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September 8, 2011

William Cash on The Class Ceiling on Radio 4

By Spear's

Here are some key quotes from William Cash’s interview with Peter York and Polly Toynbee on The Class Ceiling on Radio 4 about class, inequality and social mobility

Polly Toynbee said that the chances of changing class were now slimmer than fifty years ago. We’re now two-thirds middle class, she said, but those born after the Seventies are less likely to change class. This programme examined how to break through class in the world of work and how to become one of the properties classes.

What has changed? Peter York emphasised the modern obsession with meritocracy, wealth creation and trickle-down, as if these were justifications for the extraordinary class divide. David Davis MP worried about ‘creeping credentialism’, which demands you must have a degree of increasingly higher standing.

The previous importance of apprenticeships has not diminished, said Chris Boardman, and education with employment should be Plan A, pure education Plan B; you get many valuable skills for later life in the workplace from them. However, we can overemphasise the importance of them, seeing them as a panacea.

Tristram Hunt, MP for Stoke-on-Trent, said that his constituency had had many manufacturing industries, but globalisation and British deindustrialisation have ‘haemorrhaged’ that business.

Polly Toynbee spoke about how GDP growth had not trickled down: only the top tenth of incomes grew at the rate of GDP, which had doubled, which was twice as fast as the median and four times faster than the bottom 10 per cent. William Cash said that an English meritocracy, albeit one mediated through good schools and successful parents, still won through.

A Citi banker said that it would be much harder for someone without a degree to get into banking today; his years of experience would stand for him, even though he felt embarrassed about his educational path.

The property ladder is no easier than the career ladder.

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William Cash’s quotes:

‘The British class system… safeguards the idea of integrity and honour.’

‘The rules of engagement [of the British class system] are those who are most successful have the most.’

‘[Today’s senior] professional classes… who worked hard… if they worked for 25 years are probably worth in the region of £20 million today. I would be surprised if the median wealth were less than £10 million.’

Foreign billionaires ‘still feel assured to see a very well cut suit, an English accent, they don’t feel the same sense of security when they go to Switzerland and hear their rubber-soled shoes squeaking down the marble corridors.’

Listen again to William Cash in The Class Ceiling on the iPlayer

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