Harman on equality and social class

Harriet Harman’s speech to the TUC sounds to have been pretty good. If the Conservatives are accusing her of “re-opening the class war” then that can’t be all bad, eh?

Nick Robinson has an interesting post about the speech, but I’m puzzled by his statement that Harman didn’t mention the word “class” in her speech. The report linked above quotes her as saying:

Equality matters more than ever and it is necessary for individuals, a peaceful society and a strong economy. We have made great progress on tackling inequality but we know that inequality doesn’t just come from your gender, race, sexual orientation or disability. What overarches all of these is where you live, your family background, your wealth and social class.

Perhaps the “c” word was in the written text but not actually delivered from the platform. Anyway, it’s positive to have a government minister willing to talk about equality as a desirable goal, and about “people’s life chances” are affected by “where they were born, what kind of family they were born into, where they live and their wealth”.

“Fairness” is clearly a key Labour theme for the autumn. Gordon Brown’s recent email to party members (see preceding post) majored on this topic and, as Robinson points out, its an issue that energises Labour for several reasons:

Belief – that this is what Labour is for.

Anger – that the Tories are “getting away” with presenting themselves as the party which will reduce inequality.

Hope – that this is a theme which will allow others to highlight David Cameron and George Osborne’s privileged backgrounds given that Labour’s crude attempts to exploit the “toffs in top hat” factor played so badly in the Crewe and Nantwich by-election.

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2 thoughts on “Harman on equality and social class”

  1. There’s a terminological nexus which I don’t think we ever quite get right in the UK. Our political discourse proceeds on the basis that equality, fairness and “being treated the same” are all basically equivalent, and that they’re therefore all desirable. But are they? I would contend that they’re different; but if so, what is the right goal for us to have? And on that basis, how do we get it? It’s this question which propelled me out of my previous Labour-supporting mode.

    On a point of information, the word “class” was dropped from the speech; the linked article has since been updated with that little nugget.

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