What is fair?

 

          Modern politics is besotted by all three main parties chasing the fairness vote. In a time of austerity, they intone, it is important that government is fair.

            At the highest level I have no problem with this. What politican or political party would want to make unfairness their aim?  It is part of  a trite catchphrase. Of course all those of us with some public spirit and some grasp of democratic politics wants things to be as fair as possible, and wish to design and back policies that are “fair”. Any good  MP or Minister has drilled into them the need to be fair to all constituents, fair between competing claims on their time and for their support, and fair in assessing need and cause. We have a duty to represent all in our constituencies or the wider nation, whatever their views and backgrounds.

            If you try to go further you start to appreciate that there are almost as many ideas of what is fair as there are voters. Going beyond the general, you soon get into some serious politics.  MPs and Ministers have to make decisions and judgements. On any given issue we cannot personally back all the viewpoints, though we can ensure they are all taken into account.

            This week the Bishops from their Palaces have thundered that it is not fair to limit benefit claimants to £26,000 a year tax free, as they might have to cut their spending. The public has thundered back, by a large majority, that it is not fair to expect all the people in paid employment, many earning less than £26,000 tax free, to pay extra tax to pay benefit recipients more.

             Labour, usually instinctively on the side of the benefit claimant, in the Commons seemed to side with the idea that there should be some cap on benefits, whilst in the Lords they did their best to work with the Bishops to undermine the notion.

             The European Human Rights Court often claims that if someone has come to the UK uninvited we have to put them up and support them if their home country no longer wants them or might give them a hard time if they returned.  Some in the UK agree with this approach, and think that it is fair to uphold the individual’s human rights, even where their views and approach to life is very different from the UK democratic traditions.  Others in the UK say that such treatment is unfair on UK taxpayers. Why should we pay, they ask, to support people who were not born and brought up here and who have not paid taxes and made other contributions here and may have gone on  to commit a crime here?

             People who want the clocks to be advanced by an extra hour by law say it was unfair that a handful of MPs last Friday tabled amendments and spoke about the problems with the Bill so that it did not pass. Those who did not like the change think it entirely fair that MPs in Parliament should be able to use Parliamentary procedures to prevent a new law they do not want.

               It is the job of the parties to make their own judgements about what they think is fair, and to persuade enough people to buy into their concept of fairness. In the current debate there are many voices who think fairness means giving more money to those who depend on the state, and taking more money from those who are successful in business. The problem, as always, is that there are not enough very rich to pay all the bills. If the state spends more Mr and Mrs Average have to pay more. Meanwhile Mr  Rich may leave the country or simply hire a better accountant.

                 I find it is often my task in these debates to speak up for fairness for people who try to pay their own bills, who believe they should go to work to support their families, who buy their own homes, and pay for their own travel. They  just ask that the state does not take too much away from them to make self help difficult or impossible. There are millions of UK people who do still think they should do a good day’s work for their pay, and think their pay should provide for their needs.

                   Too many of the people in this fairness debate effectively want to tax these people more. If you tax them too much, more give up and become wholly dependent on the state. More need some state assistance. The welfare reforms are about reducing the numbers who have to depend on the state. The  best way to a job is to have a job. The best way to a better job is to have a not so good job and to work up the ladder. The government needs to be whole hearted in its support of such people. It needs to ensure its view of fairness includes a healthy dose of getting behind those who are determined to do the decent thing.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

68 Comments

  1. AEG
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 6:54 am | Permalink

    Thank you! Why are there so many people who completely fail to see that the concept ‘fairness’ is entirely subjective? I can not stand out when politicians use this word, as it has so many meanings that it is essentially meaningless!

  2. Mick Anderson
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    Political fairness is one of those irregular verbs.

    My policy is fair
    Your policy needs to be made more fair
    Their policy is going to penalise the poor

    Whenever a politician claims that something has to be done in then same of “fairness”, it is normally because there is no good, rational, logical reason for it – an equivalent to the “if it saves one life” safety cop-out, even when nobody was really at risk. Godwins Law without Adolf.

    There are only two completely fair levels of taxation – everybody pays 0% or everybody pays 100%. Anything other than that will be unfair to somebody.

    I also note that whenever taxation is made more “fair”, I end up paying more. The change from Rates to Poll Tax to Council Tax cost me twice, and Mr Clegg never reminds us that when the entry level of taxation was raised, most of us had other thresholds changed to mean that at best we were no better off.

  3. lifelogic
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    Fairness needs also to be a system that actually works too, one that encourages people to provide for their own needs and not live off others wherever possible. The system has been evolved (in the interests of the state sector and politician designers) to provide endless, often pointless, state sector jobs and endless transfers from the hard working to the feckless – often in a clear attempt to buy votes.

    The system in not fair, not moral and not even in the interests of the poor.

    The only way to remain Mr and Mrs Rich in the UK is to be a NonDom and thus keep your money away from UK taxes. Alternatively to have very complex, and convoluted tax structures as Mr Blair seems to have discovered. The convoluted tax structures are again creating pointless jobs, this time in the private and state sector. Diverting many clever people who could be far more usefully employed – were the tax rates lower and the system simpler.

    The combination of 50% tax, NI, 20% VAT, 5% Stamp duty, 40% IHT, low interest rates and inflation will rapidly ensure that nearly all your wealth is confiscated by the state over a few years – largely to be wasted. You have to achieve a very good return 10%+ just to stop your wealth declining every year in real terms.

    More damagingly this confiscation prevents or limits people from growing their businesses and investments and from creating jobs. It clearly pushes people, jobs, money and growth overseas. Is that what the government wants? Are they so stupid that they are happy to see the country decline every year for a superficial appearance of fairness? The Libdems certainly seem to be.

    • lifelogic
      Posted January 27, 2012 at 7:36 am | Permalink

      Reported today in the telegraph “People who pay cash in hand to tradesmen are “diddling” the economy and diverting money from hospitals and schools, the country’s most senior taxman, Dave Hartnett, warns on Friday.”

      While I would not want to encourage anyone to do anything illegal. It is probably the case that any reduction in money given to the government actually helps growth and the economy. Given that the state is so bad at spending it efficiently also the high costs of collection, administering and directing its expenditure.

      I note it is always hospitals and schools they refer to – never our EU contribution, soft loans to Greece and the PGIS, the cost of the pointless wars, the quack green electricity subsidies, HS2, the Olympics or the payment of 50K plus to non working large families.

      Also given that the only way we have of controlling state expenditure (given the political system in place) seems to be by limiting what they can actually raise in taxation and borrowing.

      • Disaffected
        Posted January 27, 2012 at 9:15 am | Permalink

        Well said. They also forget that MPs should act as role models, when are they going to clean up their act by example?

        • lifelogic
          Posted January 27, 2012 at 11:19 am | Permalink

          Turkeys do not vote for Christmas so it is unlikely MPs as a group will ever act as a role model.

          If they did want to then perhaps they could switch to a 100% contributory, money purchase pension scheme as so many of their constituents have to put up with.

          Rather than expecting the taxpayers, often taxpayers with no pensions at all, to have bung about £40K per annum in for each MP. And revise the special tax treatments they and particularly EU officials receive so all are treated the same.

      • sym
        Posted January 27, 2012 at 11:04 am | Permalink

        Well I certainly liked the fact that Mr Dave Hartnett was going to retire with a 1.7 million pounds pension pot, at our expense. A shameless gold-plated pension that probably bankers can afford, but not us.

        Says it all really about government, taxes and fairness. It has become a system of serfdom and the public sector caste, headed by politicians, is fighting its upmost to maintain this system.

      • Graham
        Posted January 27, 2012 at 11:16 am | Permalink

        I agree.

        Fairness should apply both ways. Payments by our ‘leaders’ as you describe are not mandated by the country but it goes anyway.

        No wonder people decide to hang on to their money anyway they can so that they can spent it how they want.

        Just sit quietly for a moment and consider a vat rate of 20% – its a huge amount – best avoid paying if it can be arranged.

      • sm
        Posted January 27, 2012 at 11:28 am | Permalink

        Do you ever wonder why our tax laws are drafted as they are? One doesn’t have to be too cynical?

        How would you know who is taking advantage of secrecy jurisdictions then pursuing other more public actions. One could wonder the same about all manner of high ranking government officials.

      • BobE
        Posted January 27, 2012 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

        I always do cash in hand. Its a way of keeping the money with the people who have the sense to use it, unlike our political class.
        Well may the grey market continue.
        BobE

  4. Alte Fritz
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    If I remember rightly, it was John Rawls who, in the 70’s, gave specious respectability to the notion that we should see as just, or fair, an outcome which the onlooker would regard as fair to himself if he arrived fresh to the scene. That approach seems inevitably self serving.

    Is it not better to take, randomly, two subjects, individuals or families or businesses, and ask whether the outcome sought by one of them is fair as between them? If it is, you then proceed to ask whether that outcome is attainable which then opens up the question of who pays.

    It was noticeable a short time ago that a random Lib Dem MP, when asked about the 50 pence tax rate, could not be drawn into saying that it should go if it were eventually found to be inefficient in raising revenue. Such reticence was, presumably, founded on a misconceived idea of fairness which conflates two different questions. Not much hope for a fair argument in the face of such prejudice.

  5. Beast of Bedminster
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 7:28 am | Permalink

    John

    I hope for the sake of a pathetic £1 billion in savings you are making appropriate representations to Dave. That in his pursuit of “fairness”, he is putting his chances of an outright majority at the next election at risk if people such as myself lose their child benefit just because their wife is a higher rate taxpayer.

    What are the “savings” for? So we have the wherewithal to then provide an entry level package of a car, home, mobile phone etc to someone from Romania or Somalia?

    If I have no skin in the welfare state game why the hell should I pay into it or vote for those who are committed to keeping it in place?

    Reply|: I and others have pointed out that the government’s original plans on this were not fair between couples on differing combined incomes, and they have indicated they are looking again at it.

    • scottspeig
      Posted January 27, 2012 at 9:15 am | Permalink

      Are you seriously saying that the state ought to pay for your child when you have a household income of over 45k?!? The fact that there’s a loophole by you both earning £43k is immaterial. Neither should receive it, yet it is cheaper to allow the couple earning £43k each to get it than close the loophole.

      Child benefit should be scrapped. The easiest way is to announce no new child benefit starting in 1 year. We’d then have a boom just before the deadline, and then after 18 years, there will be no child benefit paid. We do not need high birth-rates anymore.

      • Steven Whitfield
        Posted January 27, 2012 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

        Child benefit should be abolished . i believe it will have to happen sooner or later probably north of a population of 70 million. It would be sensibly to take measure to reduce population increase now..but the elite always first look to do what is easy or politically correct.

  6. Robert K
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    Here are some things that are not fair:
    1) A democratic system that is reality an elective tyranny, where more than half of the income of the working population is excised and spent with virtually no influence from the taxpayer. Only once every five years does the taxpayer get to vote on how half his money is spent – and even then the difference between the cabals in Westminster is minimal. With a few honourable exceptions, no-one appears to be campaigning to curb the power of the state.
    2) People who have not paid taxes and made other contributions and have no intention of doing so being feather-bedded by a state that considers its morality to be superior to its electorate.
    3) Political grandstanding and horse-trading as our elected representatives con us with their back street deals. The introduction of a stealth graduate tax, disguised as a new funding regime for tertiary education, is a perfect example.

    • Richard
      Posted January 27, 2012 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      …….”by a State that considers its morality to be superior to its electorate”

      ……..What a great comment

      • javelin
        Posted January 27, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

        Nail on the head

    • zorro
      Posted January 27, 2012 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

      Real taxation without real representation…..

      zorro

  7. Bill
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    There are classical distinctions between distributive, retributive and procedural justice. Some of the debate occurs because of conflict between the different types of justice.

    Was it Aristotle who said that justice in treating equal things equally and unequal things unequally? Distributive justice surely means effort and reward should be matched in some way.

    As for the bishops: didn’t St Paul say ‘if a man will not work, neither shall he eat’ (2 Thessalonians 3.10). Are the bishops a better guide than St Paul? I think not.

    • Alan S
      Posted January 27, 2012 at 11:17 am | Permalink

      Very good point.
      Our religious leaders are increasingly out of touch with the ‘common man’ and have proved it yet again with their recent decision. It is no wonder that our churches continue to empty.

    • uanime5
      Posted January 27, 2012 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

      The Bible has plenty of passages supporting welfare. Here are two:

      Deuteronomy 14:28 “At the end of every three years, bring all the tithes of that year’s produce and store it in your towns, [29] so that the Levites (who have no allotment or inheritance of their own) and the foreigners, the fatherless and the widows who live in your towns may come and eat and be satisfied, and so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.”

      Leviticus 19:9 “‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. [10] Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the LORD your God.”

  8. Martyn
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    “Too many of the people in this fairness debate effectively want to tax these people more. If you tax them too much, more give up and become wholly dependent on the state”. Exactly so, and if Labour has at long last realised that having 53% of the population, working or not, being dependant for their paid for by a dwindling number of in-work taxpayers is increasingly unsustainable, there may be a glimmer of hope for all taxpayers – including those in public service.

    No doubt other ways found of taxing us more will soon be found – I have long thought that one of the reasons the government wants to enforce the installation of ‘smart’ electricity, gas and water meters on every house in the nation is to collect local and other taxes via household utility bills. That can be done remotely and without the knowledge of the householder, as is currently being done in the Greek city of Corinth (c.f. Irish Times 23-1-12) where electricity meters are used to collect property tax and water meters for collecting emergency VAT and a 1% surcharge for water company pension pots.

    If this were to be done in the UK, such is the technology that the meters for those households on income support or whatever could be remotely adjusted to offset or remove the tax element paid for by those in work. No pay bills, no electricity or water. Simples!

    • Mark
      Posted January 27, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      I think that might provoke some imaginative responses among welfare claimants who are already used to claiming they live somewhere else.

  9. Martin
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    Interesting paragraph at the end. Do we not need to look at the German system of part time working at times of economic down turns? That way employers and employees don’t lose touch/skills etc and when the upturn comes its so much easier (and cheaper) than the fire and hire process.

    The other thing that folk have to recognise about fairness is that it is often complicated and expensive. Means testing is a prime example. It also throws up horrible skews. The governments own figures have about just under amillion out of work and not on benefits and others getting benefits worth over £20k a year. Some might say that the £20k plus a year lot are “deserving” others take another view.

    • uanime5
      Posted January 27, 2012 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

      Interestingly in Germany if a company reduces the number of hours an employee works, rather than fires them, the Government will pay 80% of the pay difference between part time and full time work. This means that despite reduced working hours the employee’s spending is only marginally reduced.

  10. Geoff
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    Is it fair that government takes up to 50% in income tax, then adds VAT and other stealth taxes to everything you buy, then has agencies, quangos and council adding their tax and costs?
    Oh and don’t forget all the costs it loads on business which are paid by customers in the end. Also all the regulations that make everything we do more expensive and difficult.
    Then not content with grabbing 80%+ of your income one way or another they run up enormous deficits that out grandchildren will be paying.
    It then manages to convince a large section of the voting population that all this is good for them when a detached observer would wonder why we are paying so much money for such inefficient services delivered by the worst kind of nannying, dependence producing, incompetent system ever devised by man kind.

    • lifelogic
      Posted January 27, 2012 at 10:58 am | Permalink

      And even if you do build up some capital, after all those taxes, they still want 40% when you die or tax it if you put any into trust for your family or friends. It is never really your money so why bother earning it.

  11. stred
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    The parameters by which fairness is judged by the State are suspect. An example is the qualification for homeless children. If two have to share a bedroom, they are supposed to be homeless as judged by social workers, Shelter and the rest.

    The definition of poverty is similarly adjustable, as it is related to moving levels of average income. Even average incomes are misleading, as they are pulled upwards by very high salaries. Most of us are in the median income level.

    Most of the unfairness problem is caused by ridiculously high incomes steered into the pockets of employees in companies or state organisations with monopolies and work guaranteed by legislation.

    • Mark
      Posted January 27, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      With the law of unintended consequences, presumably by reducing the floorspace by inserting a partition to create two tiny rooms instead of one larger one, the children have magically been housed?

  12. Mike G
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    ‘Fair’ is a virus word, instantly destroying all logic when injected into a debate. Others include ‘deserve’ and ‘greed’

    • alan jutson
      Posted January 27, 2012 at 8:40 am | Permalink

      \Mike G

      You forgot “its my right”

    • uanime5
      Posted January 27, 2012 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

      You forgot ‘politics of envy’.

  13. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    Listening to politicians talking about fairness reminds me of young children squabbling when they think they have had less than someone else with the expression “that’s not fair!”. For many politicians today it is part of the politics of envy. Do those politicians ever question the fairness of saddling the country with a £1.5 trillion debt by the end of this parliament which will have to be paid by future generations? Do they ever take action to prevent the wastefulness of government spending? Do they ever think that people are capable of spending their own money in better ways than the government? I doubt it.

  14. Damien
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    For a long time there has been public anger about the unfairness that people from abroad can come to this country and play the benefits system while having never contributed to it. Gillian Duffy and others noticed how jobs seemed to be going to others while the locals were passed over. Labour conspired to cover up the true scale of immigration and peddled the lie that those immigrating from outside the EU were coming to fill jobs that the UK workers could not. We now find that actually many of those are claiming benefits in the UK and have gone on to full citizenship in the process! According to many this is perfectly legal but for most its simply unfair.

  15. alan jutson
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Fair is always a problem, as it means different things to different people.

    If working as a group, then one normally likes to feel they do their fair share.

    If working as an individual, then working for a fair rate for the job is often quoted.

    For me, as far as pay is concerned, if you work, you deserve to keep the vast majority of the money you earn. Otherwise why bother, other than for self esteem.

    Yes all should pay some into the State pot for all things that the State should provide, law and order, defence, education, basic health cover, basic benefits, basic pension and the like.

    When we get into the state that people who can work, and do not work out of choice, then State provision has simply gone too far.

    When we have people who have never paid into the system, but take out, we have gone too far.

    When we have a huge amount of spare labour in this country, and we allow others from outside to come in, we have gone too far.

    What should we have as a guide for government take of GDP?

    I suggest 25%, that figure concenrates the mind (or should) on getting value for money.

    Last but not least, written ino our constitution (if we had a written one) “no government should spend in the present year, more than 80% of last years actual tax take”.

    That at least should ensure that our growing debt stops, slowly reduces, and we only spend according to our income. Real and proper growth, is therefore the only way forward.

  16. Nick
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    The issue is all about something for nothing.

    Getting other people’s money with no effort and no risk.

    • Mazz
      Posted January 27, 2012 at 10:40 am | Permalink

      ‘The issue is all about something for nothing. Getting other people’s money with no effort and no risk.’

      Yes, the State and the Benefit Scroungers alike, (people who can’t work exempted).

      • uanime5
        Posted January 27, 2012 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

        Along with being an executive in a large company.

  17. Javelin
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    The Left see the Government as a cow and what is often called fair is pulling the udders and taking the milk. The cow, according to the left, was bred to produce milk and should therefore be milked.

    Thank you for sticking up for the cow.

    I’d rather you changed the crazy analogy.

    • Javelin
      Posted January 27, 2012 at 9:16 am | Permalink

      I read the UK is to be excluded on the private EMU meetings on a Tobin Tax.

      I think it is “fair” that we offer out full support to the private Europeans Masocistic Unions meetings by sending them bottles of our finest Scotch and a pack of our best quality British Razor Blades from Sheffield to help them with their task.

      • uanime5
        Posted January 27, 2012 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

        We’re excluded because Cameron refused to introduce this tax and the meeting is for those who are going to introduce it.

    • Javelin
      Posted January 27, 2012 at 9:20 am | Permalink

      I think it is “fair” that the EU leaders stop tapping taxpayers for their broken currency system.

  18. Alan Wheatley
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    Agreed.

  19. oldtimer
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    “What is fair?” you ask.

    Answer: any measure described as such by a politician seeking an excuse to filch more cash from your wallet. It is yet another perversion of the English language by the political class – like Brown`s “investment” when he was merely referring to day-to-day spending.

  20. Andrew Smith
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Is it because politicians (not JR) are so weak minded or because they think the rest of us cannot cope with multi-syllable words that they drone on and on about meaningless jargon such as “fair”, “rich”, etc. Or is it because they do not want to engage in meaningful discussion so they resort to vague platitudes.

    You may guess which I suspect to be true.

  21. Bernard Otway
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    If the FAIRNESS political brigade were the HANDICAP system in Golf,I would give up.
    At the ripe age of 36 I went to South Africa,my wife only came out 14 months later,as selling the house was very slow.In that 14 months because I played at least 5 days a week Golf,my
    handicap quite rightly went down to Scratch,proving the adage “Practise makes perfect”
    HOWEVER the politician’s idea AND all the vested interests BLEATING about fairness
    means I would probably be on about PLUS 5,even at the old age of 66,instead of the 7 that I actually still play off

  22. Richard
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    I think many Politicians who use the word “fairness” really should substitute the word “equality” instead.
    By fairness, do we really mean State enforced equality, or equality of opportunity for all which would inevitably leave some in society much better off than others?
    How should the decisions on this road to fairness be made? By a democratic majority vote? Under what electoral system PR or first past the post? What about minorities left feeling unfairly treated by the votes of the majority?

    One thing is certain, I notice recently a great change in the attitude of taxpayers who feel their taxes are too high and are increasingly being wasted.
    (see Daily Telegraph interveiw with the Permanent Secretary of the HMRC saying in effect that paying cash in hand is unfair and is depriving the State of tax together with the surprising result of the survey and the comments that go with the article).

    Politicians may want to talk about fairness (ie equality) but they need to remind themselves they govern us only with our consent and if our concept of fairness isn’t felt to be in place we will rebel one way or another.

    • Iain Gill
      Posted January 27, 2012 at 11:13 am | Permalink

      I think the state enforce version of “equality” is nonsense

      For instance is it really equality that the school you are allocated depends entirely on how expensive the area your parents can afford to live in is? Its no longer done on an attempt at merit, or even spread evenly amongst folk of different backgrounds, its now selection according to ability of your parents to pay or manipulate the system. State involvement has actually reduced fairness all round.

      The moving onto “positive discrimination” how many good white male candiadates for the police service (or parliamentary candidates) are turned down to let a less qualified person who does not fit that description in? The exact reverse of a meritocracy.

      Or the whole immigration sham, politicians talk tough but keep rubber stamping those visas, masses of uncapped numbers coming in on work visas, many with their families, and currently more than 30% go on to get British citizenship simply for working here a few years. Is it really “fair” for the British workforce to compete with non EC nationals from low cost base countries here on our own streets?

      and so on

  23. Mazz
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    I think a cap of £26,000 tax free, is more than ample.

    I was brought up by ‘Conservative’ Grandparents and my brother and I were taught to always live within our means. Now, I live on a State Pension of £7,342 (I was earning about the same in 1985!). There are perks, as I do not have to pay Council Tax and I have a free bus pass. I saved up and paid off my small mortgage. I don’t smoke but I do drink wine. If I gave up on the wine and was a little bit more careful with my money on other living expenses, I would probably be able to afford to run a car. It’s all about priorities.

  24. Iain Gill
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    To a large degree I support what you say BUT
    Fairness is also about those who have contributed getting back out of the system
    If you have contributed taxes almost all of your adult life and find yourself out of work or ill then really the system shouldn’t treat you like those who have never worked who do need sorting out in fundamental ways, the system should be a LOT more sympathetic and hassle free
    If you have contributed all of your life you should not be in competition for elective surgery or hospital beds with those here for a few days on a work visa (or only here as family member of work visa holder)
    In extremes, for instance if you risk your life helping stop a copper getting beaten up and get injured as a result the system should support you, you should not be left on minimum state pay-outs when you have gone out of your way to do the right thing, you should be applauded and treated with great respect
    If you have shown great flexibility to stay in work (and got on your bike as it were) and moved around a lot as a consequence and HAD to stay in rented accommodation for that reason you should not be looked down upon versus the mortgaged classes, you should not go back to the beginning of the NHS waiting list every time you move house! And so on
    Fairness is also about a fair crack at the whip, you should NOT be discriminated against by virtue of the school you went to, you regional or class based accent, your parents occupation, by virtue of your male sex or white skin in some misguided positive discrimination, and so on, all of which are perfectly legal in the UK and often supported by the political classes, fairness is about a proper meritocracy

  25. Leslie Singleton
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    Just as there is no ‘on/off’ switch governing what is or is not “fair”, there is similarly no such switch on the use of “austerity”. You do not make this clear in your second sentence above. It is a matter of judgement how much austerity is right at any point. It is meaningless to be told that we are in a period of “austerity”. I hold no brief for salesman Dave, rather I left the party when he arrived, but when one asks whether one should prefer his and the Chancellor’s judgement on how much austerity is appropriate to that of Miliband and Balls with their ghastly record I rather think the question answers itself.

  26. PayDirt
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    It is definitely not fair when the Sheriff of Nottingham erects signs on the corner of every street in my neighbourhood (LEZ, suburban London) prohibiting me from driving my van while allowing each and every smokey old car to drive willy nilly.

  27. Alan S
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    How about fairness in housing?
    A single mother with 5 children (by 3 different fathers) on benefits is allowed to rent a 6 bedroom house in one of the good areas of London simply because the rules allow it and the tax payer covers the cost.
    Then (to my personal knowledge) a family with 2 working parents in their own 2 bed house unexpectedly have a second child of the opposite sex of the first one and now have a problem. They need an extra bedroom but cannot afford to buy a bigger house. They can get no help from the Council or benefits no matter what the ‘rules’ say. They cannot be rehoused because they own the one they live in and as the child grows the lack of a third bedroom becomes greater.
    Now, is it fair that their tax is helping to pay for the single mother with 5 children to live in a property they can only dream of ?
    No, of course it isn’t but that is the reality!
    Why is overcrowding only an issue when it affects someone on benefits ?
    I am not suggesting that everyone get state help but that they should live within their means and that also includes government spending

    On a positive charitable note, their problem was finally resolved with a loft conversion paid for by a grandparent as an ‘early inheritance’

  28. Electro-Kevin
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    “If you try to go further you start to appreciate that there are almost as many ideas of what is fair as there are voters”

    In general there is a majority in Britain who share an idea what ‘fair’ is. Ask the general population what their views are on crime and punishment, benefits, immigration and the response will be loud and clear and quite simple. As it happens I have great faith in majority views as I think that the English are particularly fair minded and altruistic – as proven by so many fund raising campaigns and the fact that a tiny minority of us have resorted to voting BNP.

    The problem is comes when minority speakers are given equal weighting to those representing that majority on TV debates, radio shows, Parliamentary discussions etc.

    Those minority views need to be heard but the consequences of turning them into policy need to be considered carefully within in the context of the greater democratic will.

    The majority MUST have their way. Sadly it has been lacking in British society and is why we’re in a mess.

    It confounds me that, whichever way we vote at elections, so much of the Guardian’s agenda is fulfilled.

    • Electro-Kevin
      Posted January 27, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

      Regardless of ‘so many views – which do we pick ?’ it should be the majority which stands.

      The weighting of views is all wrong in Britain.

  29. Iain Gill
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

    i guess its also worth saying that fairness is people earning the money keeping a bigger proportion of it, this applies across all aspects of the world, as much as it should mean lower tax for people in wealth creating sectors, it also means the wealth creators in big companies should keep more of the money and less if it go to folk at board level who are often mediocre

  30. forthurst
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    ‘Fairness’ is a subterfuge used Cultural Marxists to disguise their true motive, the destruction of Western civilisation and its ethnic groups. Opposition to their vile campaign of destruction is deemed by them a thoughtcrime and much of the Cultural Marxist perversion of our country and culture has already been incorporated into our law.

    The premises of Cultural Marxism are always false and their outcomes are always inexpedient, which of course are their sole motivations. Cultural Marxism has spawned a raft of pseudo-academic nonsense: womens’ studies, black studies, ethnological and psychological studies which teach that any attempt to distinguish between men and women or white and nonwhite, or the desirability of different sexual configurations or cultures is based upon prejudice; thus we must be ‘shocked’ that 50% of MPs, company directors are not women, that a non native group is ‘poorly’ represented at Oxbridge, that male ‘married’ couples can’t get firtility treatment on the NHS. Then, of course, there is the need to make our society as vibrant as possible as quickly as possible and there are always ready excuses available (natives won’t do the job, natives can’t do the job, this institution, that location is ‘too white’).

    We should test ‘fairness’ but we should also test ‘expediency’. Sometimes the consequence of too much ‘fairness’ is too little expediency. It is not expedient to encourage people to come here because of our free benefit or healthcare systems. It is not expedient to encourage people to make the rational economic decision that work does not pay. It is not expedient to pretend that women are the same as men with the same aptitudes and interests and that the financial burden of their biological role should be born by employers and the state rather than men within the context of the nuclear family or that men should not be held financially accountable to society for their children. It is not expedient to pretend that all individuals have the same capacity for academic work such that any divergence is due to ‘deprivation’ when the consequence is that bright people are being prevented from being taught and examined according to their ability.

    Let’s be fair to our own people first; let’s be fair to those who are unequal to life’s struggle by giving them a helping hand but let us not be so ‘fair’ as to create so much unfairness or inexpediency that the country suffers even to the point of destruction.

    • Mazz
      Posted January 28, 2012 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

      ‘a raft of pseudo-academic nonsense: womens’ studies, black studies, ethnological and psychological studies’

      Not forgetting Holocaust & Genocide studies! Nothing is sacred to the leftist pseudo’s.

    • Steven Whitfield
      Posted January 30, 2012 at 11:42 am | Permalink

      ‘Fairness’ is a subterfuge used Cultural Marxists to disguise their true motive, the destruction of Western civilisation and its ethnic groups. Opposition to their vile campaign of destruction is deemed by them a thoughtcrime and much of the Cultural Marxist perversion of our country and culture has already been incorporated into our law’

      An accurate analysis but one few are willing to acknowledge. I salute ‘Forthurst’ for identifing the deeper issue – that ‘Fairness’ is a deliberatley benign and worthy sounding description of something that is actually quite harmful and destructive.
      I suspect Mr Redwood has spent most of his political life fighting cultural marxism.

  31. Denis Cooper
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    In general I believe that fair is what I believe to be fair, as do most other people.

  32. lola
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    Generally the politicos et al are confusing ‘fair’ with ‘equitable’ – as in ‘fair and just’. F’rinstance, it is not equitable that a benefit claimant can receive many multiples of NAE by avoiding work. But it may be entirely ‘equitable’ that Hester gets large bonus paid in RBS stock not redeemable until 2014, hence tying him to delivering shareholder value.

    Fairness is the juvenile chant of the school playground.

    • sm
      Posted January 28, 2012 at 12:03 am | Permalink

      It may have been equitable for RBS and the need for the job not to have arisen.
      Banking/Central Banking is a protected insider controlled monopoly with high profits and real barriers to entry. We desperately need full reserve banking solutions which compete away excess margins safely allow failures,competition and successes.

  33. uanime5
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 7:41 pm | Permalink

    So far all the Bishops and many other Lords have done is to excempt Child Benefit from the benefit cap as they felt it would lead to children being neglected. They also prevented benefits being means tested for the sick and disabled. I support the Lords for standing up for the most vulnerable in society who politicians too often attack because these people cannot fight back.

    I take it by ‘give them a hard time if they returned’ you mean the country would kill, torture, or imprison without a fair trial any immigrant who is sent back to them. Perhaps if the UK linked human rights to aid then developing countries would no longer violate human rights, making immigrants less willing to leave in the first place.

    Mr Rich cannot leave the country if he cannot take his job with him and Mr accountant isn’t going to be any good if tax loopholes are closed.

    The problem with having a not so good job and working up the ladder is that many companies don’t internally promote people, thus the only way to get a promotion is to go work for another company. Getting the not so good job is also difficult due to the competition for jobs, especially if you lack the experience or are overqualified.

    Reply: What then are your answers to getting more people into work and getting the deficit down?

    • Bazman
      Posted January 28, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

      Many jobs are dead end at least in what is often laughably called a ‘career’ by companies that operate a command and control management system alongside a revolving door recruitment policy. Often the only career worth pursuing is your own life, lowering living costs by paying for your house and living within your means. Often difficult as circumstances drag many down.
      One of the answers to getting people into work and lowering the deficit could be to have some sort of anti poverty education in schools. A long term and possibly cheap investment. The idea is easily rubbished, but the fact remains that many poor are poor because of their upbringing their Dad was a bum and so are they. Like the Doctors son becoming a Doctor. A bit of social engineering leading to a bit of social climbing and what is wrong with a bit of social climbing?
      At a back of the lorry discussion with a Polish man in his twenties I work with. He claimed that that in Britain everyone has it easy and can just claim benefits. Stating this as a reason there is no poor in Britain. “Drink, new car, house, no job, argue with neighbors, no problems!”
      I argued that there are poor people here in Britain like Poland, but they have more money. “They are poor in their heads” He had to agree.

  34. Barbara Stevens
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

    John, I read you last paragraph with interest. Fairness, well it effects people in different ways. We’re one of those who have worked, paid their dues over the years, and even when retired paid tax. Invested in our home for our retirement, made it pleasent for the enviroment and ourselves.

    (Recites a very unhappy personal history which relates to an identifiable individual whose conduct has damaged them. I suggest the personal matters concerned are best taken up by the local MP and Councillors -ed)

    John, when you discuss fairness its a wide area, we feel we have been denied fairness. …….. What a position to have to face on your 70th birthday and a husband just short of his 80th. Where is the fairness in that after a lifetime of paying your dues.

  35. Jon
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    Fairness is about being fair to all and not one pet project in isolation nor a voting constituent in the case of Labour.

    How did we get to a situation where people on benefits could be better off than people in demanding jobs working full time. Where is the incentive to work.

    Is it Glasgow East thats been Labour controlled since 1924 ish? Its produced a shorter lifespan than Iraq during the war, around the lowest education standard in Europe, amongst highest unemployment in Europe as well as crime. Thats not fair to them. Yes they will ask for more benefits and yes Labour will give them that but what has it done to them?

  36. Steven Whitfield
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    Mr Redwood’s analysis for some reason stops short of identifying the main issue – that ALL three of the main political party’s follow a ‘fairness’ agenda that is pre-ordained by the doctrine of Political Correctness. As I said in an earlier post, it is as if the symptoms have been identified but no attempt made to find the underlying illness.

    If you happen to not like or agree with political correctness then that is tough as there isn’t any other choice in mainstream politics. Looking at the big picture shows that the Conservative party kowtoes to the PC agenda in almost every action it takes. PC thinking runs to the core of the party and is now almost embedded in it’ DNA.
    The ‘acceptability’ of a vast range of policies is determined by the doctine of PC, yet it is hardly ever directly acknowledged, challenged or debated. I find this extremely strange bearing in mind the double standards and conflicts that routinely arise between reason and PC.

    What the politically correct always seek to do is identify the ‘victim’ (‘the poor’ in the fairness agenda ), and then support them and their interests irrespective of any other factors…and then makes everyone feel that no dissent should be tolerated. As JR said who could possibly be in favour of ‘unfairness’ ?

    Without making any judgements on whether the power held is malign, benign, used wisely or not, the PC always seek to re-distribute power from the powerful oppressor (‘the rich’) to the powerless (‘the poor’).
    This type of concrete headed thinking exactly mirrors the way in which the ‘fairness’ agenda operates. It’s beautifully simple if you happen to be a follower of PC – small irritations like reality and inconvenient truths (such as those put forward by the small number of independently minded MP’s like John Redwood) can be suppressed or ignored. Only the virtual or PC truth is important.

  37. BobE
    Posted January 27, 2012 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    Breathtaking @SpiegelPeter scoop on the German plan for EU to run Greece http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/33ab91f0-4913-11e1-88f0-00144feabdc0.html#axzz1kVgOkdHI

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

  • John’s Books

  • Email Alerts

    You can sign up to receive John's blog posts by e-mail by entering your e-mail address in the box below.

    Enter your email address:

    Delivered by FeedBurner

    The e-mail service is powered by Google's FeedBurner service. Your information is not shared.

  • Map of Visitors

    Locations of visitors to this page