Equality of opportunity and social mobility are at the heart of what the Conservative Party is all about. Having an equal shot in life, to be the best version of yourself, whoever you are, whatever your background, is not only good for individuals, it’s good for communities, our politics and our economy.
I don’t accept that children and young people growing up in different parts of our country and in different circumstances have such different life and career outcomes, unrelated to their talent and potential. Fixing that should be our country’s mission post Brexit and it should be the Conservative Party’s mission too.
Britain isn’t a socially mobile country – it never really has been.
But that doesn’t mean it can’t change. It can, if we want it to.
Brexit surely must be the catalyst, the moment for change, to decide we want a different version of our country. And in an ever more knowledge-based economy, it’s never been more important to fully use the talents of all of our people, not just some.
People change things. And that includes people running our businesses. In fact some of them will be Tory Reform Group members, I’m sure. As Conservatives we can choose to make a change. It would be amazing to see our party members, alongside Conservative MPs leading the charge at a local level and delivering grass roots change through business. Going beyond debating the problem to actually doing something about it, and turning the tables on Labour’s relentlessly negative rhetoric about business as purely a problem to be fixed. That’s wrong. Business is a huge part of the solution on opportunity and it holds the key as to how we have a levelled up Britain.
Improving social mobility will be a massive boost for our economy too – the Sutton Trust estimates a long term annual productivity GDP boost of between 2- 9% – that’s the equivalent of an extra £39bn to £170bn extra annual boost, or between £590 and £2,620 income annually per household.
In my debate today on Social Mobility and the Economy, I’ll be asking business and employers to commit to a Social Mobility Pledge and take three simple steps. Firstly, have a partnership with local schools and young people – it’s easy for businesses if they work with great organisations like Speakers for Schools, Inspiring the Future, or the Careers and Enterprise Company which already do this – and there are loads more besides. Secondly, I’d like businesses to open up their doors to offer apprenticeships or work experience for young people. We know that lots of young people want work experience opportunities than are available – business can help plug that gap. Thirdly, I’d like businesses to make their recruitment practices more open so they promote a level playing field for all young people. We know that name blind recruitment for example, used by Clifford Chance, or contextual recruitment, used by Deloitte, can really help improve the recruitment chances for young people from more disadvantaged backgrounds.
Many businesses are already stepping up to the plate, which is great, but my debate will make a call for all of them to become part of the social mobility solution. The Social Mobility Pledge is backed by the CBI, and the British Chambers of Commerce, who have already had all 53 accredited chambers commit to the Pledge and are now encouraging all of its 75,000 members to sign up. The Federation of Small Businesses are asking all 170,000 members to commit to the Social Mobility Pledge.
This means it will be businesses, big and small around our country, doing their bit to open up opportunity and create a levelled up Britain. Business is definitely part of the solution on opportunity, and let’s have Conservatives in and running businesses leading the charge.
Sign up to the pledge: www.socialmobilitypledge.org