Please please let us have a referendum on electoral reform. No matter who wins the next General Election, we desperately need to broaden the choice. You may risk giving representation to the BNP but the closed shop of Labour and Conservative is strangling ideas and suffocating change. There is nowhere left to turn and if we needed any further proof then it came in the form of last week’s report, An Anatomy of Economic Inequality from the National Equality Panel. The report shows that the current Labour government has presided over not only the maintenance but the widening of a vast inequality gap. So an unprecedented three Labour governments have overseen a rise in inequality? It should stand as a matter of disgrace. It makes me despondent. Either I vote for Labour again or face the unavoidable alternative of David Cameron – he’s not exactly a One Nation Disraelite. Tories promising spending cuts don’t usually herald great eras of social justice. Margaret Thatcher anyone? Thatcherism is precisely why this gap first appeared.
But before Labour supporters blame another problem on MT I want to say I’m sick of hearing it. Thirteen years is a long time – especially when ten of those years were boom time. Labour’s tactics? The deregulation of the financial sector, the slashing of capital gains tax, the abolishment of the lowest tax band – none exactly strike me as redistributive, inequality addressing measures. This once proud socialist party presided over a long – although ultimately flawed – period of economic growth and prosperity and yet just a few of the rich got filthy stinking rich whilst child poverty will remain a concern in Britain for the foreseeable future.
Not only that but Britain also face damaging university funding cuts. £500m is to be cut across higher education. There is a real concern that this will affect quality of teaching – student leaders have called the cuts ‘self-harm’ – but the potential impact on inequality is nightmarish. The gaps caused in education budgets will surely give rise to increased tuition fees. As fees increase the number of students from disadvantaged homes entering higher education is sure to drop as the prospect of huge debt becomes that mental bridge too far. Then universities across England edge toward being playgrounds for the rich and so social mobility lessens and we enter a vicious circle of inequality.
This announcement also comes hot on the heels of the green paper which has confirmed the Labour government’s intention to renew Trident and build two new aircraft carriers. The initial cost of these measures has been given as £25billion but it has been reported that additional costs, including equipping the carriers with up-to-date fighter jets, could mean the total bill rises to £130 billion. That’s two hundred and sixty times the amount which is about to blow a hole in university funding across the country. Wonderful, I live in a society that values the potential destruction of millions over the education of thousands.
p.s Oh, from which socio-economic group do the British Armed Forces get most of their recruits? Those on the wrong side of the inequality gap of course.