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COMMENT: Boris Johnson, stale cornflakes and the myth of social mobility

Posted on Thursday, 12 December by

Boris Cornflakes

Despite the rhetoric flooding out of politician’s mouths, social mobility really isn’t working like they declare. This month, Boris Johnson stated the “cleverest cornflakes rise to the top”. Well, privately educated Etonian, Boris Johnson, would say that.

The mayor, with his plethora of pals and connections to pick from, is laying stake to this claim from a privileged position and background. He can have such views because, presumably, he’s never had to climb ladders in Sports Direct for a measly sum.

This stance from the Mayor once again seems to patronise the working classes. It’s a typical stance from the dominant Tories; who truly don’t understand the demands of the people and really don’t care. Quality doesn’t always rise to the top, and that truly is the greatest frustration of social mobility within the United Kingdom.

After being hilariously embarrassed last Monday — failing an IQ test live on the radio – Boris has now since backtracked, explaining:

…in the last 20 to 30 years, there’s been a widening in income between rich and poor — there’s no question about that, and what hacks me off is that people with ability have been finding it very difficult to progress in the last 20 years and we’ve got to do something about that.”

Well done, Boris. You’ve realised what everyone’s known for decades. Maybe now Boris will denounce that gap and aim to close it for good. Or like those that have come before him — probably not.

I can’t help but get offended when Boris is suggesting that I am not one of the ‘cleverest cornflakes’ — I take it seriously — personally in fact. I am angry. So forgive me if I place my own experiences too firmly at the heart of this article. I am middle class. Or I am lower middle class. Or maybe, I am in fact upper working class. All I know, as a worker on a zero hour contract, is that if I am too ill or if a relative dies I will not be paid for these days off.

I’ve been told, countless times: “You’ll get there in the end.” Well, what if I don’t get ‘there’, in the end after all? What if the past three years of university were in fact, for nothing? It would make this pie in the sky dream of social mobility a vicious lie in my eyes.

I’ve been told from the media, family and politicians, that: ‘if you work hard, you can achieve’. So if I fail to achieve my goals, does that mean I’m lazy or as thick as two planks? Or worse, both! Just a lazy cornflake destined to go soggy in a pool of failed job applications.

This failure is becoming a weekly, if not daily part of my life. I can’t help but get jealous and annoyed due to the sheer amount of journalists with degrees from Cambridge and Oxford that will supposedly trump me every time — as well as those from Downing Street with connections that I simply do not possess. The question I ask myself, are those who went to Oxbridge naturally brighter than me? Or, were they simply given more opportunities in life?

Luckily in the year 2013, it is easier to get involved with journalism than ever before. We can all open our laptops and start our own politics, music or film blog within minutes. But despite the impact blogging and social networking has had on mainstream media, there’s still a giant struggle to break into the national papers. There’s a massive difference between creating your own blog and being given an opportunity at The Times or The Guardian.

In 2011, 178 contributors to the Guardian agreed to take a survey on whether or not they went to Oxford or Cambridge. Out of those that took survey, 67 did study at Oxford or Cambridge – an incredible figure considering the amount of universities now active in England. The current Editor-In-Chief of the Guardian – Alan Rusbridger – is himself an Oxford graduate.

The Oxbridge impact is felt strongest in politics. With the majority of front bench MPs attending one or the other, it’s a massive surprise that a fist pump or high five is yet to be witnessed in the Houses of Parliament by politicians who were clearly ‘tight’ during their university days. David Cameron, George Osborne, Nick Clegg, Vince Cable, Ed Milliband, Ed Balls are all Oxbridge alumni. Let’s not even get started on race representation in Westminster.

How can those who come from privileged backgrounds truly understand social mobility, when they’ve had no real movement in getting to where they are? The sooner politicians understand that quality can’t — and won’t — always rise to the top, the better.

At this moment in time, a whole box of cornflakes is going stale and the hapless politicians haven’t got a care in the world.

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Liam Collins
21-year-old graduate from University College of the Creative Arts. Music correspondent at SQ Magazine, interviewing and reviewing some of the biggest and best acts in the land.

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