Don't duck the issue of equality

I was grateful for the friendly, indeed affectionate, tone in which Christopher Haskins (Letters, 29 January) wrote his comment on my essay of 22 January ("Up and down the social ladder"). However, I was very disappointed by its content.

My essay attempted to argue the merits of a more equal, rather than a more mobile, society and dealt explicitly with the Prime Minister's view that a meritocracy is the proper aim of a radical government. Chris's letter did not address my argument. It simply listed some of the praiseworthy policies that have been implemented in the past two years. Nobody I know has suggested that new Labour is all bad. On the contrary, there is much on the record to its credit. I hoped to start a debate about the philosophy by which it governs. I remain unsure whether or not Chris Haskins wants a more equal society.

His reference to Labour rhetoric was even more disturbing. He suggests that I am over-influenced by the bogus language of "spin-doctors". My essay commented (with exact quotations) on Tony Blair's lecture to the Institute of Public Policy Research on Labour philosophy. Chris Haskins may be right to include him among the spin-doctors. However, on the occasion of the speech that I quoted, he was acting in his capacity as Prime Minister and leader of the Labour Party.

Roy Hattersley
London WC2

This article first appeared in the 05 February 1999 issue of the New Statesman, The New Statesman Essay - Think, think and think again