The Real Life State

Alison McGovern MP


Politics is the process of making collective choices about the world in which we wish to live together. Competing priorities require principles by which to take decisions. And yet the practice of politics rarely interrogates the moral assumptions our political debate relies upon.

Our political choices are made, in some way, on the basis of the values we prioritise. There is a diversity of ‘things’ that are valued: efficiency, efficacy, beauty. And one of these qualities is the moral quality of a choice. Political choices are ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ in moral terms, as well as other terms.

This pamphlet seeks to understand the moral values we share and explain why the concept of dignity is the foundation of progressive politics. Dignity means enabling autonomous, capable people. Dignity represents people who have respectful, caring relationships to each other. It means not allowing market transactions to exploit undue advantage.

Rather than seeing improving public services solely through the prism of increased spending levels, a state that prioritises dignity would rethink how politicians relate to public servants, and how public servants relate to the people.