Inequality ought to figure much more sharply in this election than it has done so far. The reasons are obvious – the grotesque injustice in the widening gap between the top 1% (and more particularly the top 0.1% and most of all the top 0.01%) and the rest of us, the way that austerity has been manipulated to hit the poorest far harder than the rich, the brazen myth that markets generate a trickle-down that enriches all when in fact they have driven a flooding-up of wealth to the top, the scandal of massive tax avoidance by the super-rich as one of them once declared that “only little people pay taxes”, and the unfairness of remuneration systems guaranteeing huge bonuses and lucrative long-term incentive plans to many of the miscreants who caused the crash and numerous financial scandals in the first place. But there’s another reason why inequality should now be centre-stage in this election: it causes slower, not faster, growth.
Read more “Why isn’t inequality a central issue in this election?” »
The gravy train rolls on reaching ever more sickening heights of greed, selfish gratification and disregard for the ever deeper miasma of poverty that disfigures our country. The latest figures show that the richest 10% of the UK population, who already owned 52% of UK wealth just before the 2008 crash, have become significantly richer since the crash because of the rise in value of financial assets, during a time when averages income have fallen 8% in real terms. Britain now has 2 million dollar millionaires, if the value of equity in houses is included, up by almost a third since last year. There are also now 44 billionaires in Britain, up from 8 in 2000. The individual excesses continue apace, only getting ever more outrageous. BG Group has just appointed a new chief executive, Helge Lund, previous boss of Norway’s Statoil company, with a £15m ‘golden hello’ and potential earnings of an additional £14m a year. At the other end of the scale are 70 former NHS care workers for the disabled in Doncaster who have taken so far 85 days’ strike action resisting the further crushing of wages and terms and conditions for the lowest paid. Their jobs were outsourced, holidays cut, and take-home pay cut by a third. Care UK which won the contract and ousted them is owned by private equity firm Bridgepoint Capital and its chairman John Nash was recently made a peer after donating a quarter of a million pounds to the Tory party.
Read more “Labour needs a shadow Minister specifically to tackle inequality” »
A checklist of 4 key items will determine the nature of this new Government and its likely fate. They are:
1 Who will carry the burden of the big spending cuts which the Tories have repeatedly declared their intention to impose in this next year and which the LibDems have now succumbed to? If it is low-paid public sector workers – nurses, teachers, porters, dinner ladies, low-level administrative staff, local government workers – rather than the top echelons especially the bankers with their bonus millions, there will be serious social unrest – maybe not on the Greek scale, but certainly enough to prevent a Tory election victory any time in the next year.
Read more “4 tests for the new Tory Government” »
Arguably the most telling characteristic of any society is the degree of inequality. In Britain’s case it has not only grown in the last two decades to previously unheard-of dimensions, it has even spawned a new social class system and deconstructed the whole concept of aspiration and social mobility. It has made the facile division of Britain into working class/middle class or Middle England versus the rest wholly otiose. That does not begin to reflect the ugly social reality of UK 2010.
The distinctive features of the social landscape are no longer the gradual assimilation of an upwardly mobile working class into a broad-tent middle class, but rather the distinctive polarisation at either end of the spectrum into extremes of alienation. Richard Lambert, president of the CBI no less, has recently referred to the gargantuan greed and bonuses of the hyper-wealthy, perhaps 1-2% of the population, as marking them out as aliens.
Read more “Equality, whither at thou?” »
The latest media take on this election is that some major subterranean disturbance has occurred deep below the political surface, only nobody will be sure what it is until too late. It really isn’t that difficult, if only our over-paid and often rather lazy media would look in the right direction and not avert their eyes from what is painfully obvious. Sadly they won’t do that because it challenges their, as well as the politicians’, comfort zone.
It isn’t of course one mysterious thing that’s gone wrong, but a steady build-up in disillusionments. And it’s pretty clear what they are:
Read more “Labour on the defensive: what has gone wrong?” »
There are 3 issues which should dominate tonight’s debate on the economy, but probably won’t:
- Fundamental banking reform is now urgently needed if another, and possibly lethal, financial-economic collapse is to avoided. We now know that the meltdown in 2008-9 was caused, not just by greed and recklessness, but by deliberate fraud, as the current Goldman Sachs prosecution in the US now shows. But it wasn’t just the US – fraud is now being revealed in Ireland, Iceland, Switzerland, as well as in the UK. The charge in the US is that a Goldman Vice-President created a dud financial instrumentspacked by valueless sub-prime mortgages at the instruction of a hedge fund client Paulson, sold it to investors knowing it was worthless, and then allowed their own hedge fund client to move in for a killing. Goldham says the buyers were sophisticated mortgage investors – it’s more like a used car salesmanflogging a broken car he’s got from some up-market barrow boy to some driver who can’t access the log-book. The moral of all this is that the banks need breaking up, the hedge funds very tightly regulated, and the more arcane and exotic derivatives prohibited.
- Then there’s inequality – the rich/poor divide which has now reached the proportions of Victorian society a century ago. The Tories would of course let this explode further, not only weakening Sure Start and the 3,500 children centres in deprived areas and cutting the invaluable working family tax credits, but cutting inheritance tax on the rich and ending the very modest 50% rate on the bankers and top executives. We need a much more progressive income tax, much more vigorous action against those who cheat by tax avoidance/evasion, and an end to the outrageious non dom privileges for the ultra-rich.
- The other really big issue is funding for businesses, jobs and homes. The Tory priority for major premature public spending cuts will stife the precarious recovery at birth and could well precipitate the deadly double-dip recession that most economists fear. Banks contiue to starve deserving businesses of credit. Families concentrate on paying off debt rather than spending, which is understandable but robs the economy of momentum. The major support for the recovery – 0.6% over the last 6 months – has been public spending, and any government cuts it at the country’s peril.