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Zoe Williams paper launches new Class series – A Social State for 2015


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE           25 Febrauary 2013

Achieving a Social State: What we can learn from Beveridge’s Giant Evils – Zoe Williams

Today the Centre of Labour and Social Studies (Class) launch a new series of papers “A Social State for 2015”. This series will re-define William Beveridge’s Welfare State for today. The Beveridge report identified five Giant Evil’s – Want, Ignorance, Idleness, Squalor and Disease. He said that it was the duty of the state to root out these Evils. A Social State for 2015 will address each Giant Evil and provide policy suggestions covering education, housing, health, welfare and economics, employment and collectivism.

This first paper is an introductory overview by Guardian columnist and political and current affairs commentator Zoe Williams.

In this introductory Think Piece, Zoe asserts that replacing Want with Inequality; Idleness with Greed; fighting a different kind of ignorance; attacking Squalor with fresh vigour; remembering Disease for the foe it once was, and could be again; and recognising the continuing threat of Disunity; we have our own Giant Evils.

Zoe writes:

“We can retake the vision, scope and ambition of Beveridge’s project. However, it can’t be revivified on its own terms – different principles have to be underlined. Equality, as a goal, has to take the place of freedom from want. Ignorance, as a social problem, must be recast as a problem at the top more than at the bottom- the failure, or more likely refusal, to see that the accumulation of great wealth comes at the expense of security and wages. We must rethink unemployment altogether; rather than seeking a return to the New Labour era, where any job was better than no job, and low wages were subsidised by the government on behalf of ‘the children’, we must go back to the principles that the Thatcher tried to destroy – a fair day’s pay; collective bargaining. We are in a situation where corporate super-profits are effectively endowed by in-work benefits, and people take wages that don’t cover their rent, just for the dignity of working. This is not sustainable, economically or socially; nor is it desirable.”

Download the Think piece: Achieving a Social State: What we can learn from Beveridge’s Giant Evils here.

The policy papers following on from this Think Piece will look at the questions raised by Beveridge at the introduction of the welfare state seventy years ago, and will attempt to locate a path forward for the welfare state in 2015 Britain.

This paper and the other papers in the series will be discussed at the Achieving the Social State event on Wednesday 13 March 2013 at the London School of Economics. Find out more and register here.


Notes to Editors:

1. The Centre for Labour and Social Studies (Class) is a new think tank established in 2012 by Unite the Union, GMB and the Institute of Employment Rights to act as a centre for left debate and discussion and has the growing support of a number of trade Unions including
PCS, ASLEF, CWU, UCATT and GFTU. Originating in the labour movement, Class is working with a broad coalition of supporters, academics and experts to develop and advance alternative policies for today.

2. A Social State for 2015 is the first high-profile project launched by Class. More information and a collection of blog articles can be found here:

3. A panel discussion, Achieving a Social State will be held in association with LSE British Politics and Policy Blog. It takes place on Wednesday 13 March 6:30pm at Room NAB.LG.01, New Academic Building, LSE, 54 Lincoln's Inn Fields
London WC2A 3LJ
Panellists include:

• Chair: Dr Robin Archer, LSE
• Kate Bell, Child Poverty Action Group
• Duncan Bowie, University of Westminster
• Howard Reed, Landman Economics
• Zoe Williams, The Guardian

For media accreditation or more information please email

4. Other papers to be issued in the “A Social State for 2015” include:

• Achieving a Social State and redefining Beveridge’s Giant Evils - Zoe Williams
• Tackling squalor: The pivotal role of social housing - Duncan Bowie
• Abolishing want in a Social State: The economic benefits of generosity - Kate Bell
• Financing a Social State: Progressive taxation and the pursuit of full employment - Richard Murphy and Howard Reed
• Education policy for a new Social State settlement
• The last safety net? Putting health and the NHS centre-stage in a Social State - Prof Allyson Pollock and David Price
• The new Giant Evil of disunity: How collectivism and solidarity are fundamental to achieving the Social State - Prof Keith Ewing

More information
For further information or media requests please contact Anneliese Midgley on or 020 7611 2570

Twitter: @classthinktank