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Inequality: time for Labour to shout louder

class inequalityWhy is Labour so quiet and timid about the super-rich, those on more than £3,000 a week, and the ultra-rich, the FTSE-100 bosses who now average $.4 million a year remuneration, or to put in more readily used terms, £86,000 a week? There are, in fact, three good reasons why Labour should open up a major broadside against the very rich and the stratospheric rich.

One is that it would be very popular. The public hostility towards the bankers and their multi-million bonuses (NB the outrage of some bankers reported a few weeks ago that they were only being given bonuses of £4 million compared with the £6 million given to some others) and the visceral hatred felt towards the greedy profiteering of the Big Six energy companies are an open invitation to Labour to go over on to the attack relentlessly and persistently, and not just because it would be popular, but because it’s right.

There is no justification for these obscene levels of pay and remuneration appropriated by the wealth elite, it has nothing to do with the national interest, it is no reflection of merit – it is simply a reflection of their power in the market-place and their insatiable self-interest. That’s why the public hates them so much and why they offer such a tempting target to Labour on moral and ethical grounds and not just for funding reasons.

The second reason was spelt out forcibly by Cameron in the Guildhall last month and by Osborne in the Commons yesterday. Cameron told the assembled plutocrats that the Tories intended to shrink the State indefinitely and the Autumn Statement yesterday put immediate flesh on that by announcing that they would put an arbitrary (but low, and maybe steadily reducing) cap on benefit into statute. They have already put caps on housing benefit which lead to social cleansing and on the Social Fund, the last resort for those in desperate need.

Now they’re extending it across the board. Just as Thatcher’s (and Blair’s) neoliberal capitalism – let the market rule, untrammelled – has hugely boosted inequality in the economy, the Tories are now forcing through similar measures in society. And the only way to stop them is to take them on where their strength centrally lies – a government of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich.

The third reason is that in the last analysis this isn’t about riches, it’s about power. The super-rich are where they are, not because they’re worth it, not because Britain needs them, but because they’ve secured a key alliance between money and power. Their economic system, the de-regulated capitalism of the last 3 decades, has effortlessly increased their own assets, diminished the wage share, and weakened Labour’s capacity to resist through the trade unions.

Thatcher took on Labour’s power, first the miners and then at Wapping, and even now the current Lobbying Bill is still trying to undermine the forces of the Left. The Tories know what they’re about and go for it full-tilt. Until Labour does the same, goes for the very wealthy and their seizure of governance, Labour may win the election, but they won’t win real power.


  1. swatantra says:

    Time for Ed to turn up the volume.
    The trouble is the makeup of those in power and with influence in Labour, the Unions and various Socialists Groups are mostly wet middle class fellow travellers, bourgoisee, and know as much about the working class as I do. So they can’t really speak up for the working class with any real conviction. So the LRC has a point. It might be fairer to draw our MPs by lot than the current system. Ray collins needs to come up with some recommendations and drive forward change.

  2. Robert says:

    I do not know what to say really not with MP’s who look to get getting a large pay rise equal to my welfare benefits.

    I’d rather see people who have worked hard to get a company stated and run successfully get paid what they want really, then see people who have longer holidays they school teachers get a rise which would be the end of me voting.

    For people who are paid well the tax bills should be the way we control them, sadly it never been done.

  3. Rod says:

    I suppose a little bit of shouting wouldn’t do any harm. But the problem is, if Labour shouts too loudly it’ll create an expectation of action if/when Labour gets voted in. That’s where things can get difficult.

    Probably the safe option is ‘perception management’ – creating the impression of shouting loudly will not really shouting at all. That’ll help keep Labour voters hopeful.

    Then, if elected, when Labour imposes austerity, attempts to initiate unnecessary wars and when Rachel Reeves gets nasty on benefit claimants, Labour can honestly say “What did you expect? We never said we’d be any different from the Tories.”

  4. Jon Williams says:

    Agree the super rich have more than enough as the unacceptable gap between rich and poor remains too wide.

  5. Robert says:

    The gap between the rich and the poor has always been with us, if you look at the statistic the rich got richer under new labour than at any time in modern history. They also got richer under Wilson it funny how the history shows the richer seem to have done better under a labour government then under a Tory one since the 1800 .

    If labour got back in I’m sure the middle class would be the main people to benefit and the poorest would be made poorer as is labour mode.

    Brown only gave away money to try and get elected the problem was he was so poor the people did not trust him at all.

    Labour’s record in office as UK government statistics showed that the real-terms gap in incomes between the highest and lowest earners grew by a staggering £237 per week between 1997 and 2010. Ms Fabiani believes that the figures prove that although Labour in opposition claims it will introduce measures to reduce and ameliorate social inequalities, Labour in office does the exact opposite.

    The Households Below Average Income Survey, published by the Department of Work and Pensions, shows that the incomes of the poorest 10% of UK households grew by just £24 per week in real terms over Labour’s 13 years in power.

    By contrast, the income of the top 10% of households increased by ten times that figure, going up from £897 to £1,153 per week (an increase of £256).

    The UK is one of the least equal societies in the developed world. During Labour’s tenure in office income inequality in the UK continued to rise at an alarming rate. Professor Danny Dorling of Sheffield University identifies a clear correlation between high levels of social and income inequality and the highest rates of poverty, crime and imprisonment, drug and alcohol abuse, teenage pregnancies, and ill-health.

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