Saturday 20 September 2008

Liam Byrne: fairness must address 'have yachts' gap

A couple of fascinating snippets from Labour rising star Liam Byrne, usually thought of as one of the next generation's Blairite voices, speaking on Can Middle England Care About Equality? at the Fabian fringe event with End Child Poverty, Barnado's and the Webb Memorial Trust.

Firstly, Byrne's description of the last decade.

“This was the week when we really saw the risks and rewards of globalisation: the bull run of the Clinton/Blair years”

Secondly, his sense that the market for social democratic arguments about fairness is expanding:

“Many people think that this is becoming a world that is divided between the haves, the have nots and the have yachts. People see in the newspapers that people can earn $30 million for crashing a bank. And they can’t see why that is fair. And they are right: it is not fair".

But the cynicism that will come when politicians make that argument will be about delivery. And that is why we have to go local. Is this going to be a tale of two communities? We need to renew an attack on poverty by changing Britain’s poorest communities – to ensure that no community is left behind"

But Byrne acknowledged that Labour has not found the élan to make the argument for 'national unity' that could appeal across society:

One of the ways in which we marshall the political will is as part of a contest with political opponents. This is where you see in great big capital letters the fallacy that you can solve these problems by rolling forward society, the code for rolling back the state. If you look at the record, we are not short in investment in renewing civic investment, but we have not quite put that story together with the sort of political élan that we could. This is not something that just appeals to core constituencies. This is a story about national unity that can appeal to Middle England”

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