Outflanked by the moderates?
Could a moderate flank carry the XR torch? This week’s #faircomment dives in.
Outflanked by the moderates?
This has nothing to do with Rishi Sunak. And it only really links to Keir Starmer through his apparent identification as a ‘centrist dad’. Former Extinction Rebellion spokesperson and ecological philosopher Rupert Read has been arguing for more than a year now that, despite its recent travails, XR has achieved a good chunk of its original aims. It has helped to bring about a sea change in public attitudes to the climate crisis, all over the world but especially in the UK. And it has done this by opening up a ‘radical flank’ that has shifted the ‘Overton Window’ of what is seen as politically possible or even mentionable. But it will never succeed in persuading a critical mass of the public to become active supporters. What we need now, argues Read, is a ‘moderate flank’ that can appeal to a much wider demographic, and whose demands will be seen by government as more reasonable by comparison to those of XR (while being more radical than some might imagine). Read foresees a key role for parents in driving this moderate flank forward, and argues that we need to convince more parents — and grandparents, and uncles, and anyone else — that loving your children fully can and should include campaigning for a safer, healthier and happier future for them. And, given that we have now passed any realistic hope of limiting temperature rises to 1.5°C, these new campaigners will need to call for ‘transformative adaptation’ as well as reducing carbon emissions. Perhaps there is an opportunity here to think about fairness as a useful starting point or organising principle, for a fair transition to net zero but also for a fair way to prepare society for the challenges ahead, as we look ahead to next week’s COP27 summit.
Who’s replacing the cats in Downing Street?
“Libertarians are like house cats: convinced of their fierce independence while utterly dependent on a system they don’t appreciate or understand.” Apparently this is a well-known quote, but I hadn’t heard it so maybe you haven’t either. The cats have Downing Street now. But we won’t have a clear idea of the real nature of the new occupants until 17 November, when Jeremy Hunt unveils the fiscal (now autumn) statement that was previously due today. Will they finally reform taxes on wealth? Will they raise benefits in line with inflation (and ignore the ‘fairwashing’ arguments of those who argue the moral case for raising them in line with earnings)? Will they do anything to help the increasing proportion of people, including millions of working families, who are unable to afford the cost of living, or will they take another axe to our crumbling public services?
Squeezing the last drops
New ONS figures remind us of the differential impacts of the cost of living squeeze. Disabled adults are almost twice as likely to report difficulties in affording energy, rent or mortgage payments than non-disabled adults. The same issue affected a higher proportion of Black adults (69%) than White adults (44%). The last week has seen two new campaign launches: Stop the Squeeze, calling for the government to guarantee affordable energy, boost incomes and raise taxes on wealth, and Big Futures, calling for decent and affordable homes for all, ending low wages, and creating millions of green jobs. Both sets of demands are similar to the solutions proposed in the Fairness Index. And talking of low wages, the High Pay Centre has revealed that six in ten people think companies should prioritise better pay and conditions for their workers.
You mean these things are linked?
Another week, another piece of compelling evidence that, yup, growth and social goods — health, education, you name it — are inextricably linked. Which comes first? Doesn’t matter. This week it was the turn of the Centre for Progressive Policy to make the case, with a report arguing that significant educational inequalities map closely on to differences in local economic outcomes, and that policies to improve educational outcomes must look beyond the education system to wider issues of deprivation. Onward are arguing that the Tories must prioritise both growth and reducing inequality if they want to win the next election. Meanwhile, Conservative MP John Penrose argued in the Times (paywall) that we can’t kickstart economic growth without improving the shocking gap in life expectancy (one of the 15 indicators in the Fairness Index, in case you’d forgotten).
Deep in the entrails of the Fairness Index, published a couple of weeks ago, are some slides about framing fairness. They’re aimed at organisations who are campaigning for social change and offer some suggestions about talking about fairness as a way to reach and influence new audiences. We’re not framing experts — we leave that to people like Frameworks UK and PIRC — so the page also links to reports on framing and narratives produced by said experts in recent years. Please have a look, and get in touch by replying to this email if you have any feedback.
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