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Political despair

by Laurence Rowe published Jan 27, 2008 11:00 PM

The Labour Government is in a deep malaise; the Tories are leading in the polls, but not by anything like enough to win the next election; and the Lib Dems have Vince Cable popping up everywhere, looking competant and speaking sense, quite eclipsing whoever they just elected as a their new leader.

Gordon Brown certainly looks indecisive, with his demand for reports into every issue before taking any decision. Maybe this is no bad thing. Arthur James Balfour, British Prime Minister from 1902 to 1905, once wrote an essay entitled, "A defence of philosophic doubt, being an essay on the foundations of belief." A Google search on "prime minister doubt" brings up Tony Blair's foreward the the Iraq dossier.

A decade of Labour administration has only slowed, not reversed the trend of increasing inequality. Nowhere is this more apparent than in London:

American insurance group Marsh has insisted that 12 contract cleaners employed at its City of London headquarters be suspended from duty, after they held a protest demanding improved pay and conditions. (link)

The cleaners are paid £5.60 an hour. Marsh is part of the MMC group. "For the nine months ended September 30, 2007, consolidated revenue of $8.4 billion increased 7 percent from $7.8 billion in the year-ago period". While minimum wage may be enough to survive fairly easily as a young person in shared accomodation in Manchester, In London it is barely enough to subsist.

While it is probably counter-productive for Government to be too interested in the means of wealth creation, it is vital that it assert itself in the distribution of that wealth. We cannot expect corporations in a market economy to be benificient in their operation. Regulation is necessary to ensure that society is not short changed. People must be paid a living wage. If not we all end up subsidising these corporations through housing benefit and income support.

Over two million workers in Britain stand to lose more than half of any increase in earnings to taxes and reduced benefits. Some 160,000 would keep less than 10p of each extra £1 they earned. (link)

If we are to seriously tackle the inequalities in our society we must tame a tax and benefits system that entrenches inequality and bamboozles benefit claimants in a maze of form filling.

Perhaps it is time for a flat rate of tax, but couple it with a flat rate of benefit and abolish income support and job seekers allowance. Trying to calculate what these rates might be is difficult.

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