Miatta Fahnbulleh, a former academic turned policy wonk who has worked for three prime ministers and the Labour party, is not your typical thinktank chief.
Fahnbulleh arrived in the UK from Liberia in 1986 and her family successfully claimed asylum in the UK, settling in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. “My childhood in Liberia had a massive impact,” says the 38-year-old. “You see abject poverty and extreme wealth, you see how the family you were born into affects your life and you understand why inequality is wrong. It’s not just that it perpetuates itself, it’s that it’s fundamentally wrong and it needs to be changed. And that’s my core, that pursuit of economic justice.
“Coming from two of the poorest countries in the world [Fahnbulleh also witnessed the deprivation in her mother’s home country, Sierra Leone] and seeing kids forced to fight in the civil war and being robbed of their childhood can’t help but colour your values,” she says. But while the economic and social injustices in Liberia are extreme, the UK is far from an egalitarian oasis, she says.
You’ve seen true, real, absolute poverty, the less than $1.90 a day kind. Actually experienced it around you.
Then you’re going to spend your professional life wibbling about inequality in the only economic system, ever, which has abolished that absolute poverty?
How damn stupid do you have to be to work for the new economics foundation then?