Monday, 11 October 2010

The left should recognise that equality is undesirable

(Ed: I managed both to agree and disagree with this article, so thought it worth posting.)

In the early days of New Labour it is said a media adviser whispered into an ambitious minister's ear after an interview: "We don't say equality, we say fairness." The former reeked of socialism – all taxes, empowerment schemes and regulation. The latter was as inoffensive as a scented candle. Everyone can agree to be fair – which is the problem.

A fairness boom is under way. Two parties used the word in their election slogans. In their conference speeches Nick Clegg, Ed Miliband and David Cameron all promised to pursue fairness. In his new book Will Hutton argues we should do the same. Tomorrow the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) publishes a 700-page report entitled How Fair Is Britain?, which turns out to be only partly about fairness – in the sense of discrimination – but about inequalities of outcome too.

The fashionable flag under which to fly this autumn, however, is the F-word. And it's too unspecific. Cuts aren't fair. Student fees aren't fair. Benefits aren't fair. Welfare scroungers aren't fair. Cancer isn't fair. Britain isn't fair. We're being asked to judge our society on a vague and catch-all value, and we fail. It simply isn't fair. Read more

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