UK more class-ridden now than in the 1950s

“People born in the 50s were more likely to escape their parents’ class then those born in the 70s, according to a new report by experts at the London School of Economics.

Between the early 1980s and the late 1990s, the proportion of children from the richest quarter or families who had completed a degree by the age of 23 shot up from 20 percent to almost half. Over the same period, the number of graduates among the poorest quarter of families crept up from 6 per cent to just 9 per cent.

In an indictment of New Labour’s education policies, which promise equality of opportunity for children from all backgrounds, the report says: ‘The strength of the relationship between educational attainment and family income, especially for access to higher education, is at the heart of Britain’s low-mobility culture.'”

Heather Stewart, The Observer, 16 Jan 2005

How consumer society creates the generation war

Consumer capitalism dictates that, once basic needs such as food and shelter are met, new demands must be invented, so they can then be supplied. Otherwise production might not appear as a positive increase year-on-year. Squeezing mileage out of ageing goods slows the economy. Old is bad.

As a result, Britain is in a state of perpetual generational Cold War. The old fear the young, presuming them to be uncultivated vandals. The young despise the old, presuming them to be tedious Luddites.

Rafael Behr, The Observer, 21 November 2004

How public school sustained John Peel at the BBC

It used to be that we had a controller, name of Muggeridge, who was joint controller of Radio 1 and 2, quite a good idea. When the BBC was looking for a man to do this job, quite naturally they chose someone who until that time had been head of the Chinese section of the BBC World Service.

Once he had got the job he interviewed various DJs one after another, and I was last in. I think he thought I would do something unpredictable and startling, like rub heroin into the roots of his hair. He was sitting at his enormous desk, a sort of Dr Strangelove position. At some point in the conversation I mentioned public schools, and he brightened up a little at this idea, as if at some stage in my life I had actually met somebody who had been to a public school.

I said, ‘Actually, I went to one myself.’

He went, ‘Extraordinary! Which one?’ He was assuming it was some minor public school somewhere on the south coast. I said, ‘Shrewsbury.’ He said, ‘Good heavens!’ At this stage he was getting quite elated. ‘Which house were you in?’ I told him and he said, ‘How’s old Brookie?’

It was clear that he thought, whatever he looks like, and whatever sort of unspeakable music he plays on the radio, he is still one of us. I think for a long time it was this factor that sustained me at the BBC.”

John Peel, The Observer, 31 October 2004

Educational Apartheid

The top comprehensives may be able to give a child an excellent chance of an elite university place; the private schools can virtually guarantee it. All else said on the subject is waffle.

The 7 per cent of children who attend private schools take nearly half the places at Oxford and Cambridge and nearly a third of the places at other elite universities such as Durham, Manchester and Bristol.

It is crude educational apartheid and a major obstacle to the equality of opportunity that New Labour says it wants.


Peter Wilby, The Observer, 7 July 02

Public services run by targets will either seize up or explode

“Although New Labour may have come to power talking of ‘joined-up government’, in practice it has approached policy from the exactly opposite point of view – breaking a problem down into its component parts and then attempting to solve them in a linear fashion…

“As author Jake Chapman, a well known systems thinker, points out, there are two important properties of complex human-activity systems. One is that they can’t be managed by the use of crude performance targets, which bend them out of shape and make implementers ‘look the wrong way’ – at the targets rather than the needs of their clientèle. Nor, second, can they be managed by reductionist, command-and-control methods, because of the many unintended consequences.

“Instead, such systems have to be carefully managed for long-term, incremental improvements by ‘introducing learning processes rather than specifying outcomes or targets,’ and their success judged by users, not governments….

“Chapman’s important pamphlet contains a powerful warning. From a systems point of view, it is no accident that unintended consequences are multiplying like boils all over the public sector. The traditional mechanistic approach to policy has been savagely undermined by increasing complexity and interconnectedness; in a more complex world, policy really is becoming more difficult, to the extent that without a change of method, failure will be increasingly common.

Meanwhile, eaten by their toxic incentives, public-service organisations run by targets on command-and-control lines will, as an absolute certainty, become more dysfunctional and more neurotic until they either seize up or explode.”

Thinking outside the box, Simon Caulkin, The Observer, 26 May 2002

BBC copied ‘That’s Life’ format and gave it to a BBC senior executive’s girlfriend!

Bernard Braden died 9 years ago having never fully recovered from the injustice that overshadowed his career, when the BBC dropped his programme, Braden’s Week, and replaced it with a copy: That’s Life.

The fact that it was presented by the then unknown Esther Rantzen, who had been Braden’s junior researcher, and was later discovered to be the girlfriend of a BBC production executive, Desmond Wilcox, added insult to injury.

Barbara Kelly, Daily Mail Supplement, 25 May 2002

Diversity at the BBC means acting and thinking like them

Two of my colleagues at the BBC have regional accents and are very experienced, yet they are constantly asked: ‘Which university did you go to?’ There is this unspoken reality that, although I look different from you, I must act, think and speak the same as you, which is then promoted as diversity.

Unnamed BBC Journalist, The Guardian, 13 May 2002
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