Ed Miliband attacks social inequality


Ed Miliband today accused the Government of taking "backward steps" on social mobility by allowing inequality to grow and denying bright youngsters from poor backgrounds the chance to succeed.

The Labour leader called for action to open up the "closed circles" in elite professions and make it easier for disadvantaged children to go to university.

But he also attacked the "snobbery" that suggests only an academic education is worthwhile, insisting that the UK must give more respect and value to vocational learning and apprenticeships.

Mr Miliband called for a "new bargain with employers", with Government offering the right support and incentives for them to deliver good training for long-term high-value jobs.

And he denounced the Beecroft Report, currently being considered by ministers, which proposes instead reforms of labour laws to make it easier for employers to hire and fire workers.

"The countries that succeed in having a higher-skilled, higher-paid workforce are those where employers and employees show commitment to each other," said Mr Miliband.

"This is the opposite to what this Government wants to do - now considering a proposal from the Beecroft Report to make this short-term culture worse by allowing employees to be fired at will.

"We need an economy based on long-termism, investment, and training.

"Not the short-term, fast buck, take-what-you-can culture that caused the financial crisis in the first place."

Mr Miliband admitted the previous government should have done more to tackle social mobility but insisted the problem did not get worse under Labour, arguing that the measures it had put in place focused on early intervention so the results would not be seen for many years.

He told the Sutton Trust's conference on social mobility: "The reality is that governments have not got this right for decades.

"It's not just about qualifications, it's about the culture of the country and what it celebrates and what it doesn't."

Mr Miliband defended the previous government's commitment to 50% enrolment of young people to higher education but admitted Labour had failed to help those who did not continue their studies.

"I think the target was right but we didn't do enough to focus on the 50% that didn't go to university."

Asked if he would consider means-testing tuition fees, the Labour leader told the London forum all options would be considered when the party drew up its next manifesto.

Mr Miliband called for an end to the view that vocational education was second-class.

"Social mobility must not be just about changing the odds that young people from poor backgrounds will make it to university," he said.

"That really matters. But we also have to improve opportunities for everyone, including those who don't go to university.

"We must reject the snobbery that says the only route to social mobility runs through university, as if only one kind of pathway to success matters.

"In Germany, middle-class parents boast about their kids doing great apprenticeships.

"But in Britain, too often people think that if they don't go to university, they are written off by society.

"We must have a better offer to those young people. So how do we do this?

"The first issue is that for far too long we have treated vocational subjects as second-class, separate and unequal, and it is getting worse."

He added: "We need to ensure vocational education is seen as just as much of a gold standard as academic education."

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg will dismiss Mr Miliband's criticism in a speech to the same conference tomorrow.

He will insist that social mobility is the "impulse" that lies behind the Government's education reforms, including the pupil premium.

And he will promise to address the "corrosive" rift in Britain's education system, citing new government data showing that children who are educated privately are three times more likely than state pupils to attain top A-level grades.

"Education is critical to our hopes of a fairer society," he will say.

"Right now there is a great rift in our education system between our best schools, most of which are private, and the schools ordinary families rely on. That is corrosive for our society and damaging to our economy.

"I don't for a moment denigrate the decision of any parent to do their best for their child, and to choose the best school for them. Indeed, that aspiration on behalf of children is one of the most precious ingredients of parenthood."

The Liberal Democrat leader will go on: "But we do need to ensure that our school system as a whole promotes fairness and mobility, that heals the rift in opportunities.

"We are committed to narrowing the gap in our school system - state and private - and ensuring that all children are given the chance to rise. The way to do that is to make the state education system better - to level up - and ensure that anyone can get ahead."

He is expected to reaffirm the coalition's drive on reforming the pre-16 curriculum, plus improve teacher and school quality.


Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
general electionThis quiz matches undecided voters with the best party for them
Life and Style
Men with beards rejoice: Your beard probably doesn't harbour faeces-like bacteria
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen starred in the big screen adaptation of Austen's novel in 2005
tvStar says studios are forcing actors to get buff for period roles
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before