Three: Politicians rediscover social mobility

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Although politicians previously nodded in the direction of social mobility, it was under New Labour that it became an increasingly frequent element in manifestos, ministerial speeches and policy proposals. This chapter traces mobility’s rise up the political agenda to today, showing how and when politicians invoked mobility as a solution to problems of social inequalities. Mobility ceased to be a topic of academic research as it was taken up by the politicians. Despite different stances among the parties, there was a consensus that mobility rates were low, had been declining and were lower than other countries. Calling for ‘more mobility’ neglects downward mobility. On the back of this mistaken interpretation, a veritable ‘social mobility industry’ has grown up since 2000, supported by extensive media coverage.

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