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John Simkin

Tony Blair and Inequality

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According to the Office for National Statistics the wealth of the super-rich had doubled since Tony Blair came to power. The top 1% of the UK wealth league owned assets worth £355bn in 1996. By 2002 it had increased to £797bn. On average, each individual in the top 1% was £737,000 better off under Blair.

In 1911 the wealthiest 1% held 70% of the UK’s wealth. By 1936 this had fallen to 56%. The trend continued and by 1991 it had reached 17%. However, led by Thatcher and loyally followed by Major and Blair, the trend was reversed. Just before Blair gained power it reached 20%. Following Thatcherite policies Blair/Brown have now got it up to 23%.

Meanwhile the wealth of the poorest 50% of the population shrank from 10% in 1986 (when Margaret Thatcher was in power) to 5% in 2002. The gap is the widest it has been since the 19th century.

The gap in life expectancy has also widened. Thirty years ago men from poorer backgrounds died 5.5 years before their more prosperous contemporaries; now the gap is 7.5 years.

The brave new world of Tony Blair.

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Report in the Daily Telegraph:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml.../08/ixhome.html

The gap between rich and poor has widened in the seven years since Labour came to power, according to a report by the Office of National Statistics.

Although the disposable incomes of the richest and poorest 10 per cent of Britain have increased since 1997, the biggest gains have been made by the wealthy.

The study also found that "voter apathy" was a myth and that people are now far more politically active than they were at the height of Margaret Thatcher's government.

The findings were published yesterday in a report called Focus On Social Inequalities. Penny Babb, its author, said the income of the richest and poorest tenths of the population had grown by around five per cent between 1997 and 2003.

But in absolute terms, the gap had widened. The poorest 10 per cent had seen a £28 rise, compared to the richest, who had seen a rise of £119 a week.

The wealthiest one per cent of the population have prospered, the report found. In 1996 they owned 20 per cent of the nation's wealth. By 2002 the figure had grown to 23 per cent. The authors believe the rise in house prices since 1997 explains much of the difference.

The report found that access to the internet at home was an indicator of inequality. Almost 80 per cent of the highest income households - those earning £1,000 or more a week - had internet access, compared to just 10 per cent of households in the lowest income bracket - those earning between £100 and £200.

There was a much narrower gap between rich and poor in access to washing machines or central heating.

The report also found that children's chances of doing well in exams depended enormously on their parent's qualifications and jobs.

In 2002, more than three quarters of children with parents in higher professional occupations achieved five or more GCSEs at grades A to C. Less than a third, just 32 per cent, of children with parents in "routine" jobs managed this.

"The report has shown that there has been a range of improvements in various aspects of our lives - from the amount we earn and our success at school to the degree of our well-being," said Mrs Babb. "But we haven't all benefited equally, with some showing greater gains than others."

Although turnouts have fallen at every general election since 1992, the public is more passionate than ever about politics.

In 1986 just 34 per cent said they had signed a petition. By 2002, 43 per cent said they had.

In the mid-1980s around six per cent had gone on a protest march, compared to 12 per cent in 2002, and in 1986 11 per cent had contacted their MP, compared to 17 per cent in 2002.

"With the exception of voting, civic participation in Great Britain increased from the mid-1980s to 2000, with a peak in the early 1990s," the report found.

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