Denham on equality
I’m not impressed by John Denham's argument to the Fabians, reported in the Guardian as that “that "the egalitarian ideal" that has dominated left liberal thinking since the 1960s is redundant, saying Labour's traditional emphasis solely on the poor leaves the vast bulk of the population alienated and left out.”
The creation of a more equal society is not an abstract ideal, it’s one of the reasons – along with providing a political voice for the trade union movement, why a separate Labour Party exists. Take away that mission and we cease to have any distinctive social democratic purpose or identity and might as well merge with the Lib Dems.
Take away the hope of a fairer society that more justly rewards the least well-off – ironically often the hardest working in the most socially useful jobs – than the market does – and what is the political vehicle for the poor to turn to to get a better life if it is not Labour? We either risk creating an underclass totally alienated from the political process, or driving the poor into the arms of the extreme left or the BNP.
A more equal society is in the interests of everyone, not just the poorest, because all the international evidence shows greater economic equality produces better outcomes on a host of indicators for all citizens – less crime, higher educational attainment, more social cohesion, better health.
Labour’s task is to mobilise an electoral coalition of the poor who need a more equal society, those who would not personally benefit from this but are altruistically inspired by it, and those who are in the middle in society but still need economic security and good quality public services.
Equality is not a 1960s ideal as Denham suggests. It is Labour’s timeless Unique Selling Point. We should put policies that increase equality at the heart of our next manifesto.