According to the official Office of National Statistics’ latest report, 19.3 million persons in the UK had an income below 60% of the national median at some point during 2010-13. That is nearly a third of the entire population, and a higher proportion than for the EU as a whole.
The UK figures are even higher for pensioners (40%) and single-parent households (60%). These statistics are awful for the sixth largest economy in the world, but there is a deeper hypocrisy behind them. At the general election the Tory manifesto and Cameron’s speeches resonated with calls for aspiration for everyone. So what are the aspirational chances for the 20 million people at the bottom of the pile when Osborne’s first act in the new government is to target them?
It has equally to be admitted that among Labour’s leadership contestants the air has been thick with expostulations of aspiration for all. How is that compatible with continued support for austerity which hits the poorest hardest?
What makes this sanctimonious pretence of aspiration for all so bitter is that Osborne is now statutorily blocking off any contribution to deficit reduction from the very rich. He is going out of his way by gratuitously using a parliamentary bill to emphasise there will no increase in taxes in the next 5 years. In terms of financial management that is a very silly move when the future state of the economy over the next 5 years is unknowable, but it does reveal just how far this government is prepared to go to squeeze the pips out of the very poor whilst letting the filthy rich off untouched.
Just how grotesquely unfair and unbalanced this is is exposed by the simple facts:
- Nearly 20 million people in the UK have been living on an income less than £240 a week at some time in the 3 years to 2013 (and the number will be larger in 2013-5 as the cuts have accumulated) whilst there are 100,000 millionaires and 73 billionaires in the UK.
- Osborne has cut income tax for those on more than £3,000 a week, and the Sunday Times Rich List declares that the 1,000 ultra richest persons have doubled their wealth in the last 6 years since the crash to £518 billions (yes, billions) today.
- Yet the poor who never caused the crash are now being mercilessly targeted whilst the latter who are culpable are given impunity.
Aspiration for all? How can Cameron and Osborne even spit out the words? Aspiration for the bottom third means at least:
- a Living Wage,
- ending zero hours contracts,
- stopping the aggressive sanctioning of the jobless,
- repealing the bedroom tax,
- removing the assessment of work capability for disabled people,
- building houses for social renting at 50% of market rates,
- providing apprenticeships or in-work training for all young people.
Who eulogising aspiration for all will promise all of these?