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When Theresa May delivered her first speech as Prime Minster on the steps of Number 10 Downing Street, she proclaimed that the mission of her Government was to tackle the ‘burning injustices’ that still blight Britain.

In her speech, she focused on describing racial, gender and class inequalities. That day, the Prime Minister was, encouragingly, signalling that her Government would be compassionate and radical on domestic reform.

Preparing for Brexit has dominated the thinking and actions of Theresa May’s Governments since then. But there has been some progress, with the introduction of new policies to try and rectify some ‘burning injustices’.

A new Domestic Abuse Bill will widen what constitutes abuse, and toughen sentences for it involving children. The publication of the Race Disparity Audit by the Cabinet Office late last year shone a spotlight on the unequal treatment and outcomes of people from different ethnic backgrounds in British public services. The Government has very recently invested significantly more in mental health services, especially for children, with a new aim that no young person will have to receive treatment for their mental health away from their local area by 2021.

Unquestionably though, there is much more that needs to and can be done. Britain is, broadly, a prosperous country with plentiful opportunities for individuals from all walks of life. But there are too many people and places that are sometimes or always locked out of the prosperity most of us enjoy. They should be the priority of this Government – any, in fact.

Parliamentarians from all political parties can be – indeed, have been – both sources and champions of fresh policy ideas to fix injustices they care deeply about. Despite the caricature, most politicians from most political parties are principled and passionate people, desperate to use their influence to do good. The Prime Minister has an impressive resource from which she can nurture ideas and allies for her ‘burning injustices’ agenda.

Backbench parliamentarians especially are in a uniquely powerful position. The 2017 General Election produced a minority Conservative Government and hung parliament, enabling backbench MPs to pressurise the Government to accept amendments and bills that garner support from those in different political parties.

Already, for example, the Labour Party’s Stella Creasy MP successfully proposed a popular amendment to the 2017 Queen’s Speech, which ultimately led to the Government to change its original position and enable women from Northern Ireland to access NHS-funded abortions for free in Great Britain. Another Labour MP, Geoffrey Robinson MP, saw his private members’ bill to introduce an opt-out organ donation system in England, pass through its second reading in the House of Commons unopposed, which means it will highly likely become law next year. The Homelessness Reduction Act, originally a private members’ bill from the Conservative Party’s Bob Blackman MP, places new duties on housing authorities to provide advice and support to a much wider group of eligible people who are homeless or threatened with being so for an extended period of up to 56 days.

For the rest of this parliament, likely to last right until 2022, the development of powerful and progressive policies from parliamentarians on all sides of the House of Commons ought to be strongly encouraged. They can be the engine of the necessary and popular ‘burning injustices’ agenda.

That is why Bright Blue and Joseph Rowntree Foundation, two independent organisations both committed to ensuring that people who are usually overlooked are better supported in public policy, have commissioned and published a new essay collection that brings together 13 prominent backbench MPs from all of the UK’s main political parties. This publication is intended to shine a spotlight on the key ‘burning injustices’ in Britain and provide original and credible policies to help remedy them. It is hoped it will catalyse MPs to work together more on a cross-party basis to get the Government to prioritise policymaking that supports those struggling in our country.

The ‘burning injustices’ explored are numerous and wide-ranging, ranging from destitution and drug abuse, to life in prisons and on the streets. The danger is that every phenomenon or problem now becomes labelled a ‘burning injustice’, to attract attention and resources. This risks delegitimising and diluting the agenda. We need to be clear: not every inequality is a result of injustice; and not every injustice is ‘burning’. Government, all of us, must focus on those injustices that are most clear, pressing and shameful.

We do not claim that these essays provide a comprehensive survey of the challenges facing our country, or indeed highlight the most pressing ones. Parliamentarians campaign on the causes closest to their hearts. But there are common trends in their thinking.

First, MPs of all stripes recognise that the ‘burning injustices’ that blight Britain have arisen because of a myriad of complex reasons, not just the policies of their opponents.

Second, there is a recognition that progress has been made in rectifying many ‘burning’ injustices, thanks in part to the policies of past and different Governments; that, for most injustices, we are in the middle of a journey towards better outcomes, not the start of it.

Third, there is no fatalism. Parliamentarians strongly believe there are practical answers to social and economic problems, which can be drawn from historical and international evidence.

This publication really should be what politics is all about, what politicians should be rated on and rewarded for: generating incisive and pragmatic policies, which can command a consensus, to help those who truly are vulnerable in our society. It is this type of politics, the politics of problem-solving and bridge-building, that can lead Britain to a place where the ‘burning injustices’ that presently blight it truly are extinguished.

Ryan Shorthouse is Director of Bright Blue, and Campbell Robb is Chief Executive of Joseph Rowntree Foundation

This is the foreword from Bright Blue and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s new essay collection, Burning Britain? Tackling ‘burning injustices’ that blight Britain