Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The discovery of social mobility

It may just be words. But from the 'right to get filthy rich' to the duty to promote 'fairness' and 'social mobility', Labour is making a step forward.

After eleven years in denial, the Government has finally at least acknowledged that Britain is in the throes of a serious problem of inequality. Like Polly Toynbee wrote yesterday, there are still significant pockets of sexism, racism, homophobia, ageism. But inequality "trumps them all". Britain has the biggest gap between rich and poor in the EU, and the divide has been growing non-stop regardless of the government in charge.

You can tell Labour are onto something good because Melanie Phillips and the Daily Mail are having fits of rage that would give The Exorcist's Regan a run for her money. Look at their Taleban-style attack. "Labour's war on the middle-classes", according to Michael Lea. Or Max Hastings' "Laws against the middle classes". Or Melanie Phillips' sheer fury with talks of "Soviet Communism", "Orwellian agenda", and the traps of "welfare dependency".

Why the Mail's convulsion? Because Harriet Harman is simply suggesting a White Paper that, in the wake of the current super-decline in social mobility, spells out a duty for the public sector "to narrow the gap between the rich and the poor". How that may be done is unclear, and excuse my pessimism, but I don't think it'll amount to much. There's a clear limit to what policymakers can do. But it's refreshing, dare I say radical, to see a British government openly pushing forward issues of "fairness" and "equality".

Let's not forget that until very recently the priorities Labour had spelt out were the right to get "filthy rich" and "the need to encourage more multi millionaires into this country", thinly offset by the hot air about "education, education, education".

And so Melanie Phillips can bark all she likes and write 'unhinged' stuff, to quote herself, about nuclear family and the horrific immigrants. But when you have a country with such obscene income gaps and shortage of opportunities for the masses, you're bound to reap the harvest one way or another. And that harvest comes in the guise of family breakdown, deprivation, crime, ghetto estates, and an-all pervasive social tension that you ignore at your peril.

And, at the end of the day, they may not like Harman's White Paper, but are they suggesting any alternative at the Daily Mail? That would be too much to ask.

1 comment:

DAVE BONES said...

I thought the "Harriet Harperson" headline was great.