Friday, May 5, 2017

What is at stake in terms of inequality in the UK General Election

Danny Dorling at Class explains what's at stake in terms of inequality.

"Whether measured by the Gini coefficient for OECD countries, or by the take of the top 10%, income inequality rates in the UK today are the worst in all of Europe. Of all the countries of Europe, the UK was the only country to see no improvement in life expectancy between 2011 and 2015 (the latest year for which data has been released). In most countries economic inequalities have been reducing or stable in recent years. Our main problem is being governed by people who have no interest in policies that address inequality, and in telling the public that they believe most people do not deserve to be well off."

Yet, the Conservatives on present trends are likely to win a large majority of seats without a large majority of votes (because the media have succeeded in portraying the Labour leader as ineffective, when he is in fact the only leader to have presented policies capable of changing our situation) and, unless the electorate realise it and return to supporting Labour, the growth of inequality and the decline of Britiain will continue. The Tories, along with most other parties are hoping to benefit from the media denigration of the Labour leader, abetted by far too many Blairite MPs still in parliament.

Danny Dorling tells us the 2017 General Election will determine whether the many negative changes in life chances that began in 2011 become cemented for a generation. For example:
• For the first time ever, as you became older in Britain you now become less likely to escape private renting. If current trends continue, then most people aged under 50 should assume they will spend the rest of their lives renting from a private landlord. The wealth of private landlords rose by £177bn between 2010 and 2015 as landlords bought up more and more properties and as the price of all properties rose because of their frantic purchases, all fuelled by high and rising rents.
• The failure of the Conservative government to see any improvement in public health since coming to office is the worse health record of any UK government since at least 1945. People in the UK now live shorter lives than people in Greece. Life expectancy in Greece, at 81.1 years, is today higher than in the UK, at 81.0 years. Greece fared worse than the UK in 2011. Now it does better. If the Conservative majority is greatly increased, we should not expect to live as long as other people in Europe.
• The average child in the UK should expect to be taught at schools that are increasingly poorly resourced compared to what school children elsewhere in Europe will experience, and more than one in four children will be poor.
• For working adults wages will remain low, rents will climber even higher, even more people will be forced to take any job, or any number of jobs, they can find. Most will spend most of their adult lives working to allow their landlord to become richer. Adults not in work will suffer even more.

To address inequality in the UK, Dorling says we need a bold package of interventions. The package should include
• good job creation
• the universal provision of high quality, affordable childcare
• a fairer, more progressive tax system
• a programme for affordable housing.

There is no lack of available policies. Labour are offering them. The Tory problem is a refusal to identify inequality as a problem in the first place. In fact, the Conservative party has celebrated high and rising economic inequality.

Even under Blair Labour were not as bad as the Tories became! Twenty years ago in 1997, 27% of all children and 26% of all pensioners in the UK lived in poverty. By the time Labour were replaced by the LibDem Tory coalition power in 2010, those proportions had fallen to 18% and 17% respectively, a reduction in economic inequalities. The reductions could have been greater had the take of the top 1% not been allowed to continue to rise under Labour, but that was a critical failing of New Labour. It was, as Mandelson said, "intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich".

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