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Insecurity and fairness

The Fabians discussed this morning insecurity and inequality.

Whilst these are huge topics, I was impressed with the amount of breadth and depth of the discussion.

Whatever the economic solution to the global financial crisis is, and whether it will work in this country, we still have an on-going problem that has existed for the whole of this century in England.

The Fabian meeting was a starting-point for discussing some of these issues, this morning at breakfast.

Politically, the issue has been thrust to the front of the Labour agenda through the Fabian Society. Many blame Labour for not doing anything over the banking crisis, as regards the huge salaries of certain CEOs of banks. Economists on the whole appear to believe that the extra revenue that would have be gained from a high rate of taxing the bankers would not make a massive amount to the revenue of the Governnment. At the other end of the scale, despite the welfare state, there are still people living in relative poverty.

I suppose part of the problem for me is that the welfare state is not meant to be simply a desperate measure for those who’ve fallen off the edge of the cliff. It should support the successful, as indeed the NHS does support the acute medical care of all the Cabinet and Shadow Cabinet. Labour’s inequality divide, we all know, got massively worse under Blair and Brown, and this is not a record that socialists should be proud of. The recent experience of the Swedes, possibly, is that socialism is not seen as a relevant solution in this global modern economy. Taking this in its wider context, socialism should be for the good times as well as the bad, but the Conservatives attempt to shatter this notion through their repetitive chant that ‘we always fix the broken economy by Labour’.

Fairness is incredibly difficult to define. I have only seen attempts by the Law Lords in cases concerning grounds of judicial review, such as legitimate expectation or procedural impropriety. I actually have never seen it discussed at length in relation to a more obvious candidate, the Human Rights Act. Of course, we are yet to see how the case law of the Equality Act will develop. Insecurity, I sensed, was likely to be exacerbated when voters felt that circumstances were out of their control, akin to learned helplessness in depression. There are two scenarios I can immediately think of where this lack of predictability in events might lead to insecurity; the increasing globalisation of the jobs market (and immigration), and (b) the global financial crisis. Gillian Duffy, and many like her, may feel insecure about her family’s jobs, but in fairness to her (pardon the pun), in law there might be a proportional check on the freedom of movement – and that is a right to work in your domestic country – however contentious that would be.

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