Monday, 17 March 2014

Priority of Tory grandees is plain wrong

My article in this coming week’s Cornish Guardian, once again focuses on the inequality in British society. In particular, it contrasts the increasing use of foodbanks with the clamour from certain right-wing politicians for a tax cut for individuals in higher tax brackets. The article will be as follows:

The famous socialist Aneurin Bevan once wrote that he was inspired by a “burning hatred” of injustice and inequality, which he described as “capricious, unsanctioned by usage and, most important of all, senseless.”

His determination to build a better and more equal society led him, as Minister of Health in Clement Atlee’s reforming government of 1945-51, to create the National Health Service and play a leading role in the construction of the “modern welfare state.”

One can only speculate what Nye Bevan would think of British society in 2014 but I would suggest he would be alarmed at the growing inequity in the UK today.

The super-rich are getting richer and, over the last couple of years, the number of millionaires in the UK has almost doubled.

In contrast, the wages of ordinary people are not keeping pace with inflation and many are struggling to meet the rising costs of basic staples such as food, fuel and housing.  

Cuts in funding to local government and other public services are also impacting most heavily on the less-well-off and the vulnerable.

The food bank charity, the Trussell Trust, has meanwhile released new figures which show that it provided 600,000 emergency parcels, each containing three days food, between April and December 2013 – a massive increase on the whole of the preceding financial year.

The Bishop of Truro, who is co-chairing a parliamentary inquiry into the rise in food banks has rightly warned central government that it cannot “ignore the reality of this phenomenon,” adding “how is it that in the 21st century in a developed country, we need to have people asking for vouchers which give them access to emergency food?”

Even a think-tank with links to the Conservative Party, the Policy Exchange, has criticised the government’s approach to benefits, pointing out that 68,000 people have their benefits taken away by mistake every year, which they believe has “contributed to the rise in the number of people using food banks.”

Yet last week, I was very surprised and saddened to see a number of politicians, including two former Conservative Chancellors (Lord Lamont and Lord Lawson) and the leadership of UKIP, calling for a tax cut for individuals earning over £41,450.

It is my view that such priorities are totally wrong.

I believe that today’s politicians need to share the values of people like Nye Bevan. They should be working to protect our public services and to improve the lot of the less-well-off – not giving tax cuts to individuals in higher tax brackets.

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