Whilst restoring Britain’s public finances and securing economic growth is the Coalition’s most pressing short-term priority, building the Opportunity Society is our party’s most important long-term task, and should form the basis of a distinctive Conservative platform for the next general election. The Opportunity Society has two dimensions: first, a society where community spirit and pride are renewed, so individuals take greater responsibility for themselves and their neighbours; and secondly, and most importantly, a society where social mobility flourishes, so that people can go as far and as fast in life as their talents will take them. Greater social mobility and community spirit are crucial not only to creating a fairer, more open society at ease with itself, but also to creating empowered individuals, stronger communities, and an economically competitive nation. In the Opportunity Society the State’s role will be to empower and enable individuals to make the most of their abilities, reward their hard work, and bring down the barriers that prevent their success.
After 13 years of Labour, there is much to do. Today, the life-chances of British children remain heavily dependent on the circumstances of their birth. According to the Cabinet Office, only 20% of young people from the poorest families achieve five good GCSEs, compared to 75% from richer families, whilst the Sutton Trust found that between 2007-2009, four schools and one college sent more students to Oxbridge than 2000 other state schools combined. An LSE study found Britain lagging behind our competitors such as Germany, France, Canada and Australia in terms of social mobility. We can’t afford to waste such talent. Britain needs to be an Opportunity Society, where success in life is based on talent and ambition not family background, the school you attended or the postcode you grew up in.