The news that Britain "now ranks 28th out of 34 countries in the equality league table" is appalling, and something which should become a major election issue in the next sixteen months. Cameron, Osborne and Clegg may have suddenly become very concerned for the low-paid, but it is clearly Labour`s responsibility to propose some major redistribution of the country`s wealth, and it could make a start by restoring some of the trade unions` lost power; promising legislation to ensure workers` representation at boardroom level would at least restore an element of collective bargaining. If it was sensible for West Germany to adopt this policy of co-determination in the early 1950s, it`s surely about time Britain did, in the 21st century!
Pledges on minimum wage levels might be sufficient for the Tories, but the inevitable response from employers, anxious to maintain profit levels, will be more part-time and zero-hours contracts, and, no doubt, a greater determination to cheat the taxman. Unscrupulous and unregulated landlords will be eager to share in their tenants` pay rise by increasing rents, so Labour`s "joined-up" thinking on these issues is essential. Similarly, promises to increase taxation need not be shirked, as long as they are based on a return to fairness; even in Thatcher`s day, top levels of income tax were 60%, and there are few arguments, economic or ethical, against the present need for top rates to be higher. Fear of losing the support of the "squeezed middle" should not be a problem, as those around average incomes or below pay enough taxes already. Rich, who enjoy the benefits of the country`s taxpayer- funded health, transport and security systems, but who avoid paying their fair share should lose all honours and representative positions.
Ally a progressive tax policy to a determination to root out avoidance and punish evaders with imprisonment, and not only would Labour start making headway on the road to less inequality, it might even win the election!