Prime Minister David Cameron said working-class people and those from ethnic minorities need to raise their aspirations if there is to be improved social mobility in Britain.
Responding to comments by former Prime Minister John Major that it’s “truly shocking” that Britain’s elites are still dominated by privately educated people from affluent middle-class families, Cameron said much more work needs to be done.
“It’s not good enough just to make changes and sit back, you’ve got to get out there and try and attract talented people, whether it’s into top levels of industry, media or politics,” Cameron told reporters on a plane to India yesterday. “You’ve got to get out there and find people and win them over and get them to raise aspirations and get them to think they can get all the way to the top.”
Cameron, who was educated at Eton College, Britain’s most prestigious private school, and Oxford University, where he was a member of the elitist Bullingdon drinking club, has been criticized by opposition parties for being out of touch with ordinary people and appointing too many millionaires to his cabinet.
Major, the last Tory premier before Cameron and who left school at 16, was cited by the Daily Telegraph newspaper last week as telling Conservative activists that “the upper echelons of power in 2013 are held overwhelmingly by the privately educated or the affluent middle class.”
Cameron said he agreed with the thrust of Major’s comments and cited his recruitment of black and Asian lawmakers to his party in the House of Commons as an example of his determination to see change.
In “Parliament, the army, the judiciary, the media, it’s not as diverse, there’s not as much social mobility as there needs to be and that’s something I’ve tried to change,” Cameron said. “I want to see a Britain where no matter where you come from, what God you worship, the color of your skin, the community you belong to, you can get to the top.”
He defended the make-up of his cabinet, saying he recruited people on the basis of their ability to do the job and pointed out that he was limited in only being able to appoint lawmakers to senior positions in his government.
Cameron cited support for child care and reforms to education under his government as being designed to help people from poor backgrounds to achieve their potential.
“I agree with John Major that we need a far more socially mobile country,” he said. “We are making some progress but it’s not fast enough and we need to go further and faster.”