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Labour's efforts to bridge class divide praised

12 Sep 2008

The Labour Government has made valiant attempts to break down 'stubborn' barriers between rich and poor according to a comprehensive review of research evidence.

Professors Fiona Devine and Yaojun Li from The University of Manchester will present their findings at the  'Elections, Public Opinion and Parties' conference 2008 this Saturday (13 September). 

“Although the prevailing consensus is that social mobility has declined under labour, the evidence is not clear cut, “said Professor Devine. 

“It remains to be seen whether generations of young people growing up under Labour have had more or less opportunities for social mobility than before.” 

Professor Yaojun Li said: “It should not be forgotten that labour Inherited levels of poverty and inequality unprecedented in post-war history In 1997. 

"But overall, the Labour Government has made considerable efforts to reduce class inequalities. 

"It’s important to note that some of these policies will take years to work: it is not yet obvious whether Labour's social policies have succeeded, failed or more likely fallen somewhere in between." 

Professors Devine and Yaojun Li - both based at the University's School of Social Sciences reviewed a wide range of evidence on Labour's programme of social policies launched in mid 1999. 

They reviewed research on  patterns and trends in social mobility. 

They also looked at assessments of education policies aimed at reducing class sizes, raising standards and introducing literacy and numeracy hours to improve educational attainment for all children. 

Professor Devine added: "It is pleasing that Labour's policies have been informed by academic research though much of the evidence shows that class inequalities are remarkably enduring and resistant to  change. 

"Any progress has been gradual and slow and sustained effort, which includes finding out what really works, is required. 

“Given this fact, the task facing Labour - or any political party committed to equality - is enormous.  The reproduction of class inequalities across generations is a complex affair and policy interventions have to be equally sophisticated in fashion'. 

"Labour can hardly feel satisfied with the progress that has been made so far but even so, it does not have to be ashamed of its  efforts to make Britain a more equal society.”

Notes for editors

Evaluating Labour: Social Mobility and Class Inequalities under Blair and Brown will be presented by Fiona Devine and Yaojun Li from  The University of Manchester at 11.15 to 12.45 on Saturday 13 September.

EPOP is the largest specialist group of the Political Studies  Association of the UK, bringing together people interested in the study of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties. It has over 200 members, including media commentators, leading opinion pollsters and national party officials as well as academics. 

The EPOP 2008 conference will take place from Friday 12 September to Sunday 14 September. It is hosted by Institute for Social Change  and  the Democracy, Citizens and Elections Research Network-  both based  at the University of Manchester. 

For more details about EPOP visit 

The report is available. 

For more details contact:
Mike Addelman
Media Relations Officer
Faculty of Humanities
The University of Manchester
0161 275 0790
07717 881 567