By Alan McDonald.
The second decade of the 21st century has been characterised by growing inequality, diminishing standards of living and rising levels of poverty in the UK and further afield. The chasm that exists between policy-makers, the drivers of business and those who endure the consequences of their dalliances has widened.
The Labour Party, in anticipation of electoral victory (one well within their grasp) should be formulating policy, with the resolute ambition of halting this regression of society. Underlying issues that pick at the very fabric of a cohesive and socially just society must be tackled at home, while simultaneously presenting the UK as a beacon of equity on the global stage.
With these principles in mind, the focus should be on reining in exorbitant salaries that prevail in the city and the banking sector. The link between performance and reward has long since been broken. The principle of commerce, of taking a calculate risk using knowledge and instinct honed by experience to create a profit, has disintegrated. In its place a nauseating culture of reward and more reward, where risk has become all but an irrelevant afterthought, has spread like a cancer decimating any semblance of fairness and moral justice that might have existed.
The result is that ordinary people are suffering, as national governments meekly bow to the banking sector, corporate shareholders and rampant capitalists. The removal of risk, or rather the transferral of risk from the ‘wealth creators’ to the common man has left a rancid flavour in the mouths of those who hold fairness dear.
UK salaries have stagnated as inflation continues above the target rate. Across the EU the story is grimmer still. Governments, at the behest of the markets, enact structural reforms, slashing expenditure to deal with the pre-eminence of deficit reduction; where infrastructure spending would stimulate growth. Unemployment hanging uncomfortably in the double digits and declining real wages are symptoms of deep economic malaise, and the hangover from the most heinous economic savagery in memory.
The greatest redistribution of wealth in the history of the world is happening, in reverse, and it would appear no one is preventing it. The voices of reason and fairness are being drowned out by the din of those who profess a doom for all, if the vestiges of the capitalist monolith are not protected. While public services are being cut, inequality is rising and relative poverty is significantly increasing. Food banks have become a necessity for large numbers of people across Europe – a stinging indictment of the misguided nature of the political pilots. This fallacy is being enacted to protect those who are ultimately responsible for the global downturn.
The financial crisis has been conveniently utilised by the Tories to enact their political ideology, setting in motion wheels of change, which, if left unchecked, will result in the dismantling of the existing welfare state. The privatisation of the NHS and the introduction of a profit culture in state education are perhaps the most contentious – the legitimacy of which is tenuous at best and would further exacerbate inequality in the UK. It is a grossly unfair scenario which the left must challenge.
Furthermore, Foreign Aid budgets are under threat as the ‘political elite’ scramble to support failed financial institutions. The Tory Party, the brethren of the conspirators who precipitated the crisis and the ensuing austerity, have the temerity to suggest that we should cease these aid payments, when spending on domestic public services is being ‘rebalanced’. This is a characteristically flawed perspective of the neo-cons. It fails to recognise the stark reality of the abject poverty endured in many parts of the globe, a poverty that dictates that many billions of people view long term planning as simply planning how best they might feed themselves tomorrow. The invidious suggestion that Britain should reduce its aid budget in order to protect the ‘elite’ is archaic.
The time of rampant neo-conservatism has passed. The all-consuming focus on profits must be extinguished. Governments must lead an equitable and humanitarian development, bridging the gap between the haves and have-nots. This vision must be fulfilled at home, whilst supporting those in the poverty-stricken regions of the globe to develop sustainably. Reckless capitalists should be cut adrift and society should no longer be used as their life-support system. With the benefit of hindsight and the accrued wisdom of past incarnations the Labour Party must be ready to ignite this process.
Alan McDonald is a Young Fabians Member.