A Review of Inequality Today 2014 by Shaz Rahman

Inequality today 2014

Fresh from our successful panel debate from the same week Tom and I visited London to attend the Inequality Today 2014 conference hosted by the Equality Trust. We enjoyed the environmentally friendly train to London. Before the conference began we enjoyed tea and spoke to a few of the other attendees.

The conference began with a speech from Sean Blaine about the year that the Equality Trust has had and what the future holds for the Equality Trust and the battle surrounding income inequality. He pointed to the Scottish Referendum, which could be considered as the first widespread UK election where inequality was a central issue. He also said that the Equality Trust would be fighting to make inequality a central issue during the 2015 General Election.

Next up for the conference was a preview of the Spirit Level Documentary, which is currently being made. Katherine Round the director talked us through how filming is going and the challenges she is facing. We were then lucky enough to watch a few interview clips that may make the final edit. People from the bottom, the middle and the top of the economic scale were interviewed as well as prominent academics. What was apparent from the clips was that everybody suffered from extreme economic inequality because status competition meant that nobody was happy. At all levels of society people felt insecure about how much they had compared to their peers. Even the very richest felt inferior to others who were also the very richest. On top of this some of the experts arguing against extreme income inequality were surprising including former economic advisor to Margaret Thatcher, Alan Budd. Once we had finished watching the clips, Katherine Round was joined by Richard Wilkinson and Katie Pickett for a question and answer session.

We were very excited to learn that the Spirit Level Film will be released next year. I was one of the people who helped fundraise the project and so I am delighted that the film will become a reality. We also were told that there could be an opportunity to host public screenings up and down the UK. Equality West Midlands would be overjoyed to host a public screening in the West Midlands.

After tea and more mingling, including a brief chat with co- author of the Spirit Level Kate Pickett, we had an economics lecture with Adair Turner. Through various graphs (we do love our graphs) Turner explained how the current economic system is self-defeating, with inequality being a key factor in creating an incoherent and self-damaging economy. Turner does not believe in exact income equality but he says the evidence demonstrates that the levels of extreme income inequality as found in the UK and the US create an unstable economy where only a few can prosper. To finish the event Wilkinson and Pickett joined Turner for another question and answer session.

Buoyed by enthusiasm from the conference Tom and I went to a local pub to discuss potential ideas for our future campaigning activities. We were given quite a few from the event, which will hopefully become more concrete ideas over the next few weeks and months.

Equality West Midlands learnt a lot from Inequality today 2014 and hope to use what we learnt to help in the battle against extreme inequality going into the General Election of 2015 and beyond.

Shaz Rahman is Campaign Co-ordinator for Equality West Midlands

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