he had grown up during a “golden” era where being working class was not a barrier.

He made the comments while hosting a Back to School Week event at the House of Lords. Organised by i and the charity Future First, Back to School Week aims to encourage people to provide mentoring services at state schools and colleges.

Speaking as he took four students from his former school on a tour around the Houses of Parliament and the Treasury, Lord Deighton said it troubled him that young people from poorer backgrounds may not have the same chances that were available to him.

“I worry that I was born at a golden time, when you could come from a working-class family and have plenty of opportunity,” he said. “It would be a terrible thing if that was less the case now than it was then. I cannot think of a better way to measure the quality of a society than the mobility and opportunity it offers its young people.

“I remember in my life, at so many times, people pointing out to me that there was no-one else who should have any more reason than me to succeed. The message always was ‘you’re smart enough, there’s nothing that can stop you’. We can all be constrained by the limitations we put on ourselves and you need other people to show you what is possible.”

Lord Deighton attended Wallington County Grammar in Carshalton, Surrey before studying economics at Cambridge. After graduating, he worked as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs before taking on the role of chief executive of the organising committee of the London Olympic and Paralympic games.

One of the students invited on Lord Deighton’s tour, Luke Meah-Wilson, 17, said: “Some people might think, ‘because of my background, I’m only limited to doing x,y and z’. But if they have figures who have gone to their school and have succeeded and got into high positions, then it could help them see that they can become whatever they want to. Today has showed us where things can lead: Lord Deighton went from our school to being a Lord and organising the Olympic games.”

Raphene Rose, 17, said that hearing how Lord Deighton had gone from a similar background to hers to holding high government office was an eye-opening experience, saying: “It’s definitely inspiring, especially as he went to the same school as we did. It helps you to look at the possibilities of what could happen after university. ”

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