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When will 13 million Britons living in poverty become a political issue?

The latest figures (from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation) now show there are 3.7 million children in Britain today living in poverty.   This is conventionally defined as living in households with a total income of less than 60% of the national median income, in other words with less than £230 a week to cover all their needs.   If the adults are also included, the total rises to 13 million persons or 22% of the entire British population.   These numbers are incredibly high in a society where the top 1% today get £150,000 a year (£2,885 a week) and chief executives in the top FTSE 100 companies take home an average £71,000 a week.   So why isn’t this a huge issue?

The fact is this bottom fifth are Britain’s forgotten underclass.   The obsession with the vacuous idea of ‘Middle England’, assiduously propagated during the Blair regime, has effectively robbed the poorest and most vulnerable section of the population of its natural political allies and supporters.   The Labour Party has been diverted into wooing the ‘aspirational’ classes (whatever that means), while the trade unions, the bulwark of protection for the weakest, have been shorn of their power first by Thatcher and then by Blair.

Even newspaper reports of these Rowntree findings concentrate on the fact that there are now more children in poverty living in households where a person or persons work rather than in workless households (almost certainly because of the boost to child benefit and child tax credit in 2008).   What is missing from journalists and politicians alike is indignation and anger at the sheer scale of poverty, which Thatcher trebled in the 1980s and which has been little reduced since, in a society where inequality in the last 30 years has ballooned to a level not seen since the Edwardian era a century ago.   We need a new movement like UK Uncut to put this outrage firmly on the public’s consciousness.

4 Comments

  1. Denis says:

    how many of those children are of single parents and under 21 whose whole income comes from the state,
    I am a pensioner and dont drink or smoke, and you know that also helps as well as no drugs

  2. Dr John says:

    it is a shameful reflection on the (new) labour party and Michael and his former cabinet colleagues should be looking very close to home for the reasons why 13 million britons live in poverty

  3. dmb says:

    Why are we surprised? Thatcher destroyed any concern for anyone except for self! Self first, second etc!Labour cannot develop a credible economic vision so we are stuck with who we elect!

  4. Robert says:

    I do not know Dennis mate could that have something to do with the biggest down turn and recession in living memory mate.

    I do not drink or do drugs so all our youth are drinking and on drugs.

    The fact is I suspect many of our politicians are drinking to much and I bet some are on drugs the mess they have made of this country.

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