The panel discussion “Solving Inequality” addressed the problem of increasing economic inequality in the UK.
Its objective was to debate ideas for political action, beyond the usual discussion about redistribution through taxation.
The panellists were Georgia Gould, a Labour politician, Tony Atkinson, an Oxford economist, and Stewart Lansley, Bristol academic and author. The discussion was chaired by the BBC’s home editor Mark Easton. There was no representative for Warwick.
The three writers approached a solution to inequality from different angles. Mr Atkinson advocated profound policy reform, with a more effective inheritance tax and better child support as two propositions.
He also criticised a political culture of disengagement with lower social classes, highlighting the underrepresentation of labour interest in the TTIP negotiations as a symptomatic example.
Mr Lansley defended the idea of a new economic set-up as a necessary long-term reform, based on co-operative businesses.
In the short term, he sees a necessity to tax large capital movements, such as Mergers & Acquisitions, to set up a fund for investment in society.
Ms Gould called for a re-engagement of politics with the youth, and vice versa, to balance out an “inequality of [political] power” – she opposes the mainstream perception of an apathetic youth, but argues that individualism undermines the use of collective action as a powerful political tool.
Overall, the positions were ideologically similar. While the debate might have been hardly controversial on such grounds, the audience confronted the panel with provocative questions.
For example, one statement referred to the resilience of traditional political structures to mass protest, as in the Spanish 15 March movement. This questioned the argument that a lack of political engagement is to be blamed for a lack of political change.
While the underlying left-wing consensus prevented most controversy, the audience had a positive impression of the event. Sophie Metcalfe, a teenager, liked that the social detachment of many young people was a main topic.
Her mother, Pamela, liked that the debate was not an ideological one; instead, she appreciated the constructive debate of policy options.
In a similar view, Dom Jack, from Kenilworth, appreciated the relevance and clarity of the debate.