|SocialismToday Socialist Party magazine|
Representing the rich
THE RECENT Joseph Rowntree Foundation report on inequality in Britain reviewed in Socialism Today No.112 contains information which, while disgraceful, should come as no surprise to socialists. An interesting contrast is made between the parliamentary constituencies represented by ministers of the 1997 New Labour cabinet as against the equally safe Tory constituencies of their Conservative shadows.
In 2000 the constituents of Labour ministers were a little over twice as likely to be ‘poor’ as the constituents of Tory shadow ministers. Twenty years earlier in 1980, however, at the start of Thatcher’s Tory government, there was only a 74 per cent greater chance that they would be living in poverty.
In 2000 in Boris Johnson’s safe Tory constituency of Henley, the Rowntree researchers found 30 per cent of households to be ‘exclusively wealthy’. Fifty-three per cent had sufficient wealth for them to be liable for inheritance tax. Seven per cent were ‘poor’. In Harriet Harman’s Peckham constituency in South London, in contrast, no one was ‘exclusively wealthy’. Eight per cent were liable for inheritance tax, while 57 per cent were ‘poor’.
In the Rowntree report ‘poor’ means people who can’t afford a week’s annual holiday, or save £10 a week, or keep their home warm. ‘Exclusively wealthy’ means those who don’t need to depend on state provision – they can afford private schools, hospitals, security guards, and what have you.
Danny Dorling, who participated in assembling the Rowntree report, and using statistics from Barclays bank, has stated: "Nothing has changed since 2000… Whatever measure you pick – life expectancy, the chances of children getting into university, or household wealth – the world looks a better place in safe Tory seats".
Wealth still flows into the accounts of those in safe Tory areas. But in the areas represented by Labour ministers there has been virtually no increases in the amount of money in constituents’ accounts for ten years!
The vast majority of those living in safe Tory seats have seen their assets – housing, shares, savings, etc – grow under the New Labour government: "Many have become seriously rich". New Labour’s rule has been good for most Tory voters!
All the figures clearly demonstrate that having a Labour MP as your representative, even if he or she is a minister of the governing Labour Party, has definitely not helped Labour voters.