Annual Politics Lecture: Leeds Beckett University
I am always surprised that more people in the UK do not know that we now have the greatest economic inequality of any large country in Europe (if the share of the best-off 10% or 1% is used to rank countries). Many people do not know that we have chosen to tax and spend far less than almost any other country in Europe, apart from Ireland. I am surprised people do not know that we fund our National Health Service at half the rate that the Swiss fund their public health services per head, or that their 1% take half as much as our 1%.
Some changes are underway. Disastrous government polices such as “help to buy” were scrapped in December 2016 (apart from new build help to buy). The policy of “pay to stay” in social housing policy was abandoned in November 2016. And this is just in housing. However we have a huge way to go if we are to even try to even begin to move towards emulating the living standards of an average Western European country. First we need to know how much worse we do in education, health and housing as compared to most other Europeans, and that none of these problems are a result of immigration.
Without continued immigration it will become much harder to staff our schools, hospitals and care homes and to build those homes that we do need. A great deal needs to change. It will most probably change slowly, one policy at a time, many things will get worse; but when it comes to economic inequality they can only get better – because it is not possible to do worse than be the most economically unequal country in Europe.
The Annual Lecture, with slides, can be listened to here
It is based on the book, A Better Politics, free PDF here