Sunday, 18 January 2009

From maximum wages, to pension overhauls and Oxbridge admissions: a range of ideas to make Britain fairer

All delegates and speakers were asked to contribute their ‘One Idea to Make Britain Fairer’ at this year's Fabian Society New Year Conference. The best were then pitched to our ‘Make Britain Fairer’ judges in the final plenary, to be debated and voted upon by the audience. Forming the panel were Ken Livingstone, the former Mayor of London, David Aaronovitch, columnist for The Times and Dawn Butler MP. David Lammy MP, the Minister for Higher Education, was chair. Here is a selection of videos from some of the brave entrants.

Kevin Maguire, associate editor of the Daily Mirror, called for a national maximum wage set at a rate of 10:1 against the workers on the lowest remuneration in the country. Aaronovitch questioned how Manchester City would be able to afford Kaka if it came into force, but Maguire said, as a Sunderland supporter, this was of little concern to him. More seriously though, Dennis MacShane MP said he had proposed a similar policy over 10 years ago but set the ratio twice as high.

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Tim Horton, the Research Director of the Fabian Society, wanted to take half of the advertising budget currently used to promote action to tackle benefit fraud to support a new campaign against tax avoidance, seeking to change cultural norms on free-riding at the top as well as the bottom. Livingstone's reaction to this proposal, already documented by Sunder Katwala, somehow advocated invading Guernsey as the next step. Not offical Fabian policy, I hasten to add.

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Kelvin Hopkins MP, argued for a drastic change in pensions with an abolition of means testing and restoring the 25% earnings link. He was questioned about Gordon Brown's take on the subject and the impact his proposals would have on women in particular. Hopkins was heavily criticised for not having fully costed his proposal and, even though he maintained the NI rise would cover it, one delegate even asked for his idea to be ruled out of the competition.

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Sarah Vero, researcher for Ian Gibson MP, wanted to impose a cap on the number of privately educated pupils who were allowed into Oxbridge. She proposed having only 14% of places for non-state students, which is twice the percentage of pupils across the country that actually attend private schools. Livingstone lodged an objection that the policy would cause resentment like that in the US over affirmative action. However Lammy had the final word by saying that both Barack Obama and Condoleezza Rice benefited from similar schemes in the past.

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All the proposals were then put to the floor to discover the Fabian Society's 'One Idea to Make Britain Fairer'. After a close round of voting, a run-off was required to decide between Hopkins' and Vero's proposals. Lammy had pressed hard for the pension scheme, well aware that Oxbridge admissions fall under his portfolio, but eventually conceded a draw. Which one do you think should have won and would do the most to make our country fairer?

1 comment:

Patrick McGroin said...

heres how you can increase pensions, stop fucking taxing them!