Thursday 21 January 2010
WHY IS HARRIET GOING TO REVIVE THE CLASS WAR?
Harriet Harman is likely to reopen the class war tomorrow with a speech saying that it is still the biggest factor in determining individual achievement. She hopes to put the fight against inequality at the heart of the general election campaign.
According to the Guardian, Harman will talk about a government commissioned report by a panel chaired by Professor John Hills. It is anticipated that she will say that the report makes uncomfortable reading for the government and open a debate on the scale of the problems facing a class divided country.
She will say that public policy can still have a significant impact on inequality by intervening at certain key points in a person's life, such as pre-school years or re-entry into work after having children. She will insist that the big choice at the next election will be which party people trust to ensure that as a society "we do not return to the days when inequality was spiraling and where a tiny minority of the population got all the rewards".
In her speech to the leftwing pressure group Compass, Harman is expected to point out that how inequality is cumulative over an individual's lifetime and is carried from one generation to the next and that persistent inequality of class overarches the discrimination or disadvantage that can come from your gender, race or disability.
I am not a huge fan of Harman, as readers of this blog will doubtless know well, but in this matter I’m inclined to think that she has a point.
It seems to me that class is at the bottom of so many of our problems. I spent some time teaching languages with a group of people from accross Europe: France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Austria and Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland. As you might imagine they came from a variety of backgrounds and from geographical locations as far apart as the German-Polish border and the South of Spain. One thing that they had in common was their incredulity that class, accent and position played such a massive part in our lives.
In my opinion, compared with some of Harman’s more idiotic flights of fancy into for example, women’s rights, this speech may make some sense.
The report's findings, however, are politically sensitive since they will surely revive accusations that Labour is embarking on a class war. Whilst a government report cannot be hidden completely, given that the Prime Minister spent so much time last week denying class to be an issue in the Election camplaign, it is hard to see why Harman is taking it as the subject of a major speech.
Posturing for after the election perhaps?