As many of you may already know, I have spent the last year campaigning across the capital in a bid to become the Mayor of London. While I was passed over for a chance to represent the Conservative party in the open elections, this journey proved to be a humbling and enlightening experience.
A world-leading metropolis like London is, of course, teeming with people from every walk of life and my campaign offered me the opportunity to make personal contact with the issues that have become prevalent in many of our communities and the people they affect. The most prominent of these issues is the worrying lack of social mobility. It became apparent to me that London is not engaged in a battle between rich and poor, but is rather divided by those who have the opportunities to excel and those who are left by the wayside.
Opportunity, Not For Some
They say that it's not about what you know, but who you know. This is a phrase that's flippantly thrown around by young professionals who miss out on internships or jobs as 'just one of those things' that you can't do anything about. This is exactly why we have to change this aspect of our society. When the idea that they can't rise above their station because of the circumstances of their birth becomes so ingrained in the minds of our youth, we find ourselves in a situation where ambition is limited and aspiration is shackled. Every day competitors clash, each with equal capabilities, and yet it seems as though the individual with the nepotistic connections, the brand name school, and the support of parental wealth, always comes out on top. In fact, children from wealthier families - but with less academic ability - are 35% more likely to become high earners than their more gifted counterparts from poor families.
The loss of opportunities for the youth in London is not limited to a lack of 'who you know', but also an absence of financial feasibility. It's no secret that living in London is an expensive endeavour, I think we can all agree with that. So, how can we possibly expect an intern from a working class background to live and work in the city for up to two years, with no pay and no funding from their family? These days, so many entry level positions in London require experience that can only be attained through these programmes, which are just not viable for many capable applicants. The crisis we are addressing here is that British companies are missing out due to this drain of young potential.
A City Is Only As Rich As The People That Live There
How can we go about amending these issues that have become so embedded in London professionalism? We have to adapt. We have to focus on the way that London is evolving and campaign for new initiatives that take the city's strengths into account, and transferring those strengths into opportunity for everyone, no matter their background. We need to focus on London's rapidly growing technology sector, the second largest in the world, and address the opportunities that have arisen from its establishment. We need to look at linking London's schools with its businesses to provide paths from education into careers. We need to look at social housing as a stepping stone, where people move in out of necessity and move out due to opportunity.
These are just some of the tactics we can use to create conversations that integrate the ideal of social mobility into the fundamental culture of the city.
Next week I will be launching www.Equal.London - an engine for change aiming to revolutionise London's views on social mobility and setting targets for employers.
Join us, no matter what your political background. Making London equal for future generations is a challenge that transcends politics, it's a fundamental bedrock for the future of this city.