Edinburgh Book Festival: Roy Hattersley, In Praise of Equality

Rating (out of 5)
Show info
Edinburgh International Book Festival
Roy Hattersley
Running time

Roy Hattersley was introduced as someone who has been at every Edinburgh Book Festival since 1983 which is quite a record! He was originally a journalist, born in Sheffield, who was the MP and represented Birmingham Sparkbrook for 33 years from 1964 to 1997. He was Deputy Leader of the Labour Party from 1983 to 1992, becoming a Life Peer in 1997 when he left the House of Commons.

He wanted to examine social justice and inequality - fifty percent of the wealth of the world being held by only one percent of the world's population. What was concerning to Hattersley was that even in Britain the gap between the rich and poor was widening. His immediate solution was a money transaction tax which he saw as a quick and immediate solution, but of course this would not be supported.

He suggested that at the moment too little tax is paid by the rich and this is why people like Jeremy Corbyn have quickly gained a following. But when asked if there was any alternative to the main political parties he did not believe that there was. What people should be doing, he said, was to fight back and make a stronger case for the beliefs that are the core of any party.

He was asked if it would help to limit high earnings, but Hattersley did not think this was the answer. He felt that once the right tax system was in place then there would be a general reduction in salaries. Hattersley thought that high wages "were a myth" and that only by achieving equality of power and wealth could the nation prosper. When asked if he saw taxation rising to 100% he rejected this and maintained that high wages do not bring happiness - in his own words, "high wages do not make the world go round." He said that many who are currently on sickness benefit are being sent out now to work. Is this a good thing, he asked?

He was questioned on what he thought about so many children in Scotland being educated in independent schools; he firmly said that in his view there was a great need to raise the general level of education right across the board. But he did object to Local Authorities spending staff time and money supporting independent schools and he wanted to see a stop to this.

He was asked about democracy and the situation where you do not agree with someone's views, however, he said he had been disappointed during the Scottish referendum campaign because friends who were wearing 'NO' badges were "given a hiding" just for supporting the wrong side in that company. He found this most depressing and said that this was contrary to all the political standards that he held dear.

Finally he was asked about America and the American Presidential Election and whether Donald Trump could possibly make it here or would he be simply laughed out of court? Hattersley admitted to being a strong Obama fan and stated he was completely in favour of ObamaCare and the other reforms that the President had introduced. Hattersley, applauded what Obama had achieved and predicted that the outcome would be a truly more equal American society.