Sunder Katwala: Fighting inequality could be the policy Britain needs

Share

It won't matter whether it's red, yellow or blue. Every general election manifesto in 2009 will proclaim social justice. These are topsy-turvy political times: other parties are stealing New Labour's political clothes while Oliver Letwin's old friends in the Thatcherite think-tanks dub him "Oliver Leftwing" for arguing that a Tory government should support redistribution to narrow the gap between the haves and have-nots.

As the Fabian Life Chances and Child Poverty Commission shows, Britain today is marked by stark inequalities from cradle to grave. Child poverty has fallen, having increased from one in seven to one in three from 1979 to 1997. But over three million children are growing up in poverty in Britain today. After missing its first interim target this month, the Government must change gear to meet its commitment to halve child poverty by 2010 and eradicate it by 2020. The new cross-party "battle for social justice" presents Labour's next leader, Gordon Brown, with both a more serious electoral threat and a political opportunity for his ambition to forge a "progressive consensus".

"Reform to tackle inequality" could be the slogan for an agenda to unite progressives. A life chances "litmus test" for policy would ask whether a measure would improve life chances for the disadvantaged most of all? Does it narrow the gap between them and the rest? That should be the test of schools admissions policies and health funding.

To win a public argument about inequality, Labour must make this "life chances" approach central to next year's comprehensive spending review, when Mr Brown will make the political decisions on which the next general election will be fought.

Can talk of social justice be converted into a more equal Britain? Only if an emerging political consensus has at its heart a shared commitment: we must make child poverty history at home, too.

Sunder Katwala is the general secretary of the Fabian Society. 'Narrowing the Gap,' the report of the Fabian Life Chances and Child Poverty Commission, will be published on Thursday.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst- (Customer Support) - £29,000

£29000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst- (Customer Suppor...

Recruitment Genius: Laser Games Supervisor

£14500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: PPC Executive / Manager

£22000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A PPC Executive/Manager is requ...

Ashdown Group: Service Delivery Manager - Retail / FMCG / WMS Operations

£55000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Service Delivery Manager - Retail / FMCG / WM...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Britons are enjoying a thriving sex-life well into their sixties, a survey has shown  

Surveys of people’s sex lives: how do we know what to believe?

Simon Kelner
The Independent journalist James Moore pictured outside Mile End underground station in east London  

From ‘coloured’ to ‘cripple’ - some words just don't belong in everyday language

James Moore
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness