After winning the 1959 election, Harold Macmillan, a Tory Prime Minister announced that "the class war is over" - and promptly formed a cabinet boasting four lords. Forty years later, Tony Blair, Labour Prime Minister, declared that "we are all middle class now" and politicians, academics and social commentators continue to tell us there is no longer such a thing as class in modern Britain. Notions of belonging to the working class are, we are told, outdated and belong to era of flat caps, factories, steel works and going down the pit. However no matter how many times we are told this we seem determined not to believe it. In a Guardian/ICM poll in October 2007 most British people still felt bound by class, with a massive majority - 89 per cent - of those surveyed feeling their social standing determined the way they are judged by the rest of society.
Health and Wealth
A report recently released by the End Child Poverty campaign group - based on a comprehensive analysis of government data - reveals that an epidemic of poverty in Britain is having a dramatic impact on the survival rates and life chances of children from poor families.
The report, which also makes a mockery of New Labour’s “commitment” to eradicate child poverty “within a generation”, found:
- Children from poor families suffer 10 times the risk of sudden infant death syndrome as children from better-off homes.
- Babies born to disadvantaged families weigh an average of 200 grammes less than children from the richest families.
- Poorer children are two and a half times more likely to suffer chronic illness when toddlers and twice as likely to have cerebral palsy.
- Children living in disadvantaged families are over 3 times more likely to suffer from mental health disorders as those from well-off families.
- Infants living in a household with an annual income of below £10,400 are twice as likely to suffer from asthma as those from families earning over £52,000.
Furthermore, the report also suggests that the consequences of poverty continue well into later life, with adults from deprived families 50% more likely to suffer serious, debilitating conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
Donald Hirsch, co-author of the Health Consequences of Poverty for Children report, commented:
It is one of society’s greatest inequalities that poor health is so dramatically linked to poverty… This is a huge injustice for one of the richest nations in the world.
Echoing similar sentiments, another report, this time by the World Health Organisation - on discovering variations in life expectancy of nearly 30 years between two areas of Glasgow - warned:
Biology does not explain any of this...social injustice is killing people on a grand scale.
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
Tax Credits favour the middle class
According to a recent report from Barnardos and the accountants Deloitte, the number of children living in poverty could be dramatically reduced in months. The report says the Prime Minister's cherished target of halving child poverty by 2010 can be met without any extra cost to the taxpayer. It was published on the eve of the Labour Party conference in Manchester, the city with the highest proportion of disadvantaged youngsters in the country.
Under current spending plans and with the UK facing the prospect of a recession, 2.2 million children will live below the poverty line in two years – 550,000 more than the Government's target. The report says £1.35bn a year could be raised by reducing the upper limit at which families are eligible for tax credits, from £50,000 to £40,000. The £2.7bn used to compensate families for the abolition of the 10p tax rate earlier this year could be diverted to helping the poorest households.
Barnardo's and Deloitte argue that those who gained most from the £2.7bn handout were middle-income families earning £35,000, who received an average of £3.31 a week. Those who gained the least were families earning less than £16,000, who received an average of 44p extra a week.
Not very revolutionary but much too much for this Labour government to take in.
Domestic Fuel: The Facts
The colossal hikes in domestic fuel prices seen this year represent one of the most flagrant abuses committed by big business against ordinary citizens in the UK.
- Household fuel bills have soared by an average of 42% since January
- 6.8 million households are now in fuel debt
- 1 in 5 households are now officially classed as being in fuel poverty
- Annual profits announced by energy suppliers this year: £3 billion
- Annual increase in dividend payouts to shareholders on last year: 20%
The rise in dividend payments rubbishes earlier claims made by the energy companies that they needed to maintain high prices in order to invest in new forms of energy for the future.
Brown and Co. even ignored calls for a piecemeal windfall tax, and the grim reality is that many, particularly the old and the most vunerable, will be forced to choose between eating and heating their homes this winter.
That’s capitalism, and its twisted morality: protect the profits of big business at all cost - whatever the consequences. But in the final analysis, this state of affairs, can only continue as long as we allow it to…
“The super-rich have not created much in the way of extra wealth - they have mostly taken it from the rest of us. It’s Robin Hood in reverse. Those suffering from the impact of the credit crunch should know that it was caused by the super-rich taking risks with other people’s money, pocketing the profits and passing on the inevitable losses.”
Brendan Barber, TUC General Secretary - telling the truth, but still waiting in vain for New Labour to deliver the goods.