Social mobility tsar Alan Milburn quits with furious attack on Theresa May

Posted On: 
3rd December 2017

All four board members of the Government's own Social Mobility Commission have dramatically quit in a serious blow to Theresa May's fragile government.

Alan Milburn attacked the Government in his resignation letter.

In a strongly-worded letter to the Prime Minister, chairman Alan Milburn said the Government did not have the "necessary energy and focus" to pursue the Commission's agenda, even if Mrs May herself was personally committed to tackling social injustice.

While he praised individuals such as Education Secretary Justine Greening, the former Labour minister said the Government as a whole was too focused on Brexit to engage properly with social mobility. 

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In an interview with the Sunday Times, former Labour minister Mr Milburn said the Government was characterised by "indecision, dysfunctionality and a lack of leadership".

He said ministers needed to do more work to tackle deeply ingrained inequality in education, housing and low wages - particularly after recent projections suggested wages would take 20 years to return to their level before the 2008 financial crisis.

The other three board members to stand down are former Conservative minister Gillian Sheppard, academic Paul Gregg and David Johnston, the chief executive of the Social Mobility Foundation charity. 

Former deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, who set up the Commission during the coalition government, tore into Mrs May's record.



In his resignation letter, Mr Milburn made clear his frustration at a lack of progress, saying:

"I have little hope of the current government making the progress I believe is necessary to bring about a fairer Britain. It seems unable to commit to the future of the Commission as an independent body or to give due priority to the social mobility challenge facing our nation.

He added "Individual ministers such as the Secretary of State for Education have shown a deep commitment to the issue. But it has become obvious that the government as a whole is unable to commit the same level of support.

"It is understandably focused on Brexit and does not seem to have the necessary bandwidth to ensure that the rhetoric of healing social division is matched with the reality. I do not doubt your personal belief in social justice, but I see little evidence of that being translated into meaningful action."

He also cited the "disappointing and puzzling" failure to appoint key members to the Commission's team or to iron out key questions about its "role, remit and resources".