What the Rich List tells us about the Poor

by Jon Trickett


You may not always read Murdoch newspapers, but the Sunday Times Rich List is very revealing. This year we learnt that the wealth of the richest 1000 people had gone up by a staggering £513 billion pounds since the financial crash.


The rest of us haven't been so lucky.


There are roughly 33 million people working in Britain, and they've lost out on salaries and wages by roughly £450 billion.


Is it a coincidence that the amount of wealth accumulated by the richest matches almost exactly the loss in earnings of millions?


I am sceptical. The rich have done very well out of the Tories’ austerity agenda. And that is precisely what was meant to happen.


The financial crash was an opportunity for the government to engage in the biggest transfers of wealth from rich to poor that I’ve seen in my lifetime. From the Tories’ perspective, it has been a massive success.


The Conservatives are using a ridiculous, ideologically driven argument to justify the way they look after the richest in our country. They say that the money of the wealthy “trickles down” to the rest of the people. But I have never seen a shred of evidence of this theory. Nor have the billionaires who benefit from it.


Wealth doesn’t trickle down from rich to poor. It is hoovered up by the rich from the poor – and from middle-income earners also. When things are going badly, it’s working people who pay the price. But when things are going well, it’s the richest who benefit.


Look at the words of one of the richest men in the world, Warren Buffet:


“Between 1982 and today, the wealth of the [Forbes] 400 increased 29-fold — from $93 billion to $2.7 trillion — while many millions of hardworking citizens remained stuck on an economic treadmill. During this period, the tsunami of wealth didn’t trickle down. It surged upward.”


Let me compare two different 26-year olds, for example. I’ve only met one of them – a woman who lives in my area of Yorkshire. She worked as an assistant in psychiatric care. That work is hard and thankless. She deserves huge praise for what she has done.


She wanted to train as a nurse to do this for the rest of her life. She signed up to study, but then for health reasons had to defer for a year. In that year, the Tories removed the financial assistance for student nurses. So now she can’t afford to train. She’s a bright young woman, who could have served her community, but now won’t have a chance.


A different 26-year old. A certain Duke. He is one of the richest Brits on the Sunday Times’ 1000 list. In 2017, he inherited £9bn. He inherited it largely tax-free, because they know how to exploit legal loopholes and keep money in trusts. His family owns huge amounts of land in central London.


Perhaps it would be less irritating if more of the wealth in the country was kept by the millions of us that work hard, helping our economy by making things or providing services.


But their growing wealth is largely gained by the increase in the value of property, which the rich earn with their feet up.


How is this fair? Why is my constituent finding the door to life chances barred to her, while others have a charmed existence just because they know how to play the rigged game?


It’s clear the British Establishment use the rules to their own advantage, and when the Conservatives are in power they do everything to keep things that way.


Labour is determined to break open this system. To build a new kind of government. One which works for the many, and not just the few. It’s time for real change.

Jon Trickett is the Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, Shadow Lord President of the Council, and has been the MP for Hemsworth since 1996. @jon_trickett

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