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Book Review A radical solution to inequality by ITV's political editor? Don't hold your breath

WTF
by Robert Peston
(Hodder and Stoughton, £20)

IN THIS book, ITV political editor Robert Peston attempts to unravel how the world became so divided between the haves and the have-nots and, while his economic analysis of neoliberalism is good in outlining the path that led us to where we are today, less impressive are the solutions.

 

Piecemeal, they appear to be something of a work in progress.

 

He explores the slowing of social mobility, the flatlining of wages over the last decade, a crisis in productivity and the uneven application of automation as contributing factors in creating an expanding group of disillusioned people who feel they have no stake in society.

 

He identifies how, over the last three decades, more of the wealth generated has accrued to owners rather than workers, with the demise of trade union power high on the list of reasons why and this is one area where the author advocates the Labour Party position on strengthening the power of unions.

 

Peston sees the growing disillusionment born of all these factors as fuelling the election of Trump, the vote for Brexit and the rise of Corbyn, but his take on the Labour leader is very much mainstream. Peston recognises the forces that brought him to prominence yet he does not seem to embrace the idea of a Corbyn-led Labour administration.

 

And he espouses the mainstream orthodoxy that Labour only did so well in last June's election because Remainers came in fully behind the party, going on to suggest that future Labour electoral success depends on the party firmly advocating remaining in the EU.

 

There are interesting chapters on the growing power of social media and the challenges represented by automation, with Peston identifying those most severely hit by this latest industrial revolution as manual and often unskilled workers who are also those most strongly represented among the disillusioned and disempowered.

 

Yet the identification of solutions — among them, Peston proffers a universal basic income, addressing productivity failures, a more active role for the state, regional interest rates and a uniform 1 per cent tax on those with £500,000 plus in wealth — are thinner on the ground.

 

In throwing some light on how we got into the present mess and making some suggestions as to how it can be escaped, WTF is well worth a read.

 

But, given Peston's media profile, don’t expect any revolutionary solutions.

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