Britain Will Succumb to 'Extremism' if Inequality is Not Tackled Says Social Mobility Czar

Steel Protest
Steel workers walk past Downing Street during a demonstration asking for government help for the British steel industry in London, Britain May 25, 2016. Neil Hall/Reuters

Deep social and economic inequalities in British society will fuel a surge in political extremism unless they are urgently addressed, the government's social mobility adviser has warned.

Alan Milburn, a former Labour cabinet minister who now chairs the independent Social Mobility Commission, said Tuesday (28 November) that "unless mainstream politics can answer the problem of economic, social and geographical division the answer will come, as we are already seeing in parts of Europe, from the extremism of either the hard left or the far right," the Press Association reported.

Milburn was speaking at the launch of the commission's "state of the nation" report, which warned that a "stark social mobility postcode lottery exists in Britain today, where the chances of someone from a disadvantaged background succeeding in life is bound to where they live."

In his remarks to journalists, Milburn said: "These are volatile and uncertain times. Right now Britain seems to be in the grip of a self-reinforcing spiral of ever-growing division.

"The growing sense that we have become an 'us and them' society is deeply corrosive of our cohesion as a nation. Our politics are becoming polarized just as our country is. We see that on this side of the Atlantic and we see it in the U.S.

"It is easy to rail against what is happening but the analysis in this report explains why there is such a sense of political alienation and social resentment in so many parts of our country."

He warned that "whole communities feel that the benefits of globalization have passed them by, because they have. Whole sections of society feel they are not getting a fair chance to succeed, because they are not."

The report urges local and national politicians to do more to tackle regional inequalities. It wants local councils to develop broad new strategies for improving poorer children's education, and and central government to unlock new funds to help schools in struggling areas to partner with others.

It also calls for a more equal distribution of spending on transport to ensure people in different parts of the country benefit from quality services.