Khan: “inequality is the defining issue of our age” and what Labour will do about it

10th June, 2014 9:29 am

Today Shadow Justice Secretary Sadiq Khan will outline how the next Labour government would go about addressing economic inequality in the UK.

Sadiq Khan

Following an article in the The Mirror in May, in which he called for Labour to be bold when it comes to tackling inequality, at the GMB Conference today Khan will explain the importance of addressing economic disparities:

“Inequality is now the single biggest threat to our economy, our society and to the wellbeing of the British people. It stops our economy from working for ordinary people. It reduces economic growth. It is the single most important factor in determining the happiness of society and the cohesiveness of our communities and it offends the basic British sense of moral fairness.”

In his speech he will outline where the coalition government have gone wrong (including citing figures which show in the last year the share of post-tax income of the top 1% of taxpayers has risen from 8.2% to 9.8%, while the bottom 90% have seen an income drop of 71.3% to 70.4%), explaining that:

Earlier this year he [Boris Johnson] said: “Inequality is essential to fostering the spirit of envy” and “It is a valuable spur to economic activity”. Can you believe that? It goes to the very heart of what the Tory Party believes. Despite all the evidence to the contrary – from the IMF and Bank of England  – they genuinely believe that inequality is a good thing. It’s why they think it’s acceptable to cut taxes for millionaires while ordinary people are facing a cost-of-living crisis.

But speaking to the Guardian, Khan also admitted that the previous Labour government could have done more to stop inequality growing:

“Over 13 years of government, we did many amazing things – from the national minimum wage to investing in education – but we also have to have the humility to admit that we weren’t able to do enough to tackle rising inequality – and that it continued to rise under our watch.”

To show what the party have learnt from this, Khan will once again lay out Labour’s current policies on inequality, which include reintroducing the 50p tax rate, repeating the bankers bonus tax to fund a ‘Compulsory Jobs Guarantee’, introducing a mansion tax on properties worth over £2 million to fund a 10p tax ban and building 200,000 homes a year while also make renting more affordable and secure.

Crucially, the Shadow Justice Secretary won’t just mention how Labour would level the economic playing field were they to win in 2015 but also in a climate of political alienation how they would rebalance the distribution of power. Khan will say that this would include fighting “against legal aid changes that leave thousands with unequal access to justice, and the unconstitutional assault on judicial review

And Khan – considered a frontrunner for the London Mayoral nomination – will also highlight the importance of the link between Labour and the trade unions:

The Labour Party and trade unions have fought inequality side-by-side for more than a century.

We will need our relationship to be stronger than ever if we are to win the general election in 2015, defeat the vested interests, and take the radical action we need to make Britain a more equal country.

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  • Danny

    Accordingly to your colleague John Denham, it seems equality is a utopian fantasy.

    • Daniel Speight

      Danny I do hope that Denham doesn’t believe that inequality is a good thing. I don’t think he was suggesting that in his immigration post. Of course the fight against inequality doesn’t equal a fight for a total utopian equality or the Marxist ‘for each according to his needs’. But a fight against unequal treatment of our citizens in many ways including economic is really the very raison d’être for a social democratic party to exist, something that the Gang of Four and the SDP couldn’t bring themselves to admit. It strikes me that many in the Blairite/Progress wing of the Labour Party also have very little connection with social democracy. A couple of years ago Anthony Painter said on LL that social democracy means whatever he wants it to mean. I guess there are fair few still hanging around Westminster who feel the same.

    • JoeDM

      Equality of what?

  • Daniel Speight

    At least we have a shadow cabinet member leading with the fight against inequality. What we have no need of is Blairite blathering on how we don’t mind the filthy rich as long as they pay their taxes. We should mind when we have parents having to choose between food or heat. We need to set the taxes to a point where some of the filthy lucre is removed. We need more of this if Labour wants victory next year.

    • David Lewis

      What is inequity and why does it matter and to whom?

      • Mark Reilly

        Inequality is the measure of the gap between the richest and poorest in society.

        In theory it wouldn’t matter assuming that the poorest in society had enough to lead full and satisfying lives, enabling everyone to reach their full potential

        However the authors of “The Spirit Level” make a compelling argument that in unequal societies the richest are not immune from the effects of inequality and are worse off than they would be in a more equal society. Based on criteria such as health, well being, happiness (as opposed to counting the cash in the bank)

        So if they are to be believe, then to answer your second question is, it matters to all of us as inequality makes all of us worse off.

        • David Lewis

          Thank you. So this is a theory from a book. Is there any other evidence of this?

          If so, the wealthy would have better health if they were less wealthy? And happier? I’m a bit sceptical of that.

          Does this also mean that if the rich became poorer, the poor would become healthier and happier?

          Do many people believe this? From the piece apparently the writer does.

          But if the wealthy could be persuaded to give their money to the less wealthy does this mean that both would be happier and healthier?

          Is this a `property is theft’ sort of thing? Redistribution etc?

          Are these all just assumptions?

          • Mark Reilly

            The argument is around the corrosive nature of inequality on society, the main example being that in Scandinavia and Japan health, life expectancy, academic achievement are better than in more unequal societies, the US in particular.

            The book appears to be a pretty rigorous Sociological Study with plenty of evidence in it and has been well received and peer reviewed.
            …but there are critics, if you don’t get a chance to read it there is a Wiki entry with plenty of discussion on the merits of the book.

          • David Lewis

            Thank you very much for this and I do take the point but it does seem that there is a lot of policy based upon a book however persuasive. I will read the book and it is very kind of you to spend the time.

      • PoundInYourPocket

        “Mrs Thatcher was, as most people agree the greatest post war British Prime Minister.”
        Perhaps you should return to your Telegraph Blog Page…

        • David Lewis

          Forgive me but did I say anything which is not true. You may not concur personally and I applaud the fact that this is your right. In addition, I have a view which I believe is shared by more people worldwide than would demur.

          However, i am not sure that this is particularly relevant these days and it certainly it does not seem particularly relevant to the interesting subject of `equality’ in its political sense.

          • PoundInYourPocket

            and of course from another of your many Telegrah posts:

            “You are a loony leftist whom most people just laugh at or wonder about. Rejoicing in failure – quite disgusting to normal people.”

            Why post on a Labour website ? Please go back to the Telegraph and Spectator where your obnoxious views may be valued.

          • JoeDM

            ‘Labour website’

            Nope. Read the About Us page on LL. It contains the following: “LabourList is an independent progressive blog providing a platform for open debate about centre-left issues and the future of the Labour movement”

            LL is open for all to discuss the blogs and comments posted here as long as you stay within the rules. It is not a closed-shop.

  • Theo Blackwell

    This seems like a bit of a restatement of existing policy – which is fine but more important (and unsaid here) is how this ties in with Chris Leslie’s zero-based budgeting announced 10 days ago, which will look at how Whitehall budgets should be spent. A shift towards tackling inequality in current spending will mean many tough decisions as we re-prioritise, but ultimately more of a focus on tackling inequality and ‘what works’. This is an exercise a lot of Labour councils are undertaking at the moment.

    While it is clear inequality increased – we should be wary of underplaying Labour’s focus on tackling poverty when in power. That’s not just about NMW and education.

    Labour massively invested in housing repairs, which tackled the £19bn backlog bequeathed by the Tories. Housing poverty is a key source of inequality and bringing hundreds of thousands of homes to decent standard was a major anti-inequality measure. The introduction of Safer Neighbourhood Teams and powers to tackle persistent ASB so more deprived areas got the same, if not better, policing than other places tackle another form of inequality.

    Surestart and investment in early years gave poor parents help for the first time. Millions of pounds in Neighbourhood Renewal Funding was invested in the poorest areas, with many experimental projects enabling advances in halting teenage pregnancy, new job schemes and community cohesion projects – as well as capital projects capital hadn’t been able to afford since rate-capping.

    The criticism at the time was that some of these projects were too top-down because Labour and Whitehall didn’t trust local government to deliver. If we are to tackle inequality many measures will work best if they are devised and run locally, not as the product of lever-pulling in SW1, so it’s a bit disappointing not to hear more on this, considering…

  • BusyBeeBuzz

    The Labour Parliamentary candidate for Sheffield Hallam who is going to challenge Nick Clegg said “It’s a waste of time campaigning for legal aid.” I tried to explain to him that removing legal aid for judicial review means that millions of poor and vulnerable people would no longer be able to challenge bad laws and that this is an erosion of the democratic right (of all people) to challenge bad laws. I also told him that when Labour abstained on the Jobseekers (Back to Work) Bill they lost me. There cannot be one law for politicians who fiddle their expenses and one law for unemployed graduates doing voluntary work for museums.

  • Dan

    Good to hear, but these aims are simply impossible if you insist on yet more unnecessary spending cuts and austerity as Ed Balls and Chris Leslie have been insisting.

  • Dave Roberts

    The problem that most people will have with Sadiq Khan is that he is very much a Vicar of Bray character who is all things to all people. For instance he says one thing here and then this.

    I know the writer is from the SWP split Counterfire but that doesn’t mean they get it wrong all the time. Then there is

    These contradictions will play into Tory hands come next year. Labour needs to be consistent. Inequality is just that and doesn’t see different races.

  • There’s an interesting video on youtube which looks at inequality in the USA. Maybe the Labour Party could commission a similar one for the UK? My guess is that it wouldn’t be much different.

    Google {youtube inequality wealth america}

    • Mukkinese



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