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Star Comment: Working for the super rich

THE Sunday Times Rich List revelation that the wealth of the 1,000 richest people in Britain has grown by 15.4 per cent over the last year shows that government policies are a huge success.

They are working a dream for the people represented by the conservative coalition — the wealthy elite.

The fact that their combined assets, less whatever they have in bank accounts, total almost £519 billion should put to bed the politicians’ constant refrain that policies to benefit the working class are unattainable because the country can’t afford it.

Rich List occupants are the cosseted minority prioritised by Tories and Liberal Democrats through a five-point reduction in the top rate of income tax and ever-decreasing corporation tax.

Even David Cameron believed it might be difficult to drop the income tax bombshell on voters lectured daily on tightening our belts.

He was talked into it by George Osborne and Boris Johnson, while Liberal Democrats sugared the pill by raising the tax threshold for the poorest, using these crumbs to justify the top dogs’ bonanza.

Apologists for the plutocrats insist that the top 10 per cent of the population is heavily taxed, providing 52 per cent of taxation.

In reality, it is 52 per cent of cash raised through income tax, which represents just 30 per cent of tax receipts.

VAT and other indirect taxes, which have a disproportionate effect on the low-paid, make up the other 70 per cent.

When the coalition raised the VAT rate three years ago from 17.5 per cent to 20 per cent, this tax on people’s shopping brought an annual windfall of about £15 billion.

No wonder working people, pensioners and benefits claimants still have difficulty making ends meet and have detected little evidence of an economic recovery.

New Labour critics of Ed Miliband, such as Simon Danczuk MP and candidate Tristan Osborne, attack the party leader for banging on about the cost of living crisis and expecting to be elected in response to government unpopularity.

Danczuk says that the economy is “picking up,” reinforcing the idea that the government is doing well while Osborne insists that the party should be appealing to the “aspirational southern voter.”

This last point is the usual new Labour code for closer political convergence with conservative coalition policies.

Aspiration to a better life is not confined to southern England. Nor can it only be answered by tax breaks for the corporate sector and the wealthy. 

There is a collective as well as an individualist approach to improving living standards.

No-one should be amazed that a recovery of sorts has begun. Capitalism develops through boom and boost, expansion and crisis.

The ruling class and its political representatives have used the crisis to impoverish and weaken the working class in order to spark a recovery based on “flexibility” — zero-hours contracts, workfare, cuts in real pay and increased insecurity for the workforce.

In one sense, the new Labourites are right. Simply expecting Miliband to enter Downing Street on a tidal wave of popular dissatisfaction is a dangerous illusion.

Misery has to be tinged with hope based on concrete expectations of a positive alternative, which is missing.

Without exposing the class content of coalition policies and, most crucially, offering a different economic approach that challenges entrenched wealth and power, Labour will either lose next year or scrape in and fail its supporters by dashing their aspirations.

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