From draper's son to judge ... THAT was social mobility -- in Britain of the past

By Peter Hitchens

The phrase ‘social mobility’ has been twisted round by the elite to mean the opposite of what it once did. In their mouths it signifies ‘crude discrimination against those who seek to advance themselves or their children through effort and talent’.

This is a wicked perversion. Here is what it really means: when this was still a free country, you could climb thanks to your talent and hard work. My favourite example is that of Lord Denning, one of six children of a Hampshire draper who became the greatest judge of our time.

One of his brothers, Reginald, helped plan the D-Day landings and became a general. Another, Norman, became an admiral, and Director of Naval Intelligence. The boys’ mother, Clara, must have been quite a person, but Whitchurch National School and Andover Grammar School should take a little credit too.

In their austere, disciplined, orderly classrooms, children from poor homes could learn real knowledge, and gain the habits of work and diligence that might take them to the very summit of our once-open society. If they had talent, it would be nurtured and encouraged. If they were studious, they would not be bullied for it, but rewarded.

Faced with ferocious exams, which it was possible to fail, they learned that real life wasn’t easy and had to be tackled with application and determination. That’s how a proper middle class, confident, strong and open to talent, is made.

But those who now shape and direct our society long ago destroyed these places. Believing it was kinder, they scrapped the discipline, the order and the rigour, and turned the exams into feeble jokes. When the truth became clear, they refused to change their minds but carried on as before. The three Denning brothers would rapidly have had their hopes crushed by today’s state school system.

If three such boys – or girls – now exist, we will never hear of them, except perhaps in the courts, because the corruption of the best is the worst of all, and a bright and energetic mind, when all the doors of ambition and hope are slammed in its face, can easily turn to wrongdoing.

I cannot express on paper just how angry this makes me, or how angry it ought to make you. The nearest I can come to it is this – to say to Nicholas Clegg, David Cameron and Edward Miliband that they are all three of them cruel, contemptible and stupid, enemies of promise, enemies of their country, and enemies of the poor. And in each case the crime is especially serious because of their own immense personal privilege. I hope all their political careers end in abject, howling failure, preferably with them being laughed out of office, the only punishment they are likely to understand.

Because all three of them, and their wretched parties, have set their faces against the honest self-improvement that is the mark of a free society. Instead, they gargle the discredited slogans of equality – an equality they don’t even believe in for themselves or their children.

You will have to ask yourselves why the leaders of supposedly democratic parties in a supposedly free society have endorsed a policy that is more or less identical to that of the Eastern European communists of the Forties. More importantly, you will have to ask yourselves why on earth you have continued to vote for them, knowing what they are and what they stand for.


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