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With the publication of the ‘Rich List’ this week we learnt that the wealth of the top ten richest couples in the country has gone up by £3.4bn.
The 20 richest Britons alone are now worth £192bn – this is more than will be spent on health and education combined this year.
This isn’t a new development. It’s a long term trend, where their total wealth from 2005 to 2015 has more than doubled. At the same time as this elite has seen a massive increase in wealth, most of the population has faced cutbacks, wage stagnation and rising prices, leading to spiralling inequality.
This is not a coincidence; it’s a result of government policies and priorities. As Labour’s Jon Trickett put it this week, “the rules of the game have been rigged against the millions and in favour of the millionaires.”
Indeed, a Resolution Foundation report earlier this year found that the continuing of the worsening cost of living crisis under the Tories could lead to the biggest rise in inequality since Margaret Thatcher was prime minister.
Such staggering levels of inequality are bad for the British economy and society.
The Resolution Foundation report’s findings meant that had the current parliament continued to 2020, it would be the worst for living standards of the poorest half of households since records began.
It also suggested that low and middle-income families with children would be among the hardest hit.
In terms of living standards, it suggested that between 2015 and 2020, the poorest half of households could see incomes fall by 2 per cent.
The forecast that inequality will soar again is based on the idea incomes will fall for the poorest half of the population while the richest fifth will see a gain of about 5 per cent.
To put this in perspective, there was a rise of 1 per cent in the five-year period from 2005, even though those include the deepest recession since the 1930s!
Broadly speaking, inequality was roughly steady in recent times, after a massive increase from Thatcher’s victory in 1979 to the early 1990s.
As now, in that period we were confronted with an ideologically driven Tory offensive that damaged the economy.
The current Tory Government has made a political choice to run a rigged economy where the super-rich pay less and less in tax while earnings for average working households are still below their level of a decade ago.
The heightening of already stark inequality is a direct consequence of the Tories’ reactionary policies on tax and benefits, and will be greatly heightened by their policies of tax giveaways for the elite alongside deep cuts as part of creating a bargain basement, tax haven, Britain if re-elected.
Another five years of Tory rule means continuation of austerity policies, with their impact on the majority worsened by the Tories’ economically illiterate ‘hard Brexit’, and this will mean further increases in inequality, with falling living standards for the poor, and indeed the majority of the population, in the period ahead.
But the election gives us an opportunity to change course. In contrast to the Tories, Labour is committed to rewriting the rules of British economy in favour of the many not the few – spiralling inequality is another reason we need to make June the end of May.