Thursday, 9 June 2011

Why British Labour lost the election

Courtesy of The Poverty Site (1):

Whatever else, good or bad it may have done, New Labour failed to do anything substantial to protect the interests of blue collar voters. The number of people living in households on less than 60% of the national average income stagnated. The numbers of those living on less than 40% of that average actually increased somewhat.

The poor, in other words, got poorer, and more people got poorer.

Meanwhile, unemployment remained steady at around 5% of the labour force - the industrial reserve army exerting downward pressure on the wages of those with jobs. From the start of the 80s though to about 1997, British unemployment ran at about or above 10% of the labour force, with an exceptional, short lived trough in the late 80s (2). Labour's term in office saw a drop in the number of people out of work, but no reduction in the numbers living in poverty. People were working to stay poor.

That 22% of the population living on less than 60% of the average wage represents some 14 million people, who didn't benefit from 13 years of Labour being in power. Is it any surprise they didn't turn up to vote in 2010?

One of the classic definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting a different result. The British proletariat are not insane.

As for the rich? Well, last year the Telegraph reported that there were some 280,000 millionaires in Britain - 1.1%, of the population - could claim to be millionaires, an increase on the year before. These individuals were 'worth' £1.28 trillion. Admittedly, the figures were down on the pre-crash 2007 high of 489,000, but I suspect the current figure reflects the real level of wealth, as opposed to people who have managed to create the self-gratifying illusion of being millionaires in an inflated market.
1 - "Proportion of people in low income houselholds, 1979-2009," unattributed graph. Posted on The Poverty Site. (
2 - "A Century of change: trends in Britain since 1900," by Joe Hicks & Grahame Allen.Research Paper 99/111, published by The House of Commons Library, 21st of December, 1999.
3 - "Number of millionaires in Britain 'rises to more than 280,000'," by Murray Wardrop. Published in The Telegraph, 30th of September, 2010. (

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