David Cameron was interviewed on the Today programme at just after 7.30am this morning as part of a series of features that John Humphrys is presenting on declining social mobility. Peter Lampl of the Sutton Trust (who wrote for yesterday's Sunday Times) told the programme that Britain had both inequality of opportunity and widening inequality of outcome. He highlighted research that suggests that the expansion of educational opportunity has disproportionately benefited the already better-off. Last week David Cameron put David Davis in charge of an inquiry into social mobility (a subject the Shadow Home Secretary addressed at the start of the year).
David Cameron said that there were three main drivers of social mobility:
- Strong and stable family life;
- Good parenting and other care in the first three years of life; and
- Educational opportunity.
The Conservative leader said one of the three difficult but vital changes he had made to the party in the last eighteen months was ensuring that education policy focused on the many and not the few. The other two vital changes were putting economic stability before promises of up-front tax cuts and stopping opt outs from the NHS (the scrapping of the Patient Passports policy). Conservatives wanted, David Cameron said, to ensure high quality healthcare for everyone and the public now trusted the Tories more than Labour on the NHS.
He said that he would be willing to work with Gordon Brown on addressing social immobility in the same way that he had had regular talks with Tony Blair and had supported aspects of Labour's education reforms. Promising to be relentlessly positive, he said that he was confident that voters would see Conservatives as representing the real change at the next General Election. Gordon Brown was associated with all of the waste and failure of the last decade and could not present himself as the changemaker.
Editor's comment: "David Cameron was persuasive in his answers to questions about social mobility but he missed an opportunity to raise the issue of Europe in the second half of the interview. As Bertie Ahern made clear yesterday - in saying that the Irish would have a referendum - 90% of the Constitution rejected by the Dutch and French, and upon which we were promised a referendum by Brown'n'Blair - is in the new draft Treaty. William Hague is doing a good job in highlighting this and other facts but it will take interventions from David Cameron (as recommended on Saturday) to move calls for a referendum up the news agenda. These calls - not just in the Commons but on multiple media platforms - should blight Brown's wish for a honeymoon."