Progress | Centre-left Labour politics

Ladder of opportunity

New Labour understood that aspiration is key to social justice, writes Gurjinder Dhaliwal

It may seem strange to think of this now but when I was growing up the idea of Labour being in power was normal, natural and seemed like the default. For me, Labour was the party of government.

 As somebody who grew up experiencing Labour governments and no other, I had become accustomed to the state promoting aspiration, fairness and social justice.

 There was the introduction of the minimum wage, which boosted the salaries of my parents; the doubling of education funding for each school pupil; Sure Start centres, giving children the best possible start in life; and Building Schools for the Future, which transformed state schools across the country. So much was achieved.

 Many individual policies during this time impacted me directly but in my view the single most significant thing that Labour in government provided to me was the ability and confidence to believe in myself. With an active state which I felt aimed towards social mobility, I grew up believing that there was no glass ceiling.

As an aspirational – not an insult in my teenage years – young person growing in a socio-economically disadvantaged area in the west Midlands, this provided me with the keys to access world class educational and career opportunities – something which seemed so distant for generations before me. I believed strongly – and still do – that regardless of ethnicity or background, I could achieve anything I wanted, so long as I worked hard for it.

Yes, Labour legislated action on race-hate and discrimination in the workplace but it also put black, Asian and minority ethnic people in the cabinet. In public life there was the first this, the first that, then it was normal.

 It was Labour who extended the ladder of opportunity and opened doors for many, including me. The hope that Labour provided to millions across the country and overseas was a catalyst to many of my personal achievements and those of so many millennials.

 Social mobility and access to opportunities for all are essential to our national interest. Labour and parties of all colours should recapture this drive towards social mobility and put it at the forefront of their manifestos, embedding these goals into all policy areas.


Gurjinder Dhaliwal is a member of Progress. He tweets at @gurjindertweets

Progressive centre-ground Labour politics does not come for free.

It takes time, commitment and money to build a fight against the forces of conservatism. If you value the work Progress does, please support us by becoming a member, subscriber or donating.

Our work depends on you.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Gurjinder Dhaliwal

1 comment

Sign up to our daily roundup email