Fairness has become the word of the moment with politicians and commentators of all hues unusually making space around the table for us all to join in the discussion of what it means. The starting gun was fired at the recent Tory party conference with David Cameron giving over his conference speech to laying out his understanding of fairness and Radio 4’s Today programme devoting the week leading up to the Spending Review to exploring its meaning with listeners invited to say what they think it’s all about. Dovetailing nicely with all of this is the publication of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC) triennial report mapping out the state of fairness in Britain today.
The EHRC has been talking about fairness for a while now. As a concept it has far more all-round appeal than ‘equality’ which some see as being synonymous with positive discrimination and the rallying cry of the politically correct. The word seems to provoke outrage and apathy in equal measure and lying somewhere in between is the EHRC and a gamut of organisations who are assiduously working to address the realities of inequality, hoping that the muted indifference and disinterest could somehow be galvanised into supporting the various measures outlined to address it.
If anyone wants to understand what inequality is and what fairness is all about then the EHRC’s report should help. Although those who oppose the EHRC and all it stands for are no doubt readying their horses to mount a charge against it, the attempt to open up the discussion to all stakeholders could only be a good thing. The very debate on a subject that can be a huge turn off for some, can only mean more people engaged in understanding and accepting that we need to do more to recognise inequality and unfairness and address the issues in terms of recogniseable and measurable outcomes.
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