A Robin Hood lesson for New Labour

Document type
Paper
Author(s)
George Irvin
Publisher
Compass
Date of publication
12 August 2008
Series
Thinkpiece; 36
Subject(s)
Social Policy
Collection
Social welfare
Material type
Reports

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This paper argues that the Labour party needs to address the huge disparities in income and wealth which characterise today’s Britain. The ratio of the FTSE-100 CEOs' pay to the average wage has moved from 10:1 in 1979 to 100:1 in 2006; the top tenth of income earners receive about one-third of national income while the bottom tenth receives only 2%; and the top one percent own nearly one-quarter of Britain’s wealth. Although New Labour has characterised taxing the rich as the 'politics of envy', this paper argues that public attitudes towards wealth redistribution are changing. A poll in late 2007 showed that 80 percent of voters believe the gap between the rich and the poor is too large and that nearly 60% believe those earning above £100,000 should be taxed more heavily. Fundamentally, what New Labour has ignored is that relative deprivation, as much as absolute deprivation, is a social scourge.  If the government wants to reverse this state of affairs, it has a variety of instruments at its disposal.

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