I hosted a visit today from our sister union in Norway, Fagforbundet. We spent the morning discussing organising strategies and health policy. In the afternoon I took them over to the Scottish Parliament for a tour and a discussion with the Shadow Health Secretary, Jackie Baillie.
I always enjoy a discussion with trade unions from Scandinavian countries. They understand the importance of collective provision and universalism. These are some of the most equal societies in the world and as a consequence benefit from good health, low crime rates and are better educated. We have much to learn from them.
Coming back on the train I noticed in the station bookshop that The Spirit Level is available in paperback and moving up the bestsellers chart. This is essential reading for anyone interested in understanding why more equal societies do better.
There are also positive signs that Ed Milliband gets this message. In his speech at the Labour Party Conference today he said:
"And we need responsibility at the top of society too. The gap between rich and poor does matter. It doesn't just harm the poor it harms us all. What does it say about the values of our society, what have we become, that a banker can earn in a day what the care worker earns in a year? It's wrong, conference."
Spot on. This is just the sort of policy Labour must articulate. And Norway is one country we can point to for positive outcomes from this approach.