Theresa May Theresa May, November 2018. Photo: Flickr/Number 10

Getting rid of the Tories will only be step one for our side, argues Sean Ledwith

Three years after making her supposedly defining speech outside Number 10 about tackling ‘burning injustice’, the hollowness of Theresa May’s agenda has been exposed by a body  set up by the Tories themselves. The Social Mobility Commission was created in Cameron’s first year as Prime Minister as part of his cynical attempt to detoxify the Tory brand. In 2017 all twelve of the original commissioners symbolically quit in frustration at the government’s total failure to address the issue of rising inequality in the UK.

In April of this year, the new set of commissioners led by Martina Milburn, delivered a damning verdict on how both Cameron and May have presided over a social policy system  that is not only failing to advance social mobility, but is actually threatening to send it into reverse. Summing up the state of the nation, Milburn’s conclusion could hardly be more of an indictment of Tory-led polarisation:

Being born privileged means you are likely to remain privileged… But being born disadvantaged means you may have to overcome a series of barriers to ensure you and your children are not stuck in the same trap.

The report delivered a number of grim  observations about the deepening of class differences after nine years of divisive Tory rule:

  • Those from a more affluent background are almost 80% more likely to be in a professional job than those from a less affluent one. That figure was 60% last year.
  • Only 34% of people from a working class background were in a professional job last year.
  • Even these are earning 17% less than their middle class counterparts.
  • 26% of students from a working class background make it to university compared to 43% of those from the middle class.
  • Five years after graduating ,the former are earning 11.5% less than the latter.
  • Over half of those from a working class background leave school without any qualifications and soon become trapped in low pay work.
  • Professional women from a working class background are paid 35% less than affluent men doing the same job.
  • 45% of childcare workers are trying to survive on benefits or tax credits.

The SMC report was not the only evidence brought to light recently on the regressive effects of Tory rule. Just a couple of weeks earlier, The Guardian published an investigation revealing that half of England is owned by 1% of the population. Just 25 000 landowners, described as a mixture of ‘aristocracy, corporations, oligarchs and city bankers’, form the thin layer that rules over the rest of us. Many of these are super-rich families of exploiters who have dominated British society for generations, such as the Dukes of Beaufort, Bedford and Buccleuch-and of course, at the top of the parasitical pile, the Royal Family who astonishingly own 1.4% of the country on their own!

Guy Shrubsole, author of the investigation, commented:

We have this idea that the class structures have changed so that the aristocracy is not as important as it used to be. What this demonstrates is the continuing importance of the aristocracy in terms of wealth and power in our society. 

Together, his work and the SCM underline the urgency for a radical reversal of the balance of class power in an increasingly polarised UK, starting with the ejection of May and her gang from Downing Street.

Sean Ledwith

Sean Ledwith is a Counterfire member and Lecturer in History at York College, where he is also UCU branch negotiator. Sean is also a regular contributor to Marx and Philosophy Review of Books and Culture Matters

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