Posts Tagged ‘aspiration’

We need to raise aspirations in coast and country

07/12/2014, 11:00:43 PM

by Alex McKerrow

It does not take much for figures on social mobility to astound our conscience. Given one in every six children are still in relative poverty, it seems Britain is still a broadly unequal society. This situation underpins any modern progressive: spurring each of us on in finding solutions to tackle these problems.

Under the last Labour government, unquestionable leaps were taken in education. Whether it be our Education Action Zones or the initial academies programme, we got it right by targeting the most disadvantaged parts of our education system. It is from this that we can celebrate the so-called “London effect”, which reflects the immensity of investment undertaken in the late 1990s and early 2000s in the capital.

However, whilst London and other metropolitan areas have surged, the isolation suffered by many parts of the UK has been ignored. David Bell was quick to warn us of this in 2003, noting that some of our greatest areas of educational disadvantage are located “in towns on the coast or tucked away in a corner of [a] local education authority area”.

Worryingly, this trend has not ceased, as these areas have been unable to reap the benefit of national initiatives which have targeted disadvantaged children in urban areas. Although our attitudes seem to be shifting, particularly through the increasing growth of the outstanding TeachFirst program outside of metropolitan areas, we still lack the capacity to inspire children in isolated areas.

It is in the coastal towns of this country – where I grew up – that children feel the greatest disconnect. Isolated from parts of the country geographically and economically, it is easy for schools to fall into a cycle of mediocrity.


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Miliband’s bridge building with business should be applauded

01/07/2014, 08:15:02 AM

by Jonathan Todd

The case for augmenting Labour’s cost of living campaigning is almost as old as this campaigning. The advantages accruing to Labour from this campaigning are challenged by those that accumulate to the Conservatives from the more general economic improvement. This improvement encourages optimism among businesses, which some feel Labour threatens.

Labour needs to reassure these businesses and the voters who work for them that Labour poses no such threat. That, as Pat McFadden and Alan Milburn have both put it, Labour is as concerned with generating wealth as with distributing it. It is, as Chuka Umunna is quoted in a recent FT article headlined ‘Labour seeks to reposition as pro-business party’, a fairly academic decision how you can cut the pie more fairly if you haven’t increased the size of the pie first.

That Umunna is clearly right, while business fears that this is not understood by Labour, makes the repositioning heralded by the FT welcome. We are now in what The Sunday Times described as “a week long campaign to mend fences with business leaders”. No matter what big policy announcements this week may bring, Labour should not expect that they alone will secure business support.

Fifty small press releases matter more than a big policy announcement, as the ex party adviser Steve Van Riel recently observed. If Labour wants better relations with business, and I’m pleased that we do, we shouldn’t think that these can be cemented in a week, no matter how big our policy announcements. Such relations require diligent cultivation over the long-term. Which the activities of this week should be a staging post on.

It is to be hoped that Ed Miliband and his shadow cabinet are up for this. Because there will be those in our party who will implore them not to be. Similar protestations, as Uncut has noted, have blunted moves to the centre on welfare. Concerted efforts to win business support would be another move to the centre, which is valuable enough that Miliband should be prepared to endure internal criticisms.


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Lifting the stamp duty threshold would help Labour to be the party of aspiration

04/03/2014, 02:32:35 PM

by Callum Anderson

A couple of weeks ago, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released its latest data on UK property prices. For anyone, particularly young people, who aspire to getting themselves onto the property ladder, the data did not make good reading. It showed that house prices in December were 5.7 per cent higher across the UK compared with a year earlier, predominately driven by a 12.3 per cent increase in London.

Indeed, the average property in the UK will now set you back a cool £250,000. For people looking to settle in London or South East England (which as a result of the unbalanced UK economy and jobs market is a substantial proportion), this rises to £450,000 and £306,000 respectively.

But what would that even buy you these days?

Save for the rare gem that quite probably requires a lot of work, a £300,000 property (be it a house or a flat) in London or South East England is likely to be only a fairly modest 3-bedroom semi of the type to which many young families will aspire. Yet, the stamp duty bill on this purchase will be £9000, equal to several months’ entire after-tax pay for average earners.

This has resulted in the government pocketing £16.6 billion in stamp duty tax since 2010.


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This shoddy reshuffle is just a distraction, understanding aspiration is the key to the next election

05/09/2012, 07:00:15 AM

by Rob Marchant

Who’d be David Cameron right now? Mired in political treacle, this week he is trying to divert attention away from his problems with a reshuffle, and wrest back the initiative by lots of serious-sounding pronouncements about economic growth which is proving highly elusive. The public doesn’t seem to be very impressed by him or his coalition at the moment but, then again, neither does his increasingly restive party.

David Cameron’s first problem is that, although he tries to entice his backbenchers with some right-wing soundbites and a few reshuffle sops such as the promotions of Chris Grayling and Owen Patterson, he is forced to tread a line between the centrist husky-hugger and the Thatcherite Brussels-basher, with the result that he is believed by neither side. And, as Iain Martin points out, his hardline economic approach is not necessarily even shared by the Tory right.

Next, it is also useful to note that that Tory right is not what it used to be, either: the “squires from the shires” of yore are a lot less representative of the average backbencher than the self-made businessman or the corporate exec who worked his way up. The hinterland of this new breed is meritocratic, not noblesse oblige; and they do not necessarily think that this Etonian deserves his place in history, after a few years in public affairs and a lot more as a Westminster insider.

Indeed, talking of the right: on observing the US elections, the Daily Express’ sharp political correspondent, Patrick O´Flynn, last week reflected what Cameron could learn from them: that the “first UK party to choose as leader a decent, self-made, down-to-earth, pro-striver leader will get massive momentum”.

He’s right, but the observation is not just for right-wingers. There’s a universal lesson, in that the British electorate is clearly fed up with career politicians, and would like to elect people who they see as appreciating their aspirations.

A simple fact seems to lie unaddressed by politicians: people still want to get on in life, just as they always have done. And they want politicians who understand that. It’s called aspiration, and in Labour we used to understand it.


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