“With enormous inequality comes an increasingly dictatorial rule to satisfy the 0.1%’s demand to keep their wealth.”
Dick Symonds, chair of Broadstairs Labour Party in Kent, outlines some of the measures needed to bring more equality to Britain.
“For the foreseeable future, there ought to be plenty of room in British politics for a party of the centre-right comfortable with modernity, and attached to property ownership, limited government, a cautious approach to social change and the promise – however illusory – that the benefits of capitalism are open to everyone.” – J. Harris, The Guardian, 18th April 2022.
The reality is that this option is now off the table. With the scouring effect of neo-liberalism of the last 15 years or so, inequality has risen so much as to have passed a threshold, where it cannot be reversed, certainly not by feeble ‘levelling up’. There is no going back to One Nation Conservatism or the almost identical New Labour, because of the change in the structure of the economy and in technology.
European social democratic parties are shrinking because they cannot provide solutions within the constraints of neo-liberalism and the voters are realising it. The national distribution of wealth is such that the top 1% of earners even in 2014 took 15% of the economy and that is likely to be much higher now. Within the 1%, earnings increase exponentially, so that the top 0.1% has a vast share of the wealth. (Danny Dorling ‘Inequality and the 1%’).
The 99% have to make do with the leavings. No tweaking from any likely Tory or social democratic government would have any effect on this, and with enormous inequality comes an increasingly dictatorial rule to satisfy the 0.1%’s demand to keep their wealth. This is an international trend, resulting from the predictable development of capitalism. It’s happening in the USA, in Russia and in China, all advanced capitalist economies. The 10 wealthiest men in the world own £17trillion. The human effect can be demonstrated by one recent discovery that life expectancies are falling, so that women in the poorest areas of our country are dying as early as the bottom of the 38 OECD countries, with the same life expectancy as Mexican women.
But it’s not inevitable. The contradictions mount up. The public are increasingly able to look behind the curtain and see the reality of their ridiculous Tory government of Eton messes whose education has not equipped them to manage, let alone rule democratically. They can only parade their puffed up right to privilege which is coming apart before the eyes of the rest of us. There is no ‘Strong Man’ in sight, only a lot of very silly men, who cannot command anything, let alone respect. And we learn from history and looking abroad, that ’strong men’ lead to disaster.
What the Left has to do is to pull the curtain further aside and reveal and identify the secretive super-rich who are funding this charade, and to ask questions about their value to the rest of us. It then has to answer the questions with radical policies to redistribute this wealth. So the next Labour government must immediately increase wealth and property taxes, introduce a windfall tax, reinstate benefits cuts, and bring in a Tobin Tax on financial transactions.
There has to be a basis of earning equality in companies so that the gap between the CEO and the lowest earner in the company is nearer low double digits than the hundreds at present. Employment must be a secure contract rather than zero hours precarious employment. Union rights must be restored. These measures are well beyond anything the Blair government entertained, but nothing less will work. Polly Toynbee a social democrat featured them in a recent article. This is the real ‘levelling up’, because there is a magic money tree and it needs a severe shaking.
Furthermore, it cannot carry on like this because the planet won’t let it. Parallel with capitalism’s development is the deepening climate crisis, and this is not just a coincidence, but one of those ‘benefits of capitalism’. To survive we need to bring in measures in a Green New Deal that on one hand will greatly expand the jobs market and on the other must divert the financial power of the super-rich into funding a whole new sustainable economic system. Capitalism will find it hard to survive this strategy.
- Dick Symonds, is the chair of Broadstairs Labour Party in Kent.
- This article originally appeared in Labour Briefing (Co-operative) magazine and is reproduced with permission. Subscribe by sending a £20 cheque with your address to ‘Labour Briefing Co-operative Ltd’, 7 Malam Gardens, London, E14 OTR.