Scotland has taken upon itself to back a measure passed by Labour that new Prime Minster Theresa May is ignoring, even though, as I read it, it is currently standing law. From the Scotland Herald (hat tip Phil U):
SNP ministers are set to reverse one of Theresa May’s key legacies by imposing a legal duty on public bodies to test their policies against their impact on reducing inequality.
The new Prime Minister, shortly after she became Home Secretary, branded legislation passed by Labour in the dying days of Gordon Brown’s government “ridiculous” and refused to implement it, saying it would be scrapped “for good”.
However, it is to be resurrected by the Scottish Government, with the administration confirming a commitment to reintroduce the so-called socio-economic duty north of the border during the current Holyrood term.
The law, part of the Equality Act, sets out a legal duty on key public bodies, including government and local authorities, to ensure they consider the impact that their strategic decisions will have on narrowing class inequalities.
Ms May has attacked the proposal, championed by former Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman, as “ridiculous as it was simplistic”, saying it was better to pursue “equality of opportunity” rather than “equality of outcome”.
This requirement seems like a nifty idea. It does not require that legislation address inequality, merely that government offices assess the impact of what they are doing in terms of lowering inequality. This does not require them to do anything differently, but does shed light on that aspect of their operations, which in turn opens it up to public debate and the possibility of the legislature intervening if it does not like the results, or if the policies are revealed to be producing unintended bad consequences.
It’s also telling that such a mild challenge to neoliberal orthodoxy elicited such a vehement reaction from May. If you had any doubts about her bona fides as a neo-Thatcherite, this should settle them. And the SNP jumped on that issue. From the story:
A party spokesman said: “The fact that the new Prime Minister called a policy aimed at reducing inequality ‘ridiculous’ shows exactly where her priorities lie – and raises questions about how serious she is in her comments of recent days about tackling inequality.
Given that Scotland is taking up this idea, it’s fair game as a policy demand in the US, particularly since the Scottish initiative can be improved upon as they gain experience. Oh, wait, the US is exceptional, so we don’t learn from the experience of other countries, like the success of single payer. Silly me. Never mind.
Separately, and I’d be curious to get the reaction of readers in the UK, there seems to be a tit-for-tat dynamic developing between May and foreign leaders on multiple fronts, which looks in large measure to be Brexit being seen as tantamount to a declaration of war. Admittedly, May started with the shocker of appointing Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary, which was followed by Nicola Sturgeon arguing she had a veto over Brexit (which appears to be an inaccurate reading), and the EU appointing very seasoned negotiators: Didier Seeuws by the European Council, and Michel Barnier by the European Commission. As we wrote, UK officials reacted to Barnier’s designation with dismay, since he’s been a torn in the banks’ side in post-crisis regulatory talks. So it will take a lot of work to get Brexit talks on a constructive footing, particularly since the initial gambits look to be increasing animosity.