To keep society going we need to share the wealth of the nation more fairly

Mick Lynch is an unlikely poster boy for a Lib Dem blog (he’ll be pleased to know!) but there can be no doubt that he articulates the problems faced by millions of people and shreds any Tory he comes up against!

“It’s the same the whole world over,

Ain’t it all a blinking shame,

It’s the rich wot gets the biscuit,

It’s the poor wot gets the blame”

,This song was popular in 19th century music halls, and it just shows that things have not changed that much in 150 years. Yes, we are all generally better off than we were then, or even when I was born in 1953, but the gap between rich and poor is as huge as it ever has been and clearly getting worse.

We live in what is still one of the richest Countries in the world although we are clearly in a post-Brexit, Tory-led, decline. Yet increasingly people in work cannot afford to provide the necessities of life for themselves and their families. Increasingly, they are having to resort to one of the 2,200 food banks in the country to keep going, at least to keep their kids fed to the end of the month.

Increasingly, the number of people relying on state benefits is becoming one that is boosted by people holding down full-time jobs or more than one job to make ends meet. In the Tory view of the World the split is between scroungers on benefits and those who work and strive. There is no mention in there for people who need benefits but are working all the hours that they possibly can. No mention in there for people who cannot work at all because they are ill or are caring for others who are ill, young, or old!

The current situation in the UK is that there are an increasing number of people going on strike because they cannot make ends meet. This ranges from railway workers, to baggage handlers and staff at airlines to, ….. yes criminal barristers who don’t earn the fat figure salaries that we associate with the legal profession.

I have listened to Mick Lynch who is articulating this problem in a way that should be profoundly disturbing for anyone who hears him. He has minced the Tories who have come up against him. I almost (but not quite) felt sorry for them. He makes the same case here that I am making. This country still has lots of money so let us share it out better.

I do not like the fact that strikes are taking place, neither do the strikers but there are times when we should recognise that is a last resort that people are legally allowed to take. Plans to take away that right, which are being talked about, are basically a way of creating a centralised fascistic state.

The rail strikes have not inconvenienced me yet, but they may do so. I am trying to plan a schedule of meetings ranging around the country in two weeks’ time. It is exceedingly difficult when I cannot rely on railway timetables to book trains and then hotel rooms. But if I am inconvenienced so, be it. If you believe that the justification is right, you must support the means to deal with the problem.

Of course, it does not need to be this way. In the case of the rail strikers, it is absolutely clear that the rails companies and Network Rail have refused to bargain and compromise because the uncomprehending Tory Government has refused to let them do so. As Churchill famously put it in a different context, “Jaw, Jaw is better than War, War.” In the long term however, we need to have a look at two things. Who and what we tax; and how we ensure a fairer distribution of the wealth that is created by the national as a whole. So, there are four things we could do:

  1. Some people and some companies are getting away with financial murder. Our muddled tax codes which run to thousands of pages allow for too many sharp, but egal, practices which encourage the already wealthy to pay advisers to enable them to become even more wealthy. We need to crack down on abuses by which companies and individuals who can transfer the money they have made here to countries with lower tax regimes where they can pay little, if any, tax.
  2. We need to simplify the benefits system. If we ensured that things like pensions were enough to live on, we would not then need to employ an army of people to look at things like tax, local government, and other credits.
  3. Crack down on zero hours contracts which, despite some recent efforts and legal rulings, still cause huge uncertainty in the lives of too many people and inhibit their ability to control their benefits to keep their families in basics.
  4. We need to reduce the gap with higher taxation rates on income and much higher taxes on capital especially Inheritance Tax. Most people’s big capital gains have been through the increase in asset values, especially housing, rather than being earned by the sweat of someone’s brow.

I do not actually believe in the sort of solutions that Mick Lynch espouses nor would I like to live in his version of a utopian society. However, a desire to reduce inequality and to ensure that all citizens benefit from the Country’s efforts by being decently paid, decently housed, and decently fed with a bit over at the end of the week for a few luxuries as well lies at the very heart of my liberal beliefs.

I believe that they lie at the very heart of most people’s beliefs as well. The UK is, at heart, a country that believes in fairness, justice, and toleration. That was proved in last week’s by-elections. Let us hope that a General Election will be called swiftly, and the Country can rid itself of the parasites who rule us.

About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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