Recession under the Tories left 100s of thousands of individuals with no chance of achieving their potential, said Leader of the House Harriet Harman at the Fabian conference.
During a financial downturn would be exactly the wrong time to leave it all to the market, she said.
"We are taking an active approach," she said.
What the Tories were saying about cutting back public spending was exactly the wrong economic analysis, she added at the What Do People Think About Fairness session.
It was about making the recession as short and shallow as possible, she said kicking off the session, "we want to move towards a stronger economy and a fairer society".
"We want a new social order with fairness and equality at its heart."
Divided societies are not peacefull and not as ease with themselves, she said.
As we face tough times there needs to be a sense that we are all in it together, she said.
Harman, the equalities minister, said this was no time for a hierachy of inequalities, with race set against gender. "It's all one great cause."
"We can't allow a divide and rule on the equality agenda."
Getting public authorities to publish data on pay, for instance showing the difference between how much they pay men and women would add transparency.
"We can't tackle discrimination if it remains hidden."