Birmingham Salon


Saturday 29th September

11.15 am - 5.00 pm

The Old Joint Stock, 4 Temple Row West, Birmingham, B2 5NY

Admission fee is £10.  Buy your ticket on Eventbrite.

Diversity and Social Class in 21st Century Britain

11.30 am - 1.00 pm

Despite the current tendency to discuss people with reference to a group identity, those identities are more usually in relation to gender, ethnic origin, sexuality, or religion, rather than social class.  In fact we might be said to be a bit disorientated about class.  The 2011 Great British Class Survey carried out via the BBC generated a huge response, but the respondents were the more affluent in society, whilst since then, in further surveys, large numbers of Brits have declared themselves working class.  

There are more women and ethnic minorities in work and treated equally at work than ever before. This contrasts strongly with the picture of 1970’s UK where social class and class conflict was much more evident through trade union membership and industrial action but women and ethnic minorities experienced significant discrimination.  

Yet today the diversity agenda arguably creates new in and out groups, gives employers and certain institutions a new mission, purpose, and power, and enables some to set themselves up as unelected spokespeople on the basis of sex or race.

This discussion will explore this change in detail, considering what the impact has been on the concept of social class and relations between the classes. Does it matter that social class doesn’t feature so much today? Should class be another strand of diversity or is it something that doesn’t really fit with the diversity agenda, or perhaps with the views of its proponents?


James Heartfield, writer and lecturer on British history and politics, author “The Equal Opportunities Revolution”, Repeater Books, 2017.

Ben Cobley, journalist, author “The Tribe: The Liberal Left and the System of Diversity”, Societas, 2018. Ben blogs at A Free Left Blog.

Chair: Rosie Cuckston, Salon organiser and HR professional

The March of the Robots

1.30 pm - 3.00 pm

The world’s first industrial robot went into production in 1961. Since then opinion has been split as to whether they would throw many of us onto the dole or free us up to enjoy more rewarding work and shorter hours; but no one doubted that their impact would be immense, and yet the robotics revolution never seemed to happen.  Today it is estimated that there is one robot for every 135 employees globally. Some speculate that this figure is set to rise significantly in the near future and the debate has been re-invigorated. 

Some of the biggest naysayers are not the sort of the people you might expect to be down on new technology and their fears are deeper and more existential in scope.  Billionaire high tech CEO Elon Musk has said that ‘… what's going to happen is robots will be able to do everything better than us. ... I mean all of us’. Bill Gates, and others, have proposed that robots should be taxed and the revenue used to finance universal basic income: at once slowing down their development and easing the pain as they gradually put us all out to pasture.  Stephen Hawking went even further predicting that AI could help robots to replace humanity completely.

Will the march of the robots be like a genie in a bottle: an unstoppable force that once unleashed will be beyond our capacity to moderate?  Or, if we can remain in control, should we work to encourage or suppress their development?'


Phil Mullan, writer and business manager, author “Creative Destruction”, Policy Press, 2017.
Dr Hector Gonzalez Jimenez - Lecturer in Marketing, University of York, with a research interest in human-robot interactions

Chair: Chrissie Daz, Salon organiser and writer

The [email protected] - does it meet the needs of everyone?

3.15 pm - 4.45 pm

At a recent NHS birthday celebration in a hospital professionals and patients sang, danced, and beat drums together. Nurses and behind the scenes technical employees were cheered. Attendees found the atmosphere uplifting and motivating. It evoked memories of the London Olympics opening ceremony and its focus on the National Health Service as a source of British pride.

However the NHS ambition to meet everyone’s health needs has long been problematic, with its founder, Nye Bevan, resigning from the cabinet as soon as 1951 over the introduction of charges for spectacles, dental care and prescriptions, although he also protested about the amount of spend on medicine. Although it does very well on some health outcome scores, overall the NHS lags behind some other comparable European health systems such as those of Germany and Ireland, and the British government’s own analysis points to inequality impacting health outcomes, for example child mortality rates and life expectancy.

NHS England’s five year plans aspire for safety from danger, effective interventions for the journey from cradle to grave, and experiences to enhance your individual wellbeing. With these Utopian aspirations who isn’t the NHS serving?


Dr Simon Murphy, former MEP, mental health trust non-executive board member and expert on public-private partnerships.

David Somekh, Forensic Psychiatrist, member of European Health Futures Forum, founder of independent sector hospitals.

Rosie Cuckston, Salon organiser and HR Professional

Chair: Dr Jonathan Hurlow, Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist

This Salon is a satellite event of the Battle of Ideas 2018 which will be held at The Barbican, London, on the 13th and 14th October.