Thursday, 6 March 2008

"Fairness" revisited

I am sceptical about the value of “fairness” as a political message for the Liberal Democrats. (See my previous blog on this)

I have long suspected that when many people tell pollsters or focus group meisters that they are concerned about a lack of “fairness”, they are not really talking about social equality or pensions or human rights .

This is underlined by some Newsnight polling that has been done as part of BBC2’s unfortunately named White Season.

A majority of white working class Britons feel nobody speaks for people like them, a BBC survey has suggested.

Some 58% said they felt unrepresented compared with 46% of white middle class respondents to a Newsnight poll.

White working classes were also negative about the past decade with 62% saying life had generally become worse in the UK.

Now for some specifics:

Of the working class people questioned 71% believe crime has got worse over the last decade, compared with 66% of middle class people.

On housing, 80% of the working class say that people like them can no longer afford to buy homes in the area they live. A smaller majority - 68% - of middle class people believed they had been priced out of the local housing market.

Overall 62% of the white working classes believe that life in Britain has generally got worse over the last decade compared with 51% of middle class white people.

For this large group, “fairness” may really about resentment.

Nobody should really need to ask what that’s about.

When asked whether they thought immigration into Britain, on the whole, was a good or bad thing for the country the survey suggests that opinion was divided between people from different social groups.

Some 52% of the white working class people questioned thought immigration was a bad thing (42% thought it was a good thing), while just 33% of white middle class people thought it bad (62% thought it a good thing).

When asked whether they thought new immigrants had put their jobs at risk the survey suggests that more than twice as many white working class people (27%) compared with middle class (13%) people thought it had.

No, I’m not suggesting that the Liberal Democrats should lift policies from the BNP. But we misread “fairness” and, like all the parties, under-estimate the feelings behind these findings at our peril.

1 comment:

Davidboyle said...

Absolutely right. The word 'fairness' is political mush. It has been leeched of meaning through over use. It just goes in and straight out again. We should shun the word entirely.