Sir: Your editorial about the stakeholder society ("Blair and Clarke: are they by chance related?", 13 January) perversely misses the point. Of course it's not about privatising the welfare state, any more than it's about any other of the stale mantras to which right-wing commentators have spent the last week trying to appropriate it.
It's about having an inclusive society, not one where millions are shut out by the deepest divisions British society has suffered since the Thirties. It's about a participating citizenry, not one where people are merely passive ciphers of power always located beyond them. It's about balancing competitiveness with co-operative relationships, since social and economic partnerships can often produce the best results rather than unrestrained competition. And it's about reciprocal rights and responsibilities, since the more committed the stakeholder in his contribution to the general enterprise, the bigger his ultimate reward.
The stakeholder concept is surely an idea whose time has come when more people feel excluded than at any time in living memory. With unemployment only once below 2 million in the past 15 years, a growing pool of long- term unemployed, including many school-leavers, feel a sense of hopelessness.
Nor is the stakeholder society the enemy of economic success in the marketplace. Unremitting aggressive individualism in the past 15 years hasn't prevented Britain slipping from 13th to 18th place in the international competitiveness league. Indeed, some of the most successful market economies of the past 30 years such as Japan, Germany and Singapore have adopted a strong,
co-operative stakeholder model which has been a major component of their competitive edge.
MP for Oldham West (Lab)
House of Commons
The writer is Shadow Secretary of State for Employment.Reuse content