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Owen Jones: The left must refocus on class and show it still cares about workers

Category: In the News
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Guardian columnist Owen Jones cites Sutton Trust Leading People research in an article on class

British society hands out golden tickets to the privileged. These tickets secure the lucky few, born into certain select families, disproportionate power and influence for the rest of their lives. Growing up in a comfortable home with space to study; always having a satisfied stomach; being exposed to a wide range of books and a broad vocabulary from an early age; all these factors help guarantee academic success.

A private education can inject extra confidence; family connections and contacts can open the door to desirable professions. Expensive postgraduate qualifications – increasingly necessary for certain careers – can be paid for by parents with the disposable income to do so. Working for free in unpaid internships – another ever more crucial passport into elite jobs – is a financial non-starter for many, but not for those whose parents have healthy bank balances. The housing crisis can be bypassed with a generous bank transfer from Mum and Dad, either helping with the rent or putting down the deposit.

No wonder, then, that British elites are so utterly unrepresentative of the wider population. Private schools educate only 7% of Britons. And yet, according to research by the Sutton Trust this year, private school alumni make up nearly three quarters of the top judiciary, over two-thirds of Oscar winners, six out of 10 top doctors, over half of the top journalists, and almost a third of MPs.

Unless you really believe “the most talented” and “the most privileged” are synonymous, this is manifestly unjust. Only a programme of social transformation can address such inequality – from tackling the housing crisis to increasing investment in early-years education to a war on poverty.

Read his full column here