Commission for Equality and Human Rights

Government 'Equalities' Office

Members of Parliament

AddThis Social Bookmark Button


Tuesday, 04 November 2008


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


I have put the final point he made at the CBI below. A number of years ago a wise Labour MP observed that core Labour voters were willing to put up with the dafter ideas from the chattering classes that populate the intelectual forums in Labour, so long as the party was delivering on some basic goods for "ordinary working people". Gradually the Party has forgotten this as few of its leeding lights hail from anything like ordinary backgrounds. Trevor Phillips has not changed his spots but is giving the upper middle class coterie that run the Party and government warning that the ordinary people they disdain are waking up. Of course the arrogance of the professional politicians and ex lawyers that compose the coterie is such that his project to wake them up is unlikely to be effective.

"But fifthly and finally, we need to focus on the true losers in this crisis. We see night after night the picture of formerly well-paid bankers emerging from the front doors of their offices with their boxes in hand. Well, we should feel sympathy for them; not all of them will get new jobs. But by and large they will get payoffs and they will find a new use for their skills.

What we see less of is the janitors and the secretaries who are leaving by the back door holding their P45s. We hear little of the older clerk, who will find it almost impossible to get by the wall of age discrimination. And we're seeing little of the part-time workers, mostly women who will suddenly become dispensable.

Further down the line as what I am sure will come to be called a correction works itself out, I think we need to look out for the wife or partner with a young child, whose husband may have lost his job, or who fears that he will; or who finds that the bills just don't add up unless she goes back to work. When she applies for work, is rejected for job after job in a slack labour market yet sees a clever young Latvian or Lithuanian with two degrees and three languages doing the job she'd like to do, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out how she'll feel. And add to that the picture of her child's nursery class, with, as she will see it, an overworked teacher confronted with a class of 30 that speaks 15 languages at home, who will she resent for not having the life she thinks she deserves?

This is where we, politicians, public officials and business leaders have to be responsible. And one aspect of being responsible is being responsive. It is why this is not the moment to put the work to reduce disadvantage and inequality on the shelf until better days. This is exactly the moment when we need to make sure that as services contract and jobs disappear, the burden is being shared by all and not just falling on the few.

And in particular it means that we need to open our minds to a clearer understanding of who might be the disadvantaged. We know that historically the people who are most hit in this situation are ethnic minorities and women. But today, we have to recognise that in some parts of the country the colour of disadvantage isn't black or brown. It's white. We need to acknowledge that whilst two thirds of Chinese-heritage children routinely get their 5 good GCSEs, as do 3 out of 5 Indian heritage children, 85% of poorer white boys do not. We need to accept that as the Bangladeshi girls who do get to university do brilliantly, there is an underclass of teenage white girls who will not make it into Higher Education after the birth of their first child.

In what is to come, the best defence against prejudice against immigrants will be to make those who resent them competitive, to give them a place in society. We may need to do so with the sort of special measures we've previously targeted at ethnic minorities. But the name of the game today is to tackle inequality, not racial special pleading.

This is a moment where we need clear thinking, clear facts and evidence in dealing with the fallout of the last few weeks.

We will fail to do so at our peril."

The comments to this entry are closed.


Blog powered by Typepad

Reading List