In their report, ‘An Anatomy of Economic Inequality in the UK’, the National Equality Panel led by Professor John Hills of the London School of Economics paints a stark picture of the state of equality in the UK today.
The report covers the last 30 years and shows that not much seems to have changed. In fact in 2007-2008 income inequality was at its highest over the period. That’s not to say it was all Labour’s fault. The report puts much of the blame on the Tories for their policies in the 1980s.
As of now the top 10% of the population has wealth 100 times the value of that of the poorest 10%. The report also says that the inequality in the UK is high compared with other developed countries.
The report highlights its findings that poverty from childhood shapes peoples’ life chances and their aspirations, which leads to a sort of stagnation and hopelessness.
Harriet Harman, the Minister for Women and Equality, has seized on this as she wants to shape legislation to provide the working classes with better opportunities as well as gearing services more towards their needs.
With the Tories on an 11 point lead in the polls this report may enable Labour to heavy up on their (denied) ‘class war’ election strategy.
The Conservative Women and Equality Spokesperson, Theresa May, has already scorned Labours claims to be the party of aspiration. But she may find it hard to counter once Labour dust off the Thatcher bogeyman to rekindle the fire of those that still view her as the ultimate evil.
Although Labour can try to use the report to lay much of the blame at the door of the Tories, they are the ones that have taxed and spent massively. Surely their programme of ‘education, education, education’ for the offspring of the masses gave children the tools they need to break class barriers. Surely their claimed massive increase in NHS spending has destroyed health care barriers. They also employ vast numbers of people through the state. Does this mean that the whole state system they helped create is ‘institutionally classist’?
But our elected representatives know all this. They didn’t need a report to tell them. Otherwise why, for example, do so many of them send their children to private schools?
With both unemployment and taxes still expected to rise over the next year or so just to keep UK Ltd afloat, any politician who promises to quickly reverse this inequality will find they have to break them very quickly.
This is not just a wake-up call for the politicians. It is also a wake-up call for the rest of us. After all we’re talking about shaping the sort of society we all live in.