So, that archetypal ‘hero of the working class’, and bete noire of the right wing press, Bob Crow – boss of the Rail, Maritime and Transport union – died this week at the tender of 52.
What a shame.
He was the last of the true firebrands and a thorn in the side of those who don’t take care whether the needs of rampant capitalism and the relentless march of technology crushed ordinary working people underfoot as if they are machine fodder.
In 1957 British Conservative Prime Minister Harold Macmillan declared that “most of our people had never had it so good”. Full employment combined with an unprecedented rise in consumerism meant millions of Britons saw their standard of living rise. Compared to the austerity of the war years, his assessment rang true for many people across the land.
Of course this boom was followed by bust, and boom again, then bust, then boom…..until we arrive at where we are today: an almighty bust and an Age of Austerity that began in 2008, and in spite of what Mac’s progeny say, is not over for most.
When did we last have it so bad?
The rise and rise of payday loans blights the lives of the ‘working poor’. Who cares whether our children arrive at school without any breakfast and go to bed hungry, about the sharp rise in homeless; that the proliferation of food banks is now a normal part of the landscape of one of the richest nations on the planet?
Some facts about
- Income inequalities have been increasing, both recently and over longer time periods. These inequalities have been increasing at both ends of the spectrum. In other words, the poorest have fallen further behind the average, and the richest have moved further ahead.
- Over the last decade, the poorest tenth of the population have, on average, seen a fall in their 'real' incomes after deducting housing costs. In other words, after adjusting for inflation, incomes are, on average, slightly lower than a decade ago. This is in sharp contrast with the rest of the income distribution, which again on average, has seen substantial rises in their real incomes.
- The richest tenth of the population have seen much bigger proportional rises in their incomes than any other group.
- The poorest tenth of the population now have, between them, 1.3% of the country's total income. In contrast, the richest tenth have 31%. The income of the richest tenth is more than the income of all those on below-average incomes (i.e. the bottom five tenths) combined.
- Inner London (said to be the business capital of the world) has by far the highest proportion of people on low income (29% in the poorest fifth) but also a high proportion of people on a high income (28% in the richest fifth).
Who cares whether the needs of rampant capitalism and the relentless march of technology crush ordinary working people underfoot? Bob Crow did; shame he died.