Thinker's Corner

Moral Evasions (Centre for Policy Studies, 0171-222 4488, £7.50) by David Selbourne, author of The Principle of Duty, offers not a timely homily about breaking new year's resolutions, but an end-of-year blast at the commenting classes. Most of the pamphlet is spent offering up nuggets from various commentators or from editorials as straw men, only to have their high ferric valency confirmed by his analysis. He argues that people who try to build arguments from moral principles are dismissed as "moralisers" or "fundamentalists" who rant, preach and lecture rather than express opinions. In turn, he sneers at commentators who refuse to take a stand on moral issues.

Monitoring Poverty and Social Exclusion: Labour's inheritance (Joseph Rowntree Foundation/New Policy Institute, 01904 629241, £16.95) is an important survey, marshalling a hotch-potch of equality indicators and statistics into an analytical framework. The authors intend this report as a hazy snapshot of the poverty and inequality that Labour has inherited and hope that this will provide a handy benchmark by which the government and, equally importantly, outsiders, can assess the progress in boosting equality.

Brave New NHS: the impact of the new genetics on the health service (Institute for Public Policy Research, 0171-470 6100, £7.50) by Jo Lenaghan is an original and prescient contribution to a debate that politicians have, so far, failed to wrestle with. Unless the NHS develops a coherent strategy soon for dealing with genetic tests (such as new genetic training for GPs and clinicians and NHS kitemarks for commercially provided tests), there is enormous potential for an unregulated market to develop, where firms exploit the fears of naive patients, offer tests over the Internet and generally fail to provide counselling to help patients cope with or even comprehend their test results.

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This article first appeared in the 01 January 1999 issue of the New Statesman, An earthquake strikes new Labour