Towards the twilight of the New Labour disaster, evidence began to pour out that Blair’s inherently unequal ‘equality’ mantras were unmitigated disasters.
The wealth gap in Britain was described as being the ‘worst in forty years‘ by a report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation in 2007. In 2010, a fascinating, damning report from the Orwellian-monikered National Equality Panel emerged that suggested that Britain had one of the most unequal societies in the world.
Britain’s situation is obviously further complicated by the fact that it is an awkward collection of vastly different nations with vastly different circumstances. Who suffered the most in Britain? Predictably enough, England, as demonstrated by the fact that
- Inequality is worse in England than Wales and Scotland;
- Average and below average White British children are less likely than those from minority ethnic groups to go on to higher education.
Furthermore, within England, wealth gaps were pronounced between the North and the South. The most equal pay – that is, the one with the lowest disparity between higher and lower earners – was found in Yorkshire and the Humber. However, in the South, it was found that
“… at the other end of the scale, the richest fifth of people in London earn an average of £686 a week more than those on the bottom fifth of earnings, while in the south east and the east there are pay gaps of £508 and £450 a week respectively.”
So, as it stands, England suffers on a variety of fronts. The inequalities are among the worse in the world when it is attached to the basket-case organisation that is Britain, and even among that arrangement, it is the most unequal, riven by a North-South divide. So what is the fiscal reality of this disparity?
An article in the Guardian by long-time London resident Ian Jack exemplifies the extent of and increase in the disparity between the North of England and the London-oriented South:
“Twenty-five years ago… for the price of our terrace house in north London – two up and two down and a bit of garden at the back – I could buy 10 similar houses in Bradford. This month I read that Burnley has the lowest property prices in England, and made another calculation. For the price of our London house I could buy 40 houses in Burnley that were averagely cheap and 80 of the very cheapest.”
While Jack goes on to describe that London has never seemed more wealthy at the expense of the rest of the country, the reality is that London is a microcosm of England’s wealth divide. London is host to the most extreme wealth divide in the country; around the palaces of supranational global capitalism lie the boroughs of Tower Hamlets and Hackney. According to City of London figures, these boroughs are among the 1% of the most deprived boroughs in England.
Even the affluent middle-class struggle. The Telegraph here reports on how a young professional with a £50,000 deposit and salary of in excess of £20,000 only got onto the housing ladder with help from the Housing Association.
It is difficult to say how much benefit local initiatives launched by both official bodies, such as the City of London and/or the Mayor of London and the Government will provide to help to rectify this situation.
The Olympic Games, held in Stratford in Newham, were sold on the supposed benefits of their legacy. But on reading the page regarding the legacy (which was quite difficult to find amidst the myriad sites declaring how beneficial the Games would be), asinine platitudes are the order of the day, such as promises that
“… thousands of new jobs will be created in the Park alone. Job and training opportunities will be created for local people, and local residents will be engaged in the planning of the Games and the benefits the project will bring afterwards. There will also be a wealth of benefits to the wider community, such as cross-city transport improvements in London, more training and job opportunities for the UK and the chance for a vast array of businesses to be involved. “
Whilst the City of London is at least making a concerted effort to engage with its less well-off neighbours, promises to ‘hold small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) events to encourage dialogue and understanding’ appear to be only a very small part of any potential solution.
What are the possible political and socio-political consequences? The Guardian seems to be extremely concerned about the rise of UKIP and threat to Labour votes as a consequence, particularly as a result of UKIP’s increasing popularity among ‘the pool of angry, economically struggling voters’. Is it any wonder?
England is not presently suffering from a wealth gulf: it is suffering from several layers of inequality and division that is the direct cause of our dislocated, disunited and disparate society. Ultimately, we are served no favours by having inadequate, distant and meaningless central government and powerless, bureaucratic local government. The solution is quite simply an English Parliament. Only then can there be logistically logical, coherent and meaningful plans for development that will directly benefit the diverse and disparate contexts in our country. Only then will the difficult social and economic problems be addressed by people with the expertise and skills necessary to tackle the challenges adequately.
It makes no sense that an entire nation riven by wealth and opportunity disparities that are so acute and so extreme is fobbed off by ‘national strategies’ that do not even recognise that country’s nationhood.
Further compelling evidence that an English Parliament is what we are in desperate need of.