James Bloodworth

Where Boris was right on inequality

Where Boris was right on inequality
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Hold the front page, Conservative Mayor of London Boris Johnson has made a startling confession: he’s not a communist.

Well not quite, but almost. Boris in fact said in a speech to the Centre for Policy Studies yesterday that he does not believe economic equality is achievable, and that natural differences will always result in some people rising to the top of society ahead of others.

So yes, in other words we can ascertain that the Tory Mayor of London is not a Marxist-Leninist.

Judging by much of the reaction to his comments, though, some were apparently under the impression that he was.

According to the Guardian, Boris 'invoked the spirit of Thatcher' and delivered a 'greed is good speech'.

'He [Boris] moved to forge his own brand of Conservatism, which contrasts with the early modernising of the prime minister, by claiming that it was "futile" to try to end inequality,' the paper's front page fretted.

Nick Clegg accused the Mayor of 'careless elitism'.

All, of course, accusations on the back of a speech which simply reiterated what everyone outside the Workers’ Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought already thinks anyway: that economic equality is impossible and undesirable.

There may be a good argument for reducing inequality (and there is, in my opinion), but equality means just that - the removal of economic differences; the same wage for every job; the same money regardless of whether you work a 15 or five hours day; a prohibition on saving, on profit-making; as well as a ban on the passing on of anything to your children.

The Guardian and Nick Clegg don’t believe in that. Nor does any serious person. It’s a misnomer. When people say they are in favour of equality what they mean is that they are in favour of less inequality. And so is Boris Johnson, who in the same speech also warned that inequality was '“freezing of the canals of opportunity'.

Most of the speech (apart from the idea that ‘greed is good’, which I don’t accept) was a straightforward assertion of the blindingly obvious. Some people are cleverer and work harder than others. As a result they do better for themselves. Ability is a result of nature as well as nurture. Many are held back by their circumstances. People who work hard should be rewarded for their hard work.

Fairly banal stuff, really.

Personally I tend to err a bit more on the side of circumstance than ‘talent’ when trying to explain why some get so much more out of life than others; I’m baffled, however, by the near universal pretence that ‘economic equality’ is in any way an achievable goal. It isn’t. And for all his faults Boris was right to say it isn't.