(Image: a golden Ferrari in London)
The UK election is heating up with Brits going to the polls in only 1o days time. The political landscape in Britain is deeply fractured with no one party projected to win enough seats to govern outright. The most likely scenario is some sort of official/non-official partnership between whichever major party can cobble together a coalition - a clear sign of the public's deep discontent with mainstream politics.
Prime minister David Cameron is hanging on for dear life having presided over a deeply divisive period in the country's history where his government worked feverishly to dismantle the welfare state and hand over much of the nation's wealth to the rich. This may seem like hyperbole, but wealth inequality in the UK is now so extreme that billionaires have seen their wealth double since the recession while food banks have seen a shocking 51% rise in use. Reports the Guardian:
Britain’s billionaires have seen their net worth more than double since the recession, with the richest 1,000 families now controlling a total of £547bn.
While average UK incomes have yet to recover from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, with thousands still flocking to food banks, the financial elite have emerged not only with their fortunes intact, but holding a larger than ever slice of the cake.
Their assets have increased from £258bn in 2009, a rise of more than 112%,according to the 2015 Sunday Times Rich List. The past 12 months saw the biggest bounce for the UK super-rich in six years, and London now has 80 billionaires, up from 72 last year – more than any other world city.
This is not just the legacy of Cameron, but of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown before him, supposed leftists who sold New Labour out to the banking industry and allowed neoliberalism to wreak havoc on a society that is now virtually unrecognizable. Rapidly rising house prices have meant that only the very rich can afford to buy their own houses without going into crippling debt. The National Health Service is suffering from a severe budget crisis while wages are so low that one in every six adults in paid work is now defined as "poor". The mantra of 'greed is good' has pervaded British culture and has now become so ingrained in the country's mindset that much of the public still believe that what is good for millionaires must be good for them.
The Cameron government has rammed through austerity measures that have crippled the poor while massively benefiting the wealthy, yet he still maintains he only did 'what was necessary'. Cameron blames Labour for the economic crisis back in 2008, but neglects to mention that it was conservative economics that did the damage. He is arguing for more of the same - more 'medicine' in the form of massive welfare reductions and tax breaks for corporations, knowing full well that his policies benefit only those who look and speak like him.
It is amazing to see the charade continue, proving once again that neo-liberalism is the myth that will not die no matter how hard the evidence is against it. Paul Krugman wrote about this recently on his blog, dispelling another easily disprovable myth that the Tories have done a good job with the economy:
Britain’s economic performance since the financial crisis struck has been startlingly bad. A tentative recovery began in 2009, but it stalled in 2010. Although growth resumed in 2013, real income per capita is only now reaching its level on the eve of the crisis — which means that Britain has had a much worse track record since 2007 than it had during the Great Depression.
Yet as Britain prepares to go to the polls, the leaders of the coalition government that has ruled the country since 2010 are posing as the guardians of prosperity, the people who really know how to run the economy. And they are, by and large, getting away with it.
The outcome of the general election is still unclear, but there is a good chance that the conservatives will be ousted and a new Labour led coalition will get in. Perhaps then this mad nightmare will end and a party somewhat attached to reality can tend to the business of rebuilding the wreckage left over from decades of conservative economics. Labour leader Ed Miliband is not perfect by any means, but he has given clear indication that Labour will not work exclusively for the rich. It's not much to be grateful for, but it is at least a start.