MP for Hornsey and Wood Green
I’ve commented before on how I suspect that issues around equality (is promoting equality of opportunity enough? or do we need more emphasis on delivering greater equality of outcome?) is one of the key philosophical differences between Chris Huhne and Nick Clegg.
Don’t get me wrong – I think both their beliefs sit more happily in the same party than plenty of pairs of Labour or Conservative MPs and their beliefs that I can think of! But I think there are some real differences here.
All of which is a long introduction to saying – Chris has a piece today over on Comment is Free:
The level of inequality in this country is a scandal. In Britain today, the strongest indicator of life expectancy is social class. The strongest indicator of children’s chances at school is their parents’ income: as early as age three, children from disadvantaged families lag a full year behind their middle class contemporaries. The chance of someone born into a low income group of moving into a higher group as an adult is lower now that it was 50 years ago.
Liberal Democrats don’t tend to talk about equality as much as we champion liberty. But in reality we can’t separate the two. The extent of inequality is now so large that it is a serious restriction on freedom – and for all of us, not only those at the bottom of the income and wealth ladder.
Not surprisingly – I agree! Because as I said on an earlier occasion:
Your educational chances are strongly correlated to your social class – setting the prospects for children even before they reach school. In health too, inequalities are still increasing. Ever since the publication of the Black Report twenty-five years ago, it’s been well known that inequalities in people’s health are directly related to inequalities in income and wealth. That’s why Greece, with half the average wealth per person of the US, actually has a longer average life expectancy. And in Iraq – after ten years of sanctions, with war ravaged infrastructure and continuing violence – has an average male life expectancy that is 8 years higher than that of the Calton area of Glasgow. The explanation? Inequalities in wealth again.
In fact, a whole host of studies across different countries have consistently shown that not just in terms of education and health, but also in terms of crime, social respect, trust and participation – the outcomes are linked to the degrees of inequality in wealth and income.