Sunder Katwala of the Fabian Society highlights a speech by cabinet minister James Purnell. Here’s an excerpt:
What would egalitarian capitalism mean for policy?
It means the left no longer needs to be shy about equality. But we should be smart about it. We can’t create equality in the old way. We can’t simply take money from one set of people and give it to another, and call that equality. That is a palliative. It is trying to compensate for an unequal society not trying to tackle its causes.
Instead, the left needs to remember that it started off as a movement about power. We need to recognise that income inequality is just part of a wider struggle against the inequality of power. The greatest injustice is when people cannot achieve their goals because someone else with power stops them. The credit crunch was a power failure. Too much power was invested in bankers and too little in regulators. Too much power went to the market and too little to democracy. We had the power all in the wrong place – too concentrated, too many bankers with monopoly power. So disperse the power and don’t allow one interest to predominate.
All this may be true, but Labour politicians have this amazing ability to say the right things in front of an audience and get them fired up, and then do the complete
office opposite when back in their offices. I’ve seen Hazel Blears at close range talk about how she wanted the Labour party to get in touch with its grassroots!
Power. I love that word. The best book I ever read about ‘power’ is Rules For Radicals, by Saul Alinsky. His is a book aimed at people who want to understand power relationships and build people-movements that empower them to get their rights. You may not be surprised to hear that Saul Alinsky was a community organiser and was Obama’s inspiration. The book is excellent.
But a government committed to dispersing power would want to push through more decentralisation and give local people control over their own lives. It would be a government interested in building civil society institutions that can even challenge them. A Labour government committed to dispersing power would aim to strengthen the Trade Unions and would openly listen to NGOs (thus encouraging them to grow).
James Purnell has no record on this, other than making speeches that sound very centre-left but actually mean little in practice. The only way people can get power is to get themselves organised and run an insurgency campaign to pull power away from the government, whether it likes it or not. We can’t rely on politicians to hand it out.
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Filed in: Civil liberties,Party politics