Nick Clegg’s Letter from the Leader: ‘Opening Doors’ so that every young person deserves a great start in life

Nick Clegg has made social mobility — the aim that everyone should be able to make of their lives what they want regardless of where they come from — his driving mission as Deputy Prime Minister. It’s a big aim and one he knows will be difficult to achieve. His latest attempt to progress it is the Opening Doors Campaign, asking all businesses to sign up to ensure they ‘recruit fairly and openly, looking at people’s talent not their background’. In this week’s letter he explains why he thinks this is so important…

libdem letter from nick clegg

Every young person deserves a great start in life.

Nothing makes me angrier than seeing someone held back or held down just because of the circumstances of their birth. I passionately believe that the job of government is to enable everyone – and that means everyone – to get on in life.

So I was delighted this week to launch the Opening Doors Campaign to unlock opportunities like jobs, apprenticeships, and work experience for as many young people as possible. I’m asking every business to sign up to my Opening Doors pledge – making sure they recruit fairly and openly, looking at people’s talent not their background.

It shouldn’t be who you know, but what you know that counts. Already, we’ve signed up over 150 of the UK’s major organisations, employing hundreds of thousands of people, to ensure that in recruitment, talent comes first.

120 young people from around the country joined me on a bus tour round some of the biggest businesses in London; companies that are doing everything they can to hunt out talented young people from all walks of life and give them the chances they deserve. It was a real treat to spend the morning with them: their enthusiasm about the future and excitement about discovering what opportunities were available to them was completely contagious. It was a great way to start the day.

Former BBC Dragon James Caan also joined me to promote the campaign. You may have seen he has attracted some criticism for revealing that his two daughters are among his 800 staff. I don’t criticise any parent who wants to do the best for their children and help them get on in life: it’s the most natural instinct in the world. For me, the measure of success is what else you do to open doors for all those countless others who don’t have the right connections to get ahead. That’s what I’m asking businesses to focus on.

We all rely on businesses and entrepreneurs to create jobs and grow our economy. And job creation is one of our big success stories of the last three years: the private sector has taken on well over a million new people. I want us to celebrate that success, even as we work hard to repeat it.

So next week I’ll be launching our party’s jobs campaign, talking about the work we’ve done to create those million jobs, and the steps we must take to create a million more. From the next wave of the Regional Growth Fund to increased investment in our railways: we can create jobs, open up opportunities and increase prosperity for everyone – young and old alike.

If you run a business or know someone who does, you can find out more about the Opening Doors business compact. I’d love you to sign up.

Nick Clegg

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* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.

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15 Comments

  • jenny barnes 9th Jun '13 - 4:58pm

    The trouble with “social mobility” as a concept is that it assumes everything is down to the individual. Nothing to do with society, whether there are suitable jobs, whether those jobs are reasonably well paid. No. If you’re socially mobile, you can of course move up – although the evidence is that the elite make absolutely sure that it’s their offspring that get the next generation of elite positions, with maybe one or two from the lower classes to provide social mobility. There’s absolutely no reason why corporations should avoid tax; who keeps the seaways safe for trade? Not the Somali pirates.
    Far too many parliamentarians are Eton & Oxford or very similar – who can afford that? The 1%, that’s who.

  • Matthew Huntbach 9th Jun '13 - 8:34pm

    Nick Clegg

    Former BBC Dragon James Caan also joined me to promote the campaign. You may have seen he has attracted some criticism for revealing that his two daughters are among his 800 staff. I don’t criticise any parent who wants to do the best for their children and help them get on in life: it’s the most natural instinct in the world.

    Yes, and it;s also a very natural instinct to favour people who are culturally similar to yourself. But we wouldn’t excuse a racist hiring policy on the grounds “it’s just natural instinct”, would we? Sorry, it is often the case that BECAUSE something unfair is what people will naturally tend to do, we have laws against that sort of thing.

    If you favour your own children, or those of immediate friends of yours, yo u are discriminating against all others. That’s a fact. Of course, in family life people are going to help their own children, and we can hardly stop that. But when it comes to public hiring, I’d say that’s not family life. If you have a company with 800 staff, that’s not a family business. If you offer posts in that company to family members in a way which means those posts were not equally open to anyone else who had the same qualifications, you are discriminating, in my books you are as morally wrong to do so as you would be if you refused to hire someone on the grounds of their race.

    Given that Caan has this “Opening Doors” role, that is even more reason why he should be squeaky clean on this. Look, I’ve been a councillor and I know how important it is to be squeaky clean on any issue where you are engaged in public work. If there’s anything that hints at possible bias, you say so and step down from the decision-making on it. If his daughters really are the best people for these jobs, then they should seek similar jobs in another company, making sure those jobs are publicly advertised, and going for them in open competition with anyone else. This should have been absolutely insisted upon, just to make sure that he really is a man who sticks to his principles. If he can’t accept that. then he should not have that Open Doors job.

    For Nick Clegg to carry on defending the man like this is appalling. Sorry, it’s just another of those things pushing me, an activist in the party for 35 years, away from wanting any involvement with it while he is leader.

  • Peter Watson 9th Jun '13 - 9:32pm

    I don’t know the details about James Caan, but in principle I believe that appointing one’s own children into a family-owned business is perfectly acceptable. They may not be the best people for the job, and that is a risk the owner must accept, but whether they are good or bad is irrelevant since one day they are likely to become the owners of that same business anyway, whether it is an 800 employee organisation or a local shop.
    I think such a case is very different from the examples of unfair advantage that have outraged many of us (and from which some of our political leaders have benefitted) such as letters of introduction, unpaid internships, masonic handshakes and old school ties, blocking off opportunities for those who may have more talent but lack the advantages of wealthy or well-connected parents.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Jun '13 - 1:39am

    Peter Watson

    I think such a case is very different from the examples of unfair advantage that have outraged many of us

    No, I don’t think so. You seem to be saying “These people are at the top of the privilege pile, so we might as well acknowledge it as soon as possible” in the Caan case, and then giving various other examples of how this acknowledgment takes place.

  • David Wilkinson 10th Jun '13 - 5:17am

    A typical Cleggie idea to talk about something ” social mobility” that affects an handful of people usally the connected and the wealthy and he even ended up making a mess of this lauch
    His contribution to social mobility was to tell a lie about tution fees that does effect young people’s ability to move.
    Most young persons also are stuck with their local school for their secondary education, not Nick.
    Sadly Nick and Co are amongst the real problems facing the country, an elitist few in all main parties telling the rest of the people what to do.

  • David: there’s much to be said about tuition fees (!), but if you are judging the policy for its effect on social mobility, then you should be praising, not criticising, it because its impact has been to close the gap in applications between the best and the least well off – http://www.markpack.org.uk/38850/new-university-data-shows-everyone-was-wrong-about-tuition-fees/

  • Peter Watson 10th Jun '13 - 8:18am

    @Mark Pack
    Are you claiming that increased tuition fees has caused a closing of the gap in applications between the best and least well off.
    Also, has the requirement from 2013 for nursing to require a university degree been a significant factor here, possibly negating any claims made about tuition fees having an effect? In terms of applications, nursing is now the most popular degree course and numbers have increased hugely over the last few years as diploma courses are phased out. Additionally, since 2010 scottish nursing applications have been handled by UCAS . Perhaps there is no reason to assume that student nurses come from a more disadvantaged background than other groups (or to assume that they do not), but if the fee and bursary structure for nursing is different then this might also have an effect because of the size of that new group. I fear that you risk making claims for the benefits of increasing tuition fees which may be nothing of the sort.

  • Peter Watson 10th Jun '13 - 4:10pm

    @Matthew Huntbach
    I think it is perfectly acceptable for the owner of a business to choose to appoint and promote his/her own children to any job within that business. Most of the time this is nowhere near “the top of the privilege pile”, with many small family-run businesses such as shops and trades. Almost certainly other candidates would be better suited to a particular role, but that is irrelevant (and a risk the owner is knowingly taking) since those employees would not be inheriting the family business one day. (I do not know if this is the case for James Caan.)
    I think this is very different from the situation where a “manager” in a business or any other organisation, who should be accountable to his own bosses, shareholders or other stakeholders, is appointing or promoting people on any basis other than individual merit.

  • Matthew Huntbach 10th Jun '13 - 11:17pm

    Peter Watson

    I think it is perfectly acceptable for the owner of a business to choose to appoint and promote his/her own children to any job within that business. Most of the time this is nowhere near “the top of the privilege pile”, with many small family-run businesses such as shops and trades.

    Yes, but we are not talking about a fish-and-chip shop or whatever here. We are talking about a business which we are told employs 800 people. Sorry, once it gets to that size I don’t think ways of thinking which we can accept with businesses which are genuinely family businesses i.e. everyone working is part of the family, apply any longer.

  • Shirley Campbell 11th Jun '13 - 6:10am

    What exactly is this “social mobility mantra”? It sounds awful. Tut, tut, in that mindset, principles are seen to be obstacles to be encountered on the ladder of “success”.

    Education is surely about engaging with that which is challenging and that which seeks to challenge the status quo. The principle is surely that which seeks to challenge is that which seeks to challenge the status quo.

    I am fastly sinking; please what happened to the classify and crucify mantra of the Liberalism of my youth.

  • Shirley Campbell 11th Jun '13 - 6:36am

    I have scanned the responses to Nick Clegg’s “Open Door” rhetoric and I would very much like to hear further responses from “caracutus”, who seems to have hit an appropriate nail on the head.

    I should like to be able to contribute more enlightening insights to LibDem Voice but I am struggling domestically and intellectually at the moment.

    However,

    Long live LibDem Voice
    and Republic.uk

  • Shirley Campbell 11th Jun '13 - 9:12am

    Three blogs on this subject have been deemed to be unsuitable. Stephen, I support you, so, please explain.

  • jenny barnes 11th Jun '13 - 9:36am
  • Shirley Campbell 17th Jun '13 - 6:19am

    Thank you Jenny. I have read the article and I conclude, as always, that the best way forward is merely to seek to enjoy your life as best you can. Our ancestors sought knowledge and so should we but when I read the social mobility mantra, I want to go and live in a tent in the middle of a field.

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