Remain campaign has to start making its case now

Wolfgang Münchau rightly raises the alarm (The Remain campaign is losing the argument over Europe, April 4). Indeed, we are not sleeping walking our way to the Brexit; we are rushing headlong towards the door.

Pro Europe campaigners appear unable to marshal any meaningfully engaging reasons to remain in the EU. They seem unable or unwilling to find anything good to say about European membership, choosing to focus on complex cost/benefit analyses that are meaningless to the average citizen.

Meanwhile the Brexiteers are capturing hearts and minds with simple appeals to regaining sovereignty and putting Britain first.Bad news from Brussels seems to emerge almost daily with no credible counter from the uninspiring band of mostly older white male establishment figures telling the country what’s best. This is despite the fact that most bad news is made in Britain.

The best advocate for staying in Europe I have heard is Nicola Sturgeon, first minister of Scotland. Positive, honest, straight to the point and from the heart, she said in February: “For more than 40 years, membership of the European Union has been good for the prosperity and wellbeing of individuals, families and communities across the country.”

Is it ironic that Education Secretary Nicky Morgan recently asked young people to appeal to their elders to vote Remain, given her Government has denied 16- and 17-year olds the right to vote on this single, most important risk to their future?

The Remain campaign should be flooded with dynamic voices of young people from diverse communities speaking about a more secure future as Europeans and a Britain that is Great because it looks beyond its island borders.

The StrongerIn campaign must wake up urgently from its somnambulism and start making a righteous case for Europe, or be prepared for the nightmare of Brexit.

Youth Mobility & Opportunity: How can we secure a better future for all?

Earlier this month David Cameron pledged “an all-out assault on poverty”, committing his party to tackle entrenched social problems and promote social mobility. It’s a considerable task: meritocracy and mobility have for decades proved illusory to the British public, a rhetorical mirage conjured at party conference but rarely experienced in reality. Cameron is battling a forceful tide – a spate of recent studies suggests that economic inequality is on the rise, at the same time as mobility diminishes.

According to research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the National Survey of Health and Development and others, over two million 16-24 year olds – one sixth of that age group – live in low-income households. One in ten is out of work or full-time education, and over a quarter are economically inactive. The repression of opportunity is not universal, though: for British minorities, the likelihood of young life spent in poverty is double the average. Perhaps most damaging, though, is the fact that a child born to a high-earning professional father has twenty times the chance of getting a high status job than the child of a working class father. In spite of the rhetoric, clearly the problem persists.

Last week, Integriti Capital asked a panel of social mobility champions to discuss how we might secure a better future for those young people. We encouraged our speakers to draw on their own life stories, providing insights that were coloured by personal experience rather than drawn from social science theory. Reflecting on moments of pivotal change or realisation that propelled them toward their own success, each was asked to offer practical advice on mobility, and how to achieve it.

Ken Olisa OBE – founder of Resonance Capital and the Queen’s Lord Lieutenant of Greater London – rooted his success to the moment he considered what he would want to look back on in retirement. By considering his eulogy, rather than his CV, Olisa defined his ‘North Star’ and set about pursuing it. He argued that if you “have a target, you can overshoot it. If you have none, by definition you can’t”. A prerequisite to mobility then, is fixing a destination, and holding true to it.

Destination decided, speakers were clear that inner strength was needed in order to move forwards. ‘Resilience and confidence’ are critical traits, argued Ben Benjamin, who spent seven years working at Kids Company, an organisation that provided critical support when she was a homeless teenager. Opportunities mean little if recipients aren’t equipped to seize them, and soft skills are key to their doing so. Now an experienced charity fundraiser, Benjamin’s pilot radio project, Girls on Air, aims to give girls aged 14-18 just those skills, helping them to access opportunities when they arise.

Alongside internal strength, external support was a common thread in the experiences of our speakers. Sometimes that influence was straightforward. Justine Lutterodt – director of the Centre for Synchronous Leadership – cited the role of her professorial parents in ensuring her early school years were fruitful. Familial support is the bedrock of social mobility, according to the Conservative Party, which states “the roots of the failure of social mobility in Britain lie first and foremost within families and individual households”. While we are wary of seeing social mobility as the responsibility of under pressure families, we do acknowledge that strong families are an important part of the solution.

Others, though, spoke of intervention from outside of the family construct. Among our six speakers, two were outstanding school leaders. Adanma Umunna – principal at the new Aldridge Centre for Entrepreneurship – and Vanessa Ogden – Head of Mulberry School for Girls – both emphasised the role of schools in supporting mobility. Umunna spoke of a young, dyslexic man – the son of an alcoholic – for whom attendance at school meant ritual harassment from the gang he’d left behind.

Ogden described a student whose professed ambitions were to be a ‘pimp or a professional footballer’. For these young people and many others, the scope of those ambitions could only be broadened by their teachers. As Umunna put it, a good school could transform prospects, by focussing on the gifts of its students, rather than their deprivation. For her, deprivation is a dream killer.

Beyond schools, the panel agreed that possessing wide networks facilitated mobility, and urged the audience as a priority to open access routes to their networks for disadvantaged young people wherever possible. In my experience, there are multiple ways access can be restricted, and unconscious omission is just as culpable as overt discrimination.

Networks provide access, but are perhaps equally valuable in expanding and diversifying the outlooks of young people. Building familiarity with other groups was important for both Umunna and Benjamin. Umunna described a school-arranged university immersion, where she socialised for the first time with white middle-class contemporaries. The experience was pivotal in that it fostered familiarity with a different group, one who were predominant at the university she later attended.

That familiarity is central to mobility – much like moving to a new country, adopting a new social position requires learning a new language, norms and customs. Benjamin spoke of a middle-class acquaintance who showed her “a place beyond my council estate and gave me a view of where I wanted to go.” The place beyond the council estate was the Royal Opera House where champagne was served by the glass, for £26.

Growing familiar with different norms was important for both, but it is worth noting that in each case the language that had to be learnt was that of the privileged and of the white middle classes. Part of the difficulty is that the concept of social mobility often assumes a destination, and when we think of ‘upward mobility’, we are typically looking in the direction of prestigious universities, the professions, politics – the conventional arenas of power. There is a danger therefore, that social mobility reduces to learning the language of elites, and attempting to mirror them.

Josh Babarinde, founder of Cracked It! – a social enterprise supporting young people at risk of joining gangs – tackled that issue head on; “Understanding social mobility as the working class becoming more middle class is not just arrogant,” he argued, “it risks compromising the cultural diversity we so value in this country”. Instead of viewing mobility as the possibility of reaching higher rungs on the ladder then, we should consider Olisa’s advice: finding and following our personal North Star is more empowering for the individual, and promotes a more diverse set of ambitions.

Babarinde also described someone he worked with who was involved with a gang. The young man earnt money from selling drugs, before surreptitiously slipping notes into his mother’s purse. He chose the gang life not out of delinquency but out of ambition: a steady income, protection and a prospect.

There are no end of North Stars in the galaxy of ambition; the challenge is to clear the sky so they can be seen, and to lay the path so they can be reached. Providing opportunity, networks and the skills to exploit both is the task for society. If we can do that, we allow disadvantaged young people to express ambition in other ways – to be led by their gift, not their deprivation.

The Time To Stop Banker Bashing

As Sir David Walker says in his City Sage interview in the April/May FW, “By far the greatest challenge facing the banking sector is to restore confidence and trust.”

He notes that banks are being “forced to tick stricter regulatory boxes, rather than doing the right thing because it is right.”

Speaking at a recent conference on Finance & Society organized by The Institute for New Economic Thinking, IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde went further, saying “We need to build a financial system that is both more ethical and oriented more to the needs of the real economy – a financial system that serves society and not the other way round.”

These and other similar expert observations point to the compelling need to change the culture of the financial sector.

That is why we should react cautiously to the clamour, most recently heard from the newly elected Conservative government, to stop the banker bashing.

We cannot deny that strong banking and finance are essential for a healthy economy, but wealth creation is not an end in itself.

While responsibility for the financial crisis cannot be laid totally at the door of the financial sector, we must acknowledge that a highly unbalanced risk/reward system contributed significantly to it.

We cannot deny that the finance industry still has some way to go to demonstrate it is chastened.  Too often still, the most vocal contributions to the debate about the future of finance from financiers themselves are complaints about bonus caps and unnecessary regulations, or indignation at being held to account for aiding tax evasion and unfair penalties for market rigging.  There are still too many excuses about not being able to know what is going on in too complex organisations.

Although we must give credit to many financial institutions that are clearly trying to change for the better.  They are improving corporate governance, introducing greater transparency, looking to sustain longer-term results and encouraging their people to do what is best for their customers.

So while we can stop bashing the bankers, allowing them to get on with making the changes to culture that are required, we must not stop holding them to account and allowing a return to business as usual.

Building a Bridge Between Private Capital and Public Services

Danny Kruger makes an important case for David Cameron’s “One Nation” government to address a welfare state founded on the ambition of meeting all the needs of all the people, an ambition we must agree is no longer sustainable.

Faced with the need to make even more challenging cuts to government spending, the Prime Minister should not be afraid to reignite his vision for a Big Society that embraces not just citizens as good neighbors, but also the providers of private capital.

When there is, as the famous note says, no money left, we must find the necessary funds to ensure a fair society for all from somewhere and surely not from those least able to contribute.

To attract private funding to public services we must build an efficient, lower cost, easy-to-access and liquid capital market for social enterprise. Social impact bonds, retail charity bonds along with the Social Stock Exchange could bring the needed step change but are still nascent steps toward

I believe, however, the push for greater devolution to cities and regions in the UK harbingers a real revolution where local authorities have greater access to bond funding for their day-to-day expenditure and special projects, to include schools, prisons, job centres, elderly care homes or libraries,

A healthy municipal bond market is a proven magnet for private capital and would offer issuers and investors the chance to bring much innovation and opportunities for the social change that Mr. Kruger and the rest of us want to see.

Closing the Gap

Making the case for capitalism should not be a PR exercise with attention grabbing labels such as inclusive, sustainable and socially responsible. No amount of artful messaging can alter observable or perceived reality. It does, however, require much more effective communication than we have seen to date if the case is to succeed.

We are at a critical moment in history, where many orthodoxies and shibboleths of faith are being challenged and rejected by citizens around the world. The crisis of trust that business and finance face today is not an aberration – a passing phase that will disappear with as the global economy recovers — but rather a profound soul searching by an angry public about how the future can be made meaningful, productive and secure for all humanity, not just a privileged few.

If big business, in particular the financial community where particular opprobrium is directed, cannot successfully articulate its social purpose, demonstrate the positive contributions it makes to economic growth and also honestly acknowledge the risks it poses, its license to operate will be severely restricted or even withdrawn.

It is too easy to say the man on the street can never understand or doesn’t want to hear why business matters. It is too simple to believe being successful and profitable is enough of a reason to be left in peace to get on with it.

The price paid by millions of people around the world for the misguided, at best, and predatory, at worst, cannot be dismissed as an inevitability of the economic cycle or the result of media promulgated envy.

Such complacency must end if anti-business rhetoric is to be reversed.

What is needed is a major injection of integrity into how the case for capitalism is made, into telling the positive story of business and its contribution to progressive economic growth, and into how it can mitigate its dominance over the world’s finite resources.