Harriet Harman’s Equality Act, or Harman’s Law as it is more commonly known, has been binned by Theresa May – and probably just as well.
Designed to supposedly ‘make local authorities take disadvantage and inequalities into account when making policy decisions’, it was bound to deliver confusion and distortion rather than do anything about inequality. This rather silly law demonstrates just how much the Labour party had run out of ideas. It is also a sad reflection on a political class that apparently believes that inequality can be solved by piecemeal legislation.
Yesterday Theresa May argued that equality was ‘associated with the worst forms of pointless political correctness and social engineering’. She went on to say that she favoured a greater focus on “fairness” rather than “equality”, and that many people felt ‘alienated by the equality agenda’. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, she doesn’t get it either, does she?
This country is more unequal in incomes, wealth, health, education and life chances than any other time since the 1920s. Social mobility is at all time low. If you’re born poor, you stay poor and this translates into ill health and missed opportunity.
Our society is full of glaring examples of inequality and yet we appear to be blind to them. Obesity, alcoholism, mental illness, the number of teenage pregnancies, life expectancy of the less well off, the size of the prison population all are symptoms of inequality – and they are all a bigger problem in Britain than in any other country in Europe. The real worry is that no politician has the faintest clue what to do about inequality, so they pretend it isn’t really there – or give it another name like… ‘fairness’.
So what to do? Growth, economic growth that will sort it all out…it won’t. Yes, growth benefits everybody, but it benefits the few disproportionately i.e. those that can exploit it. Britain can only be made a more equal society if there are some new ‘big ideas’ – and I mean really big ideas – about taxation, housing, education and investment in industry. We need fundamental banking and political reform. We have to ‘positively advantage’ the disadvantaged and restore their pride and self-respect. We have to get out of the casino and get back to the world of real work.
Politicians can no longer mitigate inequality by overspending on public services. This is the way to ruin – as we are discovering. Endless populist initiatives have tied the country in bureaucratic knots so much so that we can no longer make any sense of the confusion that has been created.
The time has come for strong, fearless leadership: leadership that is prepared to stand up to the financial and media elites, ditch political expediency and deliver fundamental change. Now all we have to do is to find that leader.