The Tories Just Don’t Get Equality

LabourTrying to talk sensibly about progressive politics with a Tory is sometimes like trying to draw blood out of a stone – I’m sure many of you have tried it.

For many Tories, anything left of centre is equivalent to some kind of Stalinist communism.

It’s frustrating, but it is something that we must continue to try to explain to each and every person in the country what equality actually is.

So what is the equality that we are fighting for?  What is the equality that I am fighting for?

I’m fighting for equality of opportunity.  I’m fighting against societies rules where the postcode you are born in dictates your future chances.

I’m fighting against discrimination where your gender, the colour of your skin, your religion, your social class, your wealth, your sexual orientation, your disability or any another protected characteristic that forms part of who you are stops you from reaching your potential.

What I’m fighting for is a move towards a more meritocratic society.  Where it doesn’t matter where you come from or who you are – if you study hard, work hard, have talents and abilities you can rise to the top.

The argument a lot of Tories have against Labour is that we are fighting for some quasi-communist society where everyone gets equal money, equal housing and so on – that couldn’t be further from the truth.

I am fighting for equality of opportunity, not equitable distribution of wealth and assets across society.

A country, a world leader, where social mobility isn’t a buzzword to be rolled out by a politician who wants a few more votes but where it is indeed a reality.

A commitment to ensuring that everyone gets a fair crack of the whip.

A society where everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential, where there is no glass ceiling that holds you down despite great skills, talent and experience.

Communities where diversity and individuality is celebrated and not used to segregate, discriminate and create fear.

I want us to finally get to a place where you can get a position in so called ‘elite’ firms (if you want one) based on your skills, passion, commitment, talent and dedication – not where your accent, socio-economic status or your background precludes you from getting jobs where you are the best candidate.

The Cameron mantra of study hard, work hard and you get what you deserve is no more true than it was when the Conservatives first started trotting it out decades ago.

Cameron gives us progressive words.  What we are in dire need of is progressive actions.

Many Tories will tell you that my commitment to equality of opportunity above isn’t possible, that we simply can’t do it as a society – that this is an ideal that we can never realise.

This is a disservice to the people of Britain and what we are capable of.

My message to you, if you believe in this but are wavering, and my message to them is this.

Over a century ago, workers up and down the country thought they deserved basic rights at work.  They were laughed at and ridiculed and told this was an impossible ideal.

The Trade Union movement formed and united, mobilised and campaigned hard for the most basic of worker’s rights.

And you know what?  They won.  These basic rights, along with many more over the years, are now rights that we all take for granted.

Seventy years ago, people up and down the country thought that there should be universal health care, based on need and not the ability to pay.  They believed in a healthcare system that wasn’t solely the preserve of the rich.

They were laughed at and ridiculed and told this was an impossible pipe dream.  These people campaigned for years.

And you know what?  They won.  In 1946, the National Health Service Act passed through parliament and led to the creation of a healthcare system that quickly became, and still is to this day, the envy of the world.

Forty five years ago, working women believed that they should get the same pay as a working man for doing the same job – using and developing the same skills, achieving the same success.

They were laughed at and told that they didn’t deserve it.  These hard working women campaigned for years.

And you know what?  They won.  The Equal Pay Act sailed through Parliament in 1970 enshrining in law that pay and conditions could not be less favourable based on your gender.

Twenty years ago, disabled people from all across our country said that they deserved equal rights to everyone else in the country.

They were laughed at and told it couldn’t happen.  Disabled people from across the UK had campaigned long and hard for many years.

And you know what?  They won.  The Disability Discrimination Act passed through Parliament in 1995.

Fifteen years ago, members of the gay, lesbian and transgender community said that they deserved equal rights to everyone else in the country.

They were laughed at and dismissed.  The LGBT community had campaigned for decades.

And you know what?  They won.  Between 2000 and 2010 numerous laws were passed, including the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act (2000), the Criminal Justice Act (2003) and the Equality Act (2010), and restrictions lifted.

It’s never easy – but since when was anything truly worth having easy to achieve?

I’m honoured to be an advocate and an activist for many different people, from the numerous different causes, movements and organisations that I am involved in – with the aim of shaping society into something better, more progressive and more fitting for the 21st century that we are in.

The UK has been a world leader for a long time – it’s once again time to step up to the plate and lead the world to a better and more successful future.

Buckle up, it’s going to be a bumpy ride!