1 December 2013
Last updated at 08:00 ET
George Osborne and Boris Johnson agreed that equality of outcome was not possible to achieve
Chancellor George Osborne has distanced himself from the suggestion by London Mayor Boris Johnson that different IQ levels are “surely relevant” in trying to explain economic inequality.
Mr Johnson, speaking this week, noted that 16% of “our species” had an IQ below 85, and just 2% one of above 130.
Mr Osborne told the BBC he would not “put it like that”.
He said it was impossible to create equal achievement, but stressed the importance of equality of opportunity.
Delivering the Margaret Thatcher lecture last week, Conservative Mayor Mr Johnson said “the spirit of envy” was an important spur to economic growth, but added that he did not want the recovery to create a generation of “heartless bankers”.
He said: “I am afraid that violent economic centrifuge is operating on human beings who are already very far from equal in raw ability, if not spiritual worth.”
This was “surely relevant to achievement”, he argued, adding that reintroducing grammar schools could help bright children from poor homes.
Mr Johnson added: “The harder you shake the pack, the easier it will be for some cornflakes to get to the top. And for one reason or another – boardroom greed or, as I am assured, the natural and God-given talent of boardroom inhabitants – the income gap between the top cornflakes and the bottom cornflakes is getting wider than ever.
“I stress I don’t believe that economic equality is possible. Indeed, some measure of inequality is essential for the spirit of envy and keeping up with the Joneses that is, like greed, a valuable spur to economic activity.”
Asked about the speech on BBC One’s Andrew Marr Show, Mr Osborne said: “I would not have put it like that. I don’t agree with everything he said.”
However, he offered some support for Mr Johnson’s argument, saying: “I think there is actually increasingly common agreement across the political spectrum you can’t achieve equality of outcome, but you should be able to achieve equality of opportunity.
“You should give everyone, wherever they come from, the best chance, and, actually, education is the key to this.”
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg accused Mr Johnson of “unpleasant, careless elitism” following his speech.