For those of you who don’t track the highs and lows of the UK Labour Party in as much detail as I do: they have a new leader called Ed Miliband, and he was talking about inequality in his first interview on Sunday.1 This promises to be a key part of his agenda, and this is what he had to say about it:
Polly Toynbee [a leftwing commentator]: You said you wanted to stop inequality getting worse and even to reduce it. Do you think you can persuade people that it’s possible, that it’s do-able? Because Tony Blair, New Labour, they always said “That doesn’t really matter, it’s not important, we’ll [just] do something for the poor.” But for inequality itself, do you think people are alarmed it’s getting wider?
Ed Miliband: I think people have been alarmed by the excesses they’ve seen at the top, by the unacceptable face of people’s rewards and what they’ve been doing. We’ve got to tackle this and address this as a country. Because if you look round the world Polly, and you know this better than I do, those countries that are healthiest, happiest, most secure, it is the more equal societies. Now there’s no single bullet to deal with that, but it is about the way you think about responsibility and whether it’s at the top as well as at the bottom of society, and about a whole range of other issues.
David Aaranovitch [another commentator]: It’s not just a single bullet, I’m not sure that there are any actual bullets. What you seem to be talking about is moral example. Now that’s fine, I’m actually in favour of politicians saying there’s a moral example to be set here, but I cannot see what the things you actually do are that, for instance, take very high levels of pay down.
Ed Miliband: I think the way that people make decisions about salaries, for example. There was a suggestion made during the leadership election campaign, I think by my brother, that on every board of a remuneration committee there should be an ordinary worker, who would get to actually have a say in the way those decisions were made. I think there’s all kinds of ways in which – not just through moral example, but through the way these decisions are made – that you can make a difference.
So the challenge to the research community seems to be: show me what we can do to tackle inequality. Clearly we’ll be coming back to this over the coming months…
1. The interview is available until next Sunday from here (UK only, I think); this conversation is about 54 minutes into it. If you’re outside the UK and want to see what Ed Miliband is like, then his acceptance speech is here.