The future of the left since 1884

The Real Life State: Putting dignity at the heart of our public services

We can strengthen our political discussion by understanding the moral passions that drive us and articulating them more clearly than we do now. Knowing what we stand for helps us communicate with those whose support we need - and will help us deliver for them once we've won.


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.

Download now


Alison McGovern

Alison McGovern MP

Alison McGovern is Labour MP for Wirral South. Alison is on the Fabian Society executive committee.


Fabian membership

Join the Fabian Society today and help shape the future of the left

You’ll receive the quarterly Fabian Review and at least four reports or pamphlets each year sent to your door

Be a part of the debate at Fabian conferences and events and join one of our network of local Fabian societies

Join the Fabian Society
Fabian Society

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.