Rupert Murdoch last night cast himself as a champion of Britain's "dispossessed" migrants, prisoners and economic underclass as he criticised standards of education in a speech in honour of Baroness Thatcher.
Giving the inaugural Margaret Thatcher Lecture at a right-wing London think tank, the media mogul said British schools were failing to educate children for the jobs market.
"Business leaders tell me that large numbers of people who apply to their firms lack the fundamental skills necessary to progress in the workplace. We must move from a system that tries to make up for deficiencies to one that really teaches," he said.
Mr Murdoch, who sent his children to elite private schools, compared British education unfavourably to schools in less advanced countries. "If children in the poorest parts of the world can learn how to read and write – as well as do maths and science in schools with dirt floors and tattered textbooks – there is no excuse for the way British children are being failed by well-resourced schools."
Referring to Britain as "our society", the Australian-born US citizen delivered a speech that characteristically championed libertarian values, stressing the need for the Government to offer greater opportunities for economic advancement. "That is where we must aid the dispossessed," he said. "That is where we must raise the horizons of the young man who is living on a housing estate and has left school prematurely. That is where we must provide hope for the young migrant woman in Luton, whose life choices are being limited by misogyny. That is where we must grant a second chance for the prisoner who seeks rehabilitation, and not an endless cycle of incarceration. That is true tolerance."
Baroness Thatcher and her "vision of the free society" had been "a source of inspiration" to him, he said. "The vigorous virtues she championed have been a guide for me in my life and in my business."
He noted that "many of the defining moments of my career have been in Britain", referring to the structural changes he introduced to the newspaper industry in the 1980s and "creating modern digital television" by launching BSkyB. Mr Murdoch is currently facing concerted opposition from rival media owners over his bid to take full control of the satellite broadcaster. Other companies have called for action from Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, who can refer any such bid to the broadcasting regulator Ofcom for a public interest assessment.