David Blunkett on Reducing Inequality in Health

Reducing Inequality conference Sheffield 31st October 2008

Verbatim transcript of David Blunkett’s contribution and discussion.

MARTIN: I think we will come back to this because I think this is an interesting area.

I think perhaps we will let Richard [Wilkinson] sit down but Richard is with us for the day. David Blunkett’s with us for an hour or so. I am very pleased to see him on the Socialist Health Association platform again. Quite a long time ago we did a lot of work with David when he was shadow health secretary more than 20 years ago — 92 to 94 -and I don’t think we’ve run an event with David since. So I’m very pleased to see him back. This is his patch and I think this is his territory. I am very interested to hear what he has to say.

DAVID BLUNKETT: It is nice to be on a platform, Nick, with you and Richard because Richard will recall that I took very seriously the paper he mentioned that he published in 92.

One of the twists of politics is that you are always expected to dance to the particular tune of the moment and the tune of the moment when I was shadow health secretary was that we were going to defend every miserable hospital building to the final brick and I nearly lost my place on the Shadow Cabinet which, although it may not worry you, was quite worrying for me because being on the Shadow Cabinet meant you got into the Cabinet when we won.

The reason I nearly lost my place was that I was interested in preventative and public health and would go to conferences. I remember going to a conference in Birmingham when I was supposedly, according to my colleagues, bound to be in the House of Commons for a debate on saving Bart’s Hospital. But I had been round Bart’s and I won’t even say what it did but it was appalling. It was like some medieval museum. When you went between buildings and people were pushed on trolleys between buildings to get to the operating theatre and the actual structure itself was medieval — when you went round there you got a picture of us defending this monolith because it seemed the right thing to do.

We get caught in this not just in health but in everything else that we’ve got something that’s tangible that’s visible so we defend it to the death. Anyway I survived so that was all right – for me anyway. We did try with the document Health 2000 which we published in late 93 to actually come up with something that was a bit more imaginative that included the issue of preventing ill-health and intervening in ill-health and trying to deal with the issues that Richard has been talking about this morning. I am sorry I missed your talk Richard, because I was speaking at a conference that I had agreed to a long time ago on 14 to 19 diplomas. So I move seamlessly from one old job to another. I will touch briefly on Welfare to Work as well which of course I was involved in.

I mean, the truth is that unless we take what Richard’s work has revealed, and in my view it is self-evident, seriously we will always be chasing our tails. I will represent North-east Sheffield as people will know and although the difference between Sheffield Bright side and Sheffield Hallam constituency has narrowed a bit, in terms of mortality it’s down from 14 years to 11 years, it is staggeringly and tangibly bad and demonstrates the challenge that we have.

I just want to say this morning that it’s not for the lack of trying but it is the lack of very often the lack of coherent focus and one or two of the questions today — were you in South or North Tyneside?

Amanda Normand: North.

DAVID BLUNKETT: I know it a little bit because I know I used to come up regularly when Brian and Rita were running the council and, God you made me really quite sad about that, because I was in exactly the same position. I mean, I went to university as a semi-mature – I mean semi-mature in the sense I was 22 but I wasn’t very mature – student after getting qualifications at evening class and day release and nobody within a square mile of Parson Cross in the north of Sheffield had gone to university and none of my family had.

I haven’t had quite the awful experience you have had but I think a lot of people in the mining villages did. When we set up the Northern College, which is struggling to survive, we found there was an enormous challenge when one member of the family or one individual in a particular community started to progress through education and the divide not only with the people that they drank with or they played football with or they saw socially, but actually with their own families. There was a gap growing. I think that obviously from what you have said still exists.

I mean, I don’t know why, but people on Parson Cross still talk to me so I’m all right in that sense. But there’s a very serious issue that you have raised which is that when we deal with economic inequality or when we try to challenge that by the educational divide or when we do something about decent housing, we forget very often that we are dealing with human beings and that we are actually having to also look at what Richard and Nick have referred to in answering the lady at the back who is the school nurse — I didn’t get your name.

Catherine Gleeson: Catherine Gleeson.

DAVID BLUNKETT: I’m sure I met you because I recognised your accent but if I haven’t I will talk to you when we finish this session.

But it seems to me that the development of self-esteem, of self-confidence, of self-belief is absolutely vital to being able to give people a foothold on the ladder out of poverty and inequality. I want to just say a word or two about the political context because no doubt somebody has referred to all the things that I am going to mention, so forgive me if I am repeating things, but a recent OECD evidence was at least a little bit encouraging in the sense that whilst there is a growing gap between the very rich and the rest, there is in this kind of concertina a coming together of the middle of it and if we can accelerate that and we can do something about the 10% at the bottom, because the Galbraith divisions no longer hold, but the 10% at the bottom who are really alienated and separated from society as well as from opportunity and progression and the ability to succeed, you can do the two together so that the middle of the concertina can continue to come closer and we can stop this deeply deprived alienated group from the inter-generational disadvantage which is inherent in parts of my constituency, then we can make some progress.

We’ve tried with various schemes since 97, most of which people will have forgotten, but we had a health action zone in the north of the city, we had a heart of our city programme for healthy eating and working with retailers and trying to do something about the prevention of heart disease by things that would improve people’s health generally. But we’ve never really had a totally coherent and co-ordinated programme that linked income inequality with employment inequality with housing inequality with broader health outcome inequalities which could be dealt with only if you put the jigsaw together.

I know that this regional programme … what’s it called, even something better … Kieron Williams is speaking about it —

Altogether Better: I should have got it, Altogether Better. I hope it does have some impact with the lottery funding but I think it only will if actually it gets into some of the contradictions. I’m not here to make a sort of party political point but seeing it is the SHA.

MARTIN: We’re allowed to talk about politics today.

DAVID BLUNKETT: There is a twist here in Sheffield between having the council and I hope to goodness the officers of the council can just do it without interference but having the Altogether Better programme and getting champions, health champions, up and running and trying to work with the universities, because Keith Burnett at the University of Sheffield, who is Vice-Chancellor, has offered to the Primary Care Trust that he will get them the faculties and departments of the university to work with the PCT and with Jerry White at the public health part of the PCT and obviously with the council on using the resources of the university and the expertise to look at a multi-faceted approach to dealing with what is within our scope to do so. I will come back to it, the economic inequality and what Government can do in a minute, but what we can do at a local or sub-local level.

But here we have a Liberal Democrat council elected in May that is pledged — and this isn’t a surreptitious commitment, this is a pledge — to remove the narrowing the gap strategy that the previous administration were trying, not terribly successful but were trying, to implement. I just wish they had made more of it. I wish it had been a battle ground in the local election.

I tried myself, because I am a big head, to actually do this by when we were speaking at an inequality education conference in April to try and get this on the agenda but it never took off. What their strategy says is this: There are deprived people who are unequal in every part of Sheffield. Well, of course that is undeniable – totally undeniable. In the second most healthy constituency in the north of England, Sheffield Hallam, there are deprived people. There are people who need targeted support and services. But it misses the point completely. There is a point in them doing it by the way because it means they can take money on this policy agenda out of the most deprived areas of Sheffield on the spurious grounds that they are targeting individuals in areas that they hold. So you can see the political, the nasty, evil, right-wing political logic to taking money out of win Carr Bank and Firth Park and Burn Green and Darnell and the Manor in Sheffield. For those of you outside Sheffield those are the areas which are in the bottom 5% of all indices of deprivation nationwide and targeting individuals and, therefore, obviously switching money into communities in Dore and Eccleshall and Hallam which are some of the wealthiest, healthiest parts of this country – in fact, the world.

So you can see the political logic. The decency, the moral, the health, the economic logic is disastrous because of course the reason why we have such high levels of deprivation, inequality, poor health, poor education is because of the critical mass. It’s the critical core. It’s the culture. It’s the historic underinvestment, it’s the inequality of people in terms of their job and income in work not just when they are on benefits that creates that critical core which led our colleague from North Tyneside to, like me, to be one in tens of thousands going to university and feeling alienated because the whole thrust of the community is on a different trajectory.

So I mean, I would love the battle ground over the next five years, because it wouldn’t take Labour 5 years to get Sheffield back, to be a value-driven political agenda locally that could actually start to reveal and talk about and develop some of these issues, and not simply on the grounds that it’s unfair, but actually because it’s bad for Sheffield because, apart from the obvious waste of talent and the immorality of it, it actually costs us dearer as a city because we aren’t narrowing the gap, because we aren’t actually lifting people and young people in particular to a point where their whole aspirations and expectation of life changes, their whole expectation of themselves changes and the way in which they can perform in education as parents, as employees, as people with the potential for progression in work actually changes.

So what I’d like Government to do as well as what we can do locally is this: I’d like us firstly to recognise what Richard has been banging on about for years and the original Black Report, Dame Carol Black’s recent report, all demonstrate, which is that actually you can put in place mechanisms that make it possible for people to change their own lives and we can do it mutually by helping and supporting them in doing it. Work is good for you but decent work is even better for you and, therefore, we should have a decent – South Africa now with a 25% unemployment rate have got a decent jobs programme and I think we should put the emphasis, even in an international financial crisis, on the quality of jobs, the ability of people when they get a job to continue learning and to therefore have a return to what I benefited from, which was old fashioned day release and the ability to progress in a job, not just Train to Gain but actually being able to develop in work the notion, therefore, there is a ladder in every stage of our lives that allows us to make that progression and to ensure that other health-related contributions can work along side it.

You’re best as all of you know better than I do, you are best actually getting people to do something about their own health and to be able to have knowledge about what’s on offer and what they can expect from the Health Service or from other agencies and organs of Government. You are best doing that if people themselves have hope and motivation and, therefore, the capacity to take advantage of it.

So I think that the programme we’ve got in terms of trying to improve the quality of education is valuable, but what we must not do is water down the Sure Start programme because we are watering it down. At the original local Sure Start programmes were actually about an intensive approach to changing the nature of the community, the neighbourhood, the culture and not just targeting the individual child or parent, important as that is. They weren’t child care schemes. They were intended to be a comprehensive approach to changing the life option of the infant by changing the life option of the parent, or parents, but mainly parent.

When you go to the three programmes that exist in my constituency and you talk to those who have gone through the Sure Start programme, it is liberating in terms of their knowledge of themselves. It’s liberating health-wise, not just obvious things like breast feeding and what have you, but it is liberating in terms of the health impact of the parent starting to believe in themselves to actually gain the confidence that is inherent in all of us who have been to university and pass it on to our children that we can do better, that there is a horizon out there that in 5 years time things will be better than they are today – well, not when we get to our age but anyway it is for young people. That is about social mobility but it is above all about the ability to take opportunity.

So I think that we’ve got to reinforce the Sure Start programme. I think we’ve got to ensure that in employment programmes and the welfare to work programmes we actually are asking the question: and what will this be like in 5 years’ time? So that we can give people opportunity who take lousy jobs to develop and work their way out of lousy jobs. There will always be some jobs that none of us in this room would be too happy about doing. I wasn’t too happy with the job I had before I went to university but at least I was warm and comfortable, I wasn’t working in utterly lousy conditions and at least I had the opportunity of going to day release.

So I’m desperately keen that as part of our health programme we should have jobs that allow people to progress and that the jobs should actually be not just health and safety compliant but should have as far, as it’s humanly possible, a healthy environment where health at work is taken seriously. Apart from anything else, we could improve our productivity levels in this country enormously if we did, in terms of people’s time off work, their reduced productivity, their propensity to actually lose their job and it would be perfectly reasonable for them to be sustained in the job if we had not just a health and safety policy but actually – I was only in the job a very short time but tried to get off the ground, which was to say, can we have a comprehensive occupational health programme that would be crucial to that and the Sheffield occupational health programme is really close to my heart and the work they do in GP surgeries and the work they do in terms of monitoring, reviewing and intervening in terms of historic causes of ill-health the Sheffield and is vital. Every time a PCT review cutting the money, I sort of have a tantrum and continue as long as I am MP and beyond to have a tantrum because that kind of work is really important in helping Richard reveal what he does but is actually crucial in being able to turn the tables and intervene to help people who have been damaged in this way over generations but also helping to stop it happening in new ways in new forms of employment.

I would like the Government to increase the minimum wage rather than put the emphasis on tax credits, important as they have been, and I would like us to review the nature of how we develop more mixed tenure housing. We are trying to do it with the market programme in Sheffield. We have knocked some of the houses down, we just haven’t built the new ones in my constituency. Yes, which is a problem, because you can throw all the money you like to benefits but unless you change all the cultural, environmental, economic and political circumstances in which people find themselves, all you will do is change the threshold, not the inequality, and that’s why I’m a great believer in linking benefits with work, in actually ensuring that in work support is available, that the tax credit system is refined and made simpler and that we enable people to continue education throughout life.

So those are my little bits of a jigsaw that I think would help and I think we can do something about it in the work we do. I think that teaching and nursing and community work and people working on Sure Start can all make a contribution to changing what is happening not just to the individual, but to the capacity of communities to take a hold themselves.

I’ll just finish on this because I think this is a really crucial thing: there are two sorts of assets I think we need to place emphasis on. One is the asset of individuals in terms of what they can build as a stake in their lives, the asset of a decent education, the asset of fear in the community, fear of economic change, fear of cultural and fear of ethnic change by actually working alongside people in that sphere. But it is also obviously about assets in the physical, in the material sense as well, because the asset gap is part of the inequality.

There will be people in the next 20, 30, 40 years who will inherit from uncle and aunts, grandparents, parents, the equivalent of winning the lottery or the pools just simply because their parents owned a house in the right part of the country. in the right part of the city or borough or county. and there will be mega, mega transfer of asset-rich resources and there will be. particularly in a constituency like mine. very many people who own nothing. They don’t even have a bank account and will have nothing to pass on and their children will have nothing to inherit from their parents or their uncles and aunts. That asset gap will exacerbate the conditions that you are discussing throughout the day.

Secondly, there’s the issue of asset in community, the capability, the capacity of community, the social asset that we need and we can do a great deal more about that than we do at moment. We can give people the ability to play the role in their own neighbourhood that we saw played in the early years of the labour movement because change didn’t come from the time, the Labour Party was the only party that wasn’t a Parliamentary party, finding a constituency as democracy developed, but a party built from trade union movement and the community to get representation locally and nationally not to do things for them but to facilitate, to enable, to empower people to be able to do things themselves.

I’m really sorry that our Government have chopped the big regeneration programme budget just at the time that they are actually starting to make a difference, whether that’s in single regeneration budget, Neighbourhood renewal fund, the New Deal for communities, all of those and of course we benefited not as much as we ought to have done from the Objective 1 European money that Merseyside and Cornwall and parts of Wales and South Yorkshire have had.

That is all either coming to an end or has already come to an end just at a moment when I feel in the patch that I represent people coming alive, believing that they can actually change their own lives and change the world around them and you just see it in very small ways. People are coming together to not just demand but to actually start to make a difference to those around them by pulling together working together, to deliver together.

If we could just keep that going it would make an enormous difference because in the end the old truism is absolutely certain. The David Blunketts of this world can come and go but if you developed in the community the capacity to bring about change, the people’s understanding of their own power if they are able to use it, you can counterweight the power of international capital and my old friend Bernard Crick, who was my professor of politics here 40 years ago, very, very ill with cancer, I rang him up at the weekend and said, “Your book In Defence of Politics” which he wrote 45 years ago, “has just started to come back into its own” because we have seen over the last six weeks in particular the fact that markets can’t actually save themselves, never mind deliver. That international financial experts are a bunch of buffoons and that people do need political democracy in order to be able to, even if you might disagree with what is being done, we need political democracy to save us from those who have been in the driving seat for a very long time and this is bringing back my old revolutionary fervour.

Thank you very much.

MARTIN: We will have some questions.

NEW SPEAKER: A person who works in Darnley and Tinsley and agrees with a lot of what David said about what happened to communities in the last few years and all the funding has come to Ian and there is a Sure Start in Tinsley suffering similar problems in David’s constituency and this watering down which is happening.

We can not reverse that unless we talk about money and in terms of what the discussion we’ve had this morning we should be sort of talking about not just international bankers but redistribution in this country and perhaps taxation of people with rather large amounts of money but because all right saying we can try and bring the bottom up. But it seems from the statistics as fast as we are doing that, the top is moving away because the sort of capitalism that has been around for the last ten years has accelerated that. I’m glad David’s come back to the revolutionary fervour when he run the council in Sheffield and if we get him back to that sort of politics then, yes, it’s interesting that, you know — we are about redistribution. How the hell do we do it?

MARTIN: We will take a couple of questions.

David Price: My question is somewhat similar really, that it seems to me governments really been pussy-footing around tax policy for fear that these wonderful bankers and so on might go to other countries. Doesn’t the recent crisis suggest that we cease to worry about that, have a more egalitarian tax policy, tax city bonuses properly, have a more egalitarian council tax and so on?

MARTIN: Michael.

Michael Grady: Ex-chief exec and I’m currently doing a doctorate into whether community development makes a difference in improving people’s health based on interviews with 13 participants of community development projects in the mining – ex-mining – districts of Wakefield.

To give some messages that they were giving me, don’t underestimate how far back people went with the collapse of the economic industrial base of Wakefield and how that affected social status and self-esteem. So a long way for them to go before they can even begin to think about getting into work, a need to build self-esteem, need to give them a set of skills which allow them to address that.

A real need for the development of social networks so that they can overcome isolation and feel that they have a support network on which they can depend, a need in particular for long-term investment by local authorities and the NHS in community development, short-term monies, Sure Start, neighbourhood renewal are all very well but they take up an inordinate amount of effort to get the resources into the community and the uncertainty of that funding actually undermines people’s belief that change will happen.

RICHARD WILKINSON: I won’t try and wrap my points up as questions but you can still respond to them.

I do think it is important, the point that was raised at the back, there, not to be afraid of losing these sort of financial wizards and so on. Japan built its world-beating firms not by having directors who were sort of brought in as an outside financial class but by promoting people from within. A high proportion of their directors were their own employees. The idea that we depend on this sort of superhuman race of rich people and we mustn’t do anything that will frighten them off is just wrong. There was a recent international labour organisation study, amongst other things it reviewed literature on whether there was a connection between these top people’s pay and company performance and they say there’s little or no evidence that the two are connected. So, you know, it’s just all that stuff we just have to put it aside.

The third point I want to make, though, is about employee ownership. There has now been a lot of studies not of 100 per cent employee-owned and run firms but firms which much more plentiful and there aren’t enough of the others looking at productivity in relation to employee share ownership and participative management.

The studies show very reliable improvements in performance when those two things are combined. I think it would be undoubted if there were enough firms to study 100 per cent employee ownership you would find real improvements.

But I think we must get beyond taxes or benefits or policies that one Government can undo as easily as the next one brought them in and make institutional changes which put things like pay differentials under democratic control as they are to some extent in employee owned businesses. You might decide to pay your boss twice as much or three times as much as you but you probably don’t decide to pay him 500 times as much. When you have institutions working like that Government can’t reverse those decisions. It’s not their business.

So we must get the change in the way our institutions work if we are going to have a different kind of society. Of course it is at work where pay differentiation is established, where profits going to outside people and where we are most obviously divided in hierarchical terms. Of course employee ownership involves not only putting pay differentials under democratic control, it involves redistribution of capital. I don’t know why the Labour Party moved from abandoning clause 4 to private external shareholding as the only thing. There are so many examples in our societies of organisations that work without the profit motive, which work without external shareholders. There are thousands of electricity generating companies in the States owned by local authorities.  We had all the mutual societies and friendly societies and so on and they have now gone under after being privatised. We have universities and hospitals that don’t work on that basis. There are endless alternative forms of organisation and Governments should be at all levels, including Sheffield’s Local Authority, should be encouraging these other forms.

MARTIN: That’s enough for you to tackle in one round of questions.

DAVID BLUNKETT: I would like it to be a dialogue really in the time we’ve got. David, are you the David doing the lecture tonight?

David Price: I am, yes.

DAVID BLUNKETT: Talking about radical Sheffield. So I just thought I’d establish who he was.

Could I just pick up a point from the colleague doing the work in Wakefield and say, I mean, that is so true of great swathes of the Sheffield that worked in manufacturing because they were high status, high skilled jobs with apprenticeships and all sorts of social norms that went with that. In terms of, they may not have been highly paid, but social status of people, the craft skills that people had, the pride that people had in the job, but above all the social contact and reinforcement that went into the very large steel and engineering factories here, mirrors what you have just described because it’s taking generations to get over that and I didn’t find – I mean, I do have a sense of humour, but didn’t find the Full Monty funny because it actually was taking the mickey out of what was a profound social change in the city.

There was one funny bit which I had described to me the there’s a guy in the middle of the canal stood on a boat, obviously on a derelict car and he’s obviously trying to get off and the bloke walks by with the dog and just says good morning and waves to him. That’s Sheffield really.

So that is profound and it will take time to do that which is why I think that we needed time with the continuing investment and regeneration. But the treasury never liked specific earmarked ring-fenced funds. They didn’t like it when we set up the standards fund in education and the excellence in cities programme. They constantly argued, and the Civil Service, won in actually creating what they called the single pot which essentially meant going back to what we had, which had failed abysmally over the previous century to dramatically change the life chances of children in my constituency. Anyway that’s just a particular gripe of mine.

Now to the difficult bit the three questions that dealt with the question of distribution of wealth. There was, Richard, one very simple answer as to why clause 4 was changed and I have to say that at the time I was the temporary one year chair of the Labour Party and I argued like mad in favour of keeping it, but actually I could see entirely afterwards why. They needed a seminal, signal change just as the Tories have sought in their own way with Cameron to do that. They needed something that broke with the past and they got it and it may well have broken too much, but it did its job. So I’m just explaining why I think it was done.

I was somewhat taken aback in terms of the response we had a year ago to the Tories assault in relation to inheritance. There’s no question that we panicked from the Tory Party conference this time last year. I think it needed refining just as other forms of taxation like capital gains needs refining because they are so easily avoidable. Could argue very well not to be broken up has argued not to be broken up by creating a trust which means that the Dukes of Devonshire and Duchess of Devonshire really are immune pretty well from inheritance tax.

MARTIN: That’s all right then.

DAVID BLUNKETT: I would like them to be put in a different sort of trust which actually enabled the complexity of an inland resort, because that’s what the actual bit of the estate round Chatsworth is, was them owning it but don’t tell them because I rent something from them, so they will kill me.

I do think it’s a fiefdum that is protected under our existing system. So merely keeping our inheritance tax or capital gains tax or even increasing the upper rate of income tax wouldn’t in itself by itself achieve what we want to see. In any case, quite a lot of people on middle incomes currently pay the higher rate of income tax so we need a different take that would actually get into the nature of asset divide and the question of how we take — easy for the bonuses. I would have an entirely separate upper rate for those bonuses. I would have had a windfall on the oil and gas industry. Those are fairly easy because you can see who you are hitting. The more difficult thing is what would we do because I put this back to you: What would we do if we had an ideal redistributive policy in term of the higher rate of income tax? Would we put it back up to the 1950s/1960s level which went up to 93% at one point. The very rich didn’t get hit at all. It was actually the aspirant who got hit and it was politically disastrous and we all know in our hearts in this room that we are never going to go back to that. So we need much greater imagination about how we can do it. Why don’t we argue for income transfer that builds on the child trust fund.

Because I happen to have put money from the Department of Education and Employment into the research to create it, I have a personal interest in this, but I never hear the party arguing for expanding dramatically the child trust fund. I don’t hear the party even defending it. I would suspect that the Tories might stop it.

It may not be enough but the average 18 year old will get present day prices around £10,000 and I think that a dramatic change in that, linked to, directly linked to the better off so it wasn’t those just above paying for those just below, would be a really good thing to do because it would narrow the gap but it would also do something about inherited assets which would give people a real start in their adult life.

So I put that back to you that we’ve got to — we can’t just go back to some mythical era. In any case we didn’t last long. This is the longest Labour Government we’ve ever had and until a few weeks ago it looked as if it was going to be the longest we would ever have. But we’ve got to find a way of being electable and radical at the same time and that is damn difficult.

MARTIN: I want to get a question in. There’s several people coming in. We will take a few more. I find politicians very wary of talking about inequality. Politicians like to talk about poverty because they feel they can do something about it, but it’s hard to get a politician, especially one who is actually in office in a position to do something about it now, to talk about the inequality or to talk about the rich because it seems to me that if we buy Richard’s arguments, the problem is not poverty it’s the problem is as much the rich as it is the poor. We don’t talk about the rich.

Let’s have a few more questions.

Nick Gradwell: You probably will not know what we have in common is I am visually impaired as well, but I was banging on earlier before you arrived, I tend to be concerned with the inequalities as well as poverty and class which I totally agree are fundamental and must be addressed because people are discriminated but I think gender, race, disability, etc are just as powerful.

My question, therefore, is quite simple which is we have to deal with inequality because it affects us all and that is specifically health inequalities. A health inequality is a risk you shouldn’t necessarily face. What do you suppose are your three main health risks, David? That’s a question you can answer in a while.

MARTIN: We will let you think about that. Jack.

Jack Czauderna: I’m going to come back to Sheffield because my name’s Jack, I’m a GP and I worked in Darnell which is one of the poorest five parts of Sheffield that David mentioned and I have been a GP there nearly 30 years. So I started there just as Thatcherism came in. So I knew who my enemy was and that very steep rise that Richard showed in inequalities during the Thatcher years was certainly something I was aware of and did my own fighting at the time.

As a GP, I think my main function on an individual level is to improve people’s self-esteem and I have some sympathy with the views at the back, which is the more targets and the more things we have to measure, that diverts my time away from what I should be doing with individuals.

I’ve also been involved with the Sheffield occupational health project that David mentioned, who have been in our practice since 1980, and lots of community-based stuff around children’s services, Sure Start, although there isn’t one in Darnell, and the sort of work that was talked about and that Neil talked about that funding is coming to an end around — all very important.

But I have been a great admirer of Richard’s work over the years and I think all of that is pissing in the wind without the macro Government political will which is again what Richard said. That really disappoints me about the Labour Party having got in during the time that I fought — I fought Thatcherism all these years and there might now be a chance for the work that I do to really make a difference and my big disappointment is that the Labour Party have not had the political will to do anything about those macro things, the things again that Richard showed where the inequalities have not reduced. For me, that’s the most disappointing thing about the Labour Party in the last 11 years.

MARTIN: Let us ask David to tackle that if that’s okay.

DAVID BLUNKETT: But don’t sigh if I don’t give you the answer you want because I am a practising politician.

MARTIN: That’s the point.

DAVID BLUNKETT: I’m very lucky. I have a safe seat, the fifth safest Labour seat in Britain and a lot of my colleagues don’t.

I just start the answers by just reflecting we can have as radical a policy as we like but unless we have a political education campaign that persuades people to vote for them, you just – well, the expression you used would be appropriate for us we would be just what-ing in the wind. So it is hard and it is unpleasant and all I can say is because picking up your point, Nick, as well as the follow-through questions, we weren’t elected in 97 on a prospectus and let people down. The offer we made in 97, and 2001, and 2005, were fairly limited goals. So we weren’t somehow elected on a programme that would warm our hearts in this room and then we failed, because I’ve been in the party 45 years and I’ve always heard that if leaders hadn’t let us down -we got this with the miners’ strike and everything else -if people didn’t let others down we’d be all right.

I’m going to come at it the other end, who voted, to come back to the mutual point, who voted to demutualise their building societies? I didn’t. I voted to stay mutual. But thousands of people voted for a quick buck. So I want to say we have an issue here with the population and not just with our leaders you know whether they are in Government or out like me.

So I think we’ve got a big job to do in persuading people that what we believe to be right actually is right for them, is good for them and is something that they can go for and that means aspiration.

I’m challenging you directly because I don’t think that simply dealing with the head of the most affluent, chopping the head off, is actually a solution. It might make us feel better, make me feel better, but it won’t actually do it because all of us being nearer poorer isn’t what we’re after, is it? It’s not a kind of inequality of disadvantage. We had that on Parson Cross where I was brought up. People had a job, they were pretty much on the same income level, I believe actually people were on the whole happier but they weren’t healthier and they weren’t and shouldn’t have been satisfied with what they’d. But it was a very large swathe of us who were at that level and the distribution curve has moved and with it new inequalities and changes in equality have come about as well.

So I’m all in favour of trying to devise imaginative ways of ensuring that we take from the very rich, and incidentally from people like me because I’ve got a really, paying back some of that is important to me and I try and do it in different ways. But the crunch is how do we persuade those who aren’t quite as well off as I am but are reasonably placed to go along with a programme which at last temporarily either not appear to be attractive to them and that is a real challenge.

You see we have, Richard, in parts of our constituency a really good example of what you were describing. We have Swann-Morton which employs just under 300 people. It produces 90% of the cutting edge tools for the health service. It’s a great — I love visiting it and it’s not a co-operative it’s a mutual and they have a trust fund that they vote how much to put in, how much to devote to further investment and the great advantage of this company, which has been going for around 80 years, is that it has been going for around 80 years. In other words, it’s not just been one or two of the experiments we had when I was leader of Sheffield, that we started things that didn’t last. We are all in favour of mutuals and I would do it all again. There are some things I might not have said quite in the same way again but, you know, the seven years I was leader of Sheffield I never reneged on, never, because we were fighting battles that we needed to fight.

But we didn’t have lasting results. It’s what Morton do because they have modernised all the time. So it’s not been a moment of fragment in time. The question that was asked at the front in relation to other forms of inequality, yes, there are. Disability actually is one that’s not taken seriously across the world. I am going with Sight Savers International with Tanzania. In Sweden where they used to carry out eugenics until the mid-seventies so it doesn’t ring that well as the most equal country to some of us and Japan, and others have different views about hierarchy.

DAVID BLUNKETT: The millennium goals don’t mention disability.

Nick Gradwell: Did you get your three health risks?

DAVID BLUNKETT: I’m coming to them. My personal one over which I do have control is drinking too much red wine. If I continue it for the next 30 years I’ll die pickled. So that’s one.

Being knocked down is another which is a pretty profound health risk, but I’ve got the guide dog and I still have access to transport which is why I’m fighting like hell to get the higher rate of DLA mobility allowance as everybody else on it.

The third is, it would be if it weren’t for our improved Health Service, which is that apart from not being able to see I’m on three sorts of medication for things that in the past would eventually have killed me. One is hypertension, the second is Barrett’s oesophagus which would lead — if I hadn’t had a major operation which only came into being ten years ago would have led to oesophagus cancer which is still a real killer and the third is ulcerative colitis. I thought I would share these disadvantages with you because you asked me and any of those one way or another would be a death wish if we didn’t have a National Health Service that allowed all of us, whatever our background and income, to have access to that surgery and to those medications and that’s why all of us need to keep on reminding people out there that when the Government didn’t save for a rainy day, they were actually spending it on health and education.

Nick Gradwell All those health risks would of course be ten times worse if you were in a poorer ward and didn’t have income. As a man for a start that’s a health risk because we don’t engage well with health. Second one you are blind like me and therefore you will not spot some early onset conditions, but obviously happily that happened in your case and a third one obviously is like me you are in the peri-elderly so conditions start to come our way in droves.

All of those three issues are demographic sharks that we share David and everybody has a handful. If you are in a sink ward, they are ten times worse because you probably have a job even finding a GP or even if you are older you are subject to possible fear of violence as well. If you are disabled in a sink ward, you probably will have no chance of having a job.

So your health risks like mine, David, are about being able to stay in work so our direction of travel is not downwards towards poverty and isolation and I keep maintaining the point that whatever we’re going on class, and I really believe passionately we must do it if we’re going to get anywhere though, let’s get specific about characteristics of people other than just other than just their income.

MARTIN: Although of course income and their other characteristics often go together.

NEW SPEAKER: Absolutely.

MARTIN: We have run a number of seminars about ethnicity and health and of course people from minority ethnic groups tend to think that they get, they have worse health because of their colour, ethnic background. The academics mostly seem to think that the problem is actually poverty, that there isn’t very much in the way of a separate issue about what colour or ethnic background you are.

NEW SPEAKER: It doesn’t really matter though.

MARTIN: That’s an interesting thing we might explore a bit more.

There’s some more questions though.

Myles Gould: Myles lecturer from University of Leeds. My question is quite different. I was very interested to hear your comments, David, at the top of the hour about the importance of public health and prevention and I was also thinking about the terrain that Richard, the poisonous terrain that Richard has been talking about earlier this morning.

I was just wondering that perhaps — and you also had comments about policy and policy being focused and my question is about being perhaps sometimes a bit more careful about policy. So I just sort of wondered whether — also it’s also to do with maybe there’s sometimes a need for regulation. I’m thinking about alcohol and deregulation and de-licensing of alcohol and the impact that we are now beginning to see in hospital activity data. Perhaps it is something that has got a bit out of control and maybe it is a policy we should look at again perhaps.

Mike Quiggin: My name is Mike Quiggin. I work at the Trade Union Resource Centre in Bradford. David Blunkett, you are a very annoying man. Your politics and your affability are very welcome but I notice your kind of denial of the New Labour project by referring to ‘they’ when you refer to the onslaught on clause 4. I appreciate you fought a rear guard action but nonetheless it seemed to most of us from outside Government that you were part of the New Labour project.

DAVID BLUNKETT: Yes, I was, yes.

Mike Quiggin: So you can’t distance it that far.

Your reference to being a politician is very welcome and you are quite right that one thing we look to in politicians is realism when it comes to reading the runes and listening to focus groups. But the other thing we look to — and the Tories got this from the Thatcherites — was a bit of political leadership when it came to ideology. When asked what can you do, tax funds, child tax funds build up to 10 grand by the time people are 18 just in time to face a 20 grand bill when they go into higher education. So they come out the other end in deficit.

I don’t want to be entirely negative. I could go on and I’m sure you appreciate I could go on. I’m involved with the Bradford occupational health board, previous worked in Sheffield and they are furious and we are furious about the working hours directive, about the degutting of corporate manslaughter legislation. Again, I could go on about the refusal to deal with employment agencies and you referred quite rightly to the rather weak, albeit very welcome, the laying down the national minimum wage legislation but the rather weak approach to increasing wage rates there.

As I say, if I could move on to a couple of positive comments, there is now a brilliant opportunity, is there not, to socialise capital in that the banks are going to be on the point hopefully of becoming in massive hock to Government. I am sure you are aware that Robin Blackburn has been banging on about this for years and pointing to the way in which a lot of Swedish social democracy was established on just such a banking crisis and taking a permanent interest in ensuring that there were flows of capital into social investment funds and that is your answer, I would have thought, to re-establishing regional regeneration funding strategies.

But my second positive point on that, and other people have referred to this as well, is for goodness sake ensure that there’s proper community representative control and not the sort of half-hearted constrained community engagement that we experience at the moment where working class community representatives are encouraged and resourced to some extent to get involved in public service management boards, but only if they sign up to nationally controlled and devised performance indicators which are often as we’ve heard utterly inappropriate and take us in the wrong direction.

MARTIN: Right. Well, that’s a good mishmash. Do you want to respond to any of those?

DAVID BLUNKETT: Have we got any more?

MARTIN: I’m sure we’ve got plenty more. Anyone anxious to come in? You are going to have to leave shortly.

DAVID BLUNKETT: About 5 minutes.

John Laxton: John, ordinary Labour Party member, now patient Governor on the Sheffield teaching hospitals trust formerly working in Local Government. I’m interested in the central versus local debate. David mentioned Sure Start ring fencing having been relaxed and therefore gets diluted. There’s a considerable debate we have about how good it was to see it set up nationally and having Tory council but as soon as ring fencing ends, it get diluted in all parts of the country. There has always been a debate about how centralised in presentation and don’t allow councils to develop initiatives as they should. How does this fit with the health inequality agenda we were discussing this morning?

MARTIN: A nice little question. Cath one final thing.

Catherine Gleeson: I was going to add to the list of Sure Starts and the health action zones, the four national teenage health demonstration sites by the Department of Health but I think their money is coming to the end now. So everything we have learnt in the past two years, what will happen once the money starts to —

DAVID BLUNKETT: I think that last question is a very good question that I’m going to take back actually because I think between Bev Hughes, who is a friend of mine who is the Children’s Minister, and Alan Johnson who I think is a very — Keep me on top of everything. It is extremely difficult because so much going on and so much going off that we’ve got to literally try and be on the top of it.

I plead entirely guilty to being part of the New Labour project in the sense that I colluded with getting elected in ’97 and what happened since and I take my share of responsibility for the six years I was in Cabinet. I found you weren’t just making compromises that were obvious ones in terms of business. By corporate manslaughter I thought I just got signed off in December 2004. It was actually December 14th for what was a much tougher corporate manslaughter bill and then I left the Home Office the day after and three years later we’ve got what we’ve got.

That wasn’t a compromise just between what the TUC were advocating and what the CBI and small businesses were, this was about internal battles between departments and politicians who were afraid of what the consequences would be. My worry about corporate manslaughter, with so many of the big shibboleths, even if we got a tougher measure, would it be implemented? And I think we should spend more time sometimes on whether we are implementing things and how and whether we can engage people. So that brings me on to the people being engaged with what needs to be done.

I think the answer is, for instance, pension funds. The one big area of investment that people could in their own lives or their representatives have much greater say over is pension funds which is a massive area or for instance the National Insurance fund. This is a moment, isn’t it, he says in a sort of John Major way, is it not, when actually we could reverse the compromise that was made in the 1970s where we have a pay as you go pension scheme and we have a national insurance surplus that nobody is quite clear about or how it’s applied and we could use that as part of the replacement investment for the borrowing in order to take the shares in the major banks and at the same time we could look at how that then fed its way back to people having a say.

I went through in the 1970s all the debates and arguments about workers’ control and Lucas engineering and all the rest of it. It brings back such memories. We didn’t have a simple understandable workable way of doing it. A board member of the board of what was then nationalised British Steel didn’t work. It was obvious it wasn’t going to work because nobody felt engaged with it.

So it probably touches on the most difficult question you have asked all morning which was about the local versus the determinist.

We’re all over the place. I just don’t mean as a party, I mean as a nation on this. We instinctively want devolved, decentralised operations and power and empowerment but we’ve no idea how we can achieve that and do away with the postcodes lottery as it became known or the inability of National Government to bring about macro change whether it is in the economy or whether it is in health or education to have levers to pull.

When I went in ’97 to the Department of Education and Employment, there were no levers to pull to change the life chances of the kids in Firth Park School or Hind House or what is now Furvale, just not a chance in hell. So we had to invent them. Then we were accused of centralisation, that we were introducing the literacy and numeracy programme, telling people what to do, all the rest of it. Complete contradictions in our own heads, never mind in what we do. So I am in favour of greater power for Local Government but I would like it to be Labour Local Government.

I’m in favour of decentralisation in terms of flexibility and decisions taken on health issues at a local level but I’d like the same resource, the same prioritisation that if I weren’t the Secretary of State for Health. So I want it nationally and I want the opposite I want local people to have a greater say.

I think it’s worth the Socialist Health Association as separately perhaps doing commissioning a bit of work on this on volunteers who might actually help us think this through because unless we do, we are constantly demanding exact opposites where quite rightly today the emphasis has been on what can we do to change the overall picture and the macro and then quite rightly what influence can we have locally and what can we do to take control of our own lives and the two don’t always go hand-in-hand.

You have made me think and yes, I am, as a politician, a complete set of contradictions, a pain in the butt. I was very glad to serve in a New Labour Government because every single secondary school in the constituency has been rebuilt, Northern General Hospital transformed, we are getting new housing, the environment to live in, people are beginning to believe in themselves again and quite a lot of them have got jobs that didn’t have jobs but we haven’t transformed the world and Sheffield is still nearly as unequal as it was in 1997. So apologies for that.

MARTIN: Thank you very much.

We’ve got a little bit of time before lunch. So David’s challenged us to produce a policy that will remedy this situation but won’t frighten the horses. Is that possible?

It’s easy to talk about taxing the rich. Well, clearly the rich aren’t volunteering to be taxed more. They are in a position to manipulate the media, to — and also interestingly to frighten people who are never going to pay more tax. If you look at what people in the States in particular believe about taxation, people on $10,000 a year worry about imposing higher taxes on people on $100,000 a year because they think one day that might apply to them. The problem of aspiration. I may not have to pay that tax now but I don’t want to feel that the Government will stop me. What do we do about that?

NEW SPEAKER: Do you not think that what’s happened in the last six weeks/two months presents an opportunity whereby in terms of in society people have seen what these guys have done, they have masters on the universe and they have done the things, right, and it ain’t worked, has it, and it’s made a mess which all of us in Britain and other places are picking up the tab for. So therefore I think there is an opportunity here because that relationship has changed now between since like looking at these as celebrity gods and you can’t go near them. When you got the guy from the FSA saying if I’d have talked about regulation even 6 to 12 months ago all the banks would have said, crikey, you can’t be talking about things like that and he couldn’t have said anything about it. So therefore the situation has changed, I think, in the sense that there are more opportunities now and they are not seen as possibly people — these are not seen in that same light as they were say 12 months ago.

MAGGIE PEARCE: Maggie Pearce, Bradford Resource Centre. I agree with what you have just said. The irony is when they entered regressive taxation not progressive. They abolished the 10% on the very poorest people who were paying tax. When I heard that in the budget speech, possibly there are other people here who thought the same, my Dad was a dustman and I remember when he didn’t pay tax because he was paid too little to pay tax, then they brought in tax okay. I remember that happening and when I heard that, I actually thought they’d abolished tax for the very poorest workers altogether and in fact they had increased, they had doubled the amount of tax that those people paid.

Now you know that’s straightforward shop workers, cleaners, part-time students who are trying to hold on to jobs, me, the young pensioners just turned 60 were the people who were hardest hit by that. I find that if a Government can get something like that either right or wrong, you know, you tell me which. I wish David Blunkett was still here to tell me which it was were they right by or were they wrong but if they can actually bring that in, they are the ones who should be sorting out what to do with the super-rich. As a trade unionist I would say to management “hang on it’s not my job to sort out your problems, it’s your job to sort out your problems.” You might well throw out challenges to us here but I would say that he has to pick that up and run with it because he actually entered into a system where he was elected whatever he says.

Mike probably know it was I am going to say here. One of our local MPs in Bradford elected in in 1997 came to the trade union council in Bradford towards the end of their first period of office and of course he was challenged left, right and centre and what he said of course was give us a second term, go on give us a second term then see what happens and of course we did give him a second term and what happened? Nothing got significantly better for the people who we are concerned with.

NEW SPEAKER: Isn’t this about political cultural change which I thought would happen from Thatcherism to the Labour Party because I think the political culture has continued Thatcherism. In America, I think the big thing that is going to happen with the election is a change in political culture. Don’t know quite what is going to happen but that is why everybody is excited about what might happen. You don’t know specifically what Obama might do but there is going to be some cultural change. That is what I think we have to — that’s where I think David didn’t sort of take on his responsibilities of being in Cabinet because they made no political, cultural political change and there’s no vision to me about what the society should be like.

I agree I think there’s some opportunity here with the financial crisis to bring back a much more social inclusion, much more social capital all of those things that we, I think, in this room probably believe in.

NEW SPEAKER: The same sort of thing issues about integrity also and also about regulation because if you look at another issue in the news at moment about the situation with the BBC is in with a celebrity who is paid an extortionate amount of money and a generation of people who thinks celebrity really matters and it’s just maybe we’re at the turning point where we’re beginning you realise all sorts of things need a little bit of regulation.

RICHARD WILKINSON: I was really thinking that there’s been a kind of failure — I think I am on the same tack as other people — a failure to give the public a dialogue about equality and if one did this, I think if one, for instance, really seriously challenged the tax avoidance, the extent to which tax havens are actually under the control of the British Government which does nothing about them, if anything, supports them.

MARTIN: You mean the Isle of Man.

NEW SPEAKER: Jersey, Isle of Man, I think it’s the Cayman Islands, British … I think there has been a sort of complete failure in this country to address these kind of things because of fears of the city and really we have now an opportunity.

NEW SPEAKER: Just to add to those points there about the political and cultural change that I think we haven’t really managed to achieve over the last ten years. I think politicians like David and across the Labour Party have been scared about talking about inappropriate aspiration. So we are all very keen to talk about the need for people to aspire to better themselves, to improve educational achievements and that is absolutely right but we failed to distinguish between that on the one hand and people’s very unrealistic and harmful aspirations to celebrity on the other hand.

I think that also matches the argument about which kinds of income we went to cap. So Martin was correctly saying people aspire to be greater income and if you tax the people who earn the most then those people aspiring feel they will be taxed. I think we need to be quite clear about which bit of the population we are talking about. As you have said rich bankers, rich celebrities more and more are starting to be seen as taking us for a ride.

So I think if we could make the argument very clear about the very richest and talk about which section of the population we’re talking about, what kind of aspiration we think is inappropriate we might get somewhere?

NEW SPEAKER: Just an issue I think about decoupling New Labour and the free market and running not only through economic issues but also within the Health Service and the way in which they are driving down a private market of healthcare within England, not, interestingly, in the other countries in the United Kingdom but driving down a market model which actually benefits those who are at the top of the tree rather than those at the bottom of the tree who don’t have any choice. It’s the people in the middle and the top who have choice.

MARTIN: I shan’t start being an apologist for the Government but what Alan Johnson would say is they are doing that because the model of the Health Service we had before did not deliver for the poor and that the choice, the alternative providers, all this sort of stuff is intended to extend to the poor the choices that the rich always had. I don’t know whether I entirely believe that but I think that’s what Alan Johnson would say if he were here.

NEW SPEAKER: He might be but if you look at what we know is health inequalities are growing and expanding and the gap is getting bigger.

MARTIN: I don’t think you can demonstrate that that is to do with the changes in the health service, can you? My guess is that that’s to do with the changes in equality in the society as a whole, isn’t it?


NEW SPEAKER: I think (inaudible) view is that the commissioning process actually separates people who commission services and people increasing their power will actually make it easier for them to commission to reduce inequalities. I know my local PCT they are driven by the inequalities agenda. They don’t know where they are driving but that is their primary motivation very, very public health led. So I think that is a potential thing to change the services they deliver.

MARTIN: Cath and then Mike.

Catherine Gleeson: Just on the same tack. I think we do now have with the clinical information systems in general practice you know a potential to provide a lot more information about good outcomes to poor people than we used to have. So you know now we can actually show a lot of what’s happened, the effectiveness of how people are working which we weren’t able to before. So it should be a good lever for primary care, GP practices to do that.

MARTIN: Before Mike comes in, can I ask Richard a question about money. Why is money so important? We have been talking a lot about the very rich and I can’t see why it makes very much difference whether you have £1 million or £2 million or why your friends would think you are a more important person if you have an extra two Bentleys parked in the drive instead of only one. How does that work?

RICHARD WILKINSON: I can only guess. The serious problem that these people are so scarce that you can’t get data on them. I never showed you anything more detailed than what happened to the top 20% or so in the population and when we’re talking about the really rich, we’re talking about a fraction of 1%.

But first I think material resources matter because we have evolved and what dominance hierarchies is about is access to resources. That is why we have evolved so we are attuned to that kind of thing. I don’t want to say we are just attuned to dominance hierarchies and innately dominant and so on because the equality and friendship side ass just as important, the environment tells us why game to play, if you like, the social environment.

But I do think when you think of the super-rich, you know, is someone living in a house that just has a few more bedrooms and it’s detached and lawns round it or are they living in a magnificent mansion with, you know, amazing conifers and park and all round it and servants? You do form a different view of those people and feel quite different in relation to them. We all feel our abilities with people with a much higher status.

MARTIN: Actors who win Oscars. Did you know that the people who win an Oscar live on average three years longer than the people who are merely nominated. Three years in terms of life expectancy is an immense difference.

RICHARD WILKINSON: Also true of Nobel Prize winners. But you ought to be able to see why that is so. If somebody came up and said “Martin, I thought you were absolutely marvellous” and this, that and the other and really admire you and I think you should have the best office in our block and so glad you are here, it does wonders for our status as well, you feel pretty good about yourself, appreciated by everyone, you relax, you’ve made it. That’s why.

NEW SPEAKER: Shall we give him a round of applause?

NEW SPEAKER: Can I ask a related question because this is something that I’ve sort of thought that might — is it true from what you have said, Richard, in your research that the rich people or even very rich people’s health would be better their health would be better in a more equal society because I think there is a bit of a lever to say to people look you may have a lot of money and all those things but you know actually a lot of these other social determinants and things you talk about including health is your health is worse because of this. You are losing something and that might be a lever to say to people look how about we all get together and try and look at how we might make society more equal.

RICHARD WILKINSON: We can’t get figures just on those really rich people so we can’t make any very definite statement but we can say the benefit goes up to the top quarter or 20% of the population, goes up and includes the richest counties in the USA, the richest social class. But again, you know, we’re talking about the richest 5 or 10% of the population and that’s not simply the super-rich. I am afraid actually anyone with a professional occupation comes certainly in the top 5% in income. If you think of the kinds of problems of violence and drugs and depression, it seems to me that the status competition does have effects all the way up but that’s guessing in my thought we could use it maybe as a political.

RICHARD WILKINSON: I think you should say the vast majority of the population are affected.

NEW SPEAKER: I think that’s interesting and at the moment in America much more simplistic level Obama going round talking about his tax policy will benefit 95% of the population. Much more simplistic thing than talking about improvement in health but I don’t hear that in the political debate in this country about anyone coming up with a model around benefiting the 95% that aren’t the richest. It’s just not in our — it’s not in the discussion that you see or read in the paper or see on any of the news channels. I do wonder about that kind of switch back to — I think the kind of consent through the current capitalist system people buying into aspiration so it creates a social aspiration and I hate to have to say this about a Labour Party member but that is the policy the Lib Dems came out with, increasing tax for the top 10% and redistributing it. But you are right that wasn’t very much reported because that’s just not part of the mainstream discourse. But don’t vote Lib Dem!

NEW SPEAKER: I suppose the thing I would add to that is there’s a lot of discussion here about not coming from the political leadership and David and politicians but, you know, I think historically those changes have always come from wide society and people are enable to make those cases and very unwilling to make those cases. I don’t think we have at the moment in the UK any strong movement that drives that up into the political discourse.

MARTIN: That seems to me like what we ought to spend some time talking about this afternoon because as several people have said now seems quite an opportune moment to raise these sorts of issues and my impression is that we have got more equal in the last six weeks according to my local paper my house is now worth 15% less than it was three months ago. So in terms of equality that’s quite good.

NEW SPEAKER: We’re also all equally shareholders in British banks now.

MARTIN: So I hope there’s some lunch out there. If we have lunch for half-an-hour 40 minutes or so and depending on what the people presenting this afternoon do, I thought we might sit more in a circle and have a bit more dialogue and less sort of question and answer. Is that okay?