Saturday, July 04, 2009


Inequality is Still the Enemy Labour Must Overcome

Arriving back from holiday last Tuesday I saw an article which surprised and depressed me. A senior Cabinet minister whom I had long respected for his principled resignation over Iraq, had announced the sixties ideal of equality was no longer relevant to Labour. John Denham argued in a speech to the Fabian Society that research showing voters will accept disparities in income if based on genuine talent:

"sounds the death knell for the purely needs-based approach to fairness, and inequality which has dominated much left-liberal thinking since the 1960s...The left needs to stop holding up egalitarianism as the ideal. If we continue to believe that the egalitarian approach is really the right one, and we, somehow, have to find more cunning ways of getting there, we will fail.".

He went on to argue that Labour needed to rebuild a new electoral coalition as the one sustaining New Labour had collapsed.

The next day Roy Hattersley offered a reply to Denham arging that such a view was an 'abdication from the principles of social democracy'. On the need to construct a new electoral coalition he commented:

"Forget the idea that politicians with strong beliefs campaign for what they think right. Read the opinion polls. Consult the focus groups".

He concludes that the party will swing to the left after an election defeat come what may but sees the Denham tendency as a dangerous augury. I agree strongly. Has he not read the Spirit Level which proves to my satisfaction and many others that increased social and economic inequality is the perrenial concomitant of high crime, high drug use, mental illness, physical illness and low life expectancy. If we are not opposed to such social dysfunction, then what are we for, for God's sake?If Labour gives up its commitment to end inequality it might just as well close down its headquarters and surrender to Conservatism. Denham should surely realise this is no foundation for a revival of Labour's fortunes.

I think he's right, Bill, but it's shocking to hear it said out loud. That it is being said by John Denham - like you, I have a lot of time for him - gives me some hope that the Labour Party will find those 'cunning ways' that he speaks of.

I enjoy your blog - very thought provoking. Good luck
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