A Party for the Poor

June 21, 2009

Economic inequality in the UK is at the highest it has been since records began in 1961. The gap between the rich and the poor in Britain has almost reached a record level. 2.9 million children are currently living below the breadline. A child’s social class background at birth is still the best indicator of how well he or she will do in school and later on in life. The gap in socio-economic circumstances between children growing up in social housing and their peers is greater now than for any previous post-war generation. The lower your socio-economic position the greater your risk of low birth-weight, infections, cancer, coronary heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, accidents, nervous and mental illnesses – in other words class kills.

Despite these facts Labour – a political party that once claimed to represent the working class and the poor – has abandoned its ambitions to halve child poverty by 2010. As we mentioned before this would have cost in the region of 3-5 billion, less than a 100th of the amount of public money given to bail out UK banks. Financial equality leads to a happier, more stable society, but when it came to the crunch Labour were all too happy to abandon the poor working class.

In truth the working class (especially the poorer sections of the working class) no longer have any form of political representation. All current political parties serve the same narrow interests; they exist purely to satisfy the needs of more privileged members of society. Support for poor communities now comes almost entirely from the voluntary sector – though even this is threatened thanks to the global recession.

But no amount of aid or charity work will bring about the changes that are urgently needed in our society if we are to truly combat poverty. Only an organised working class political movement could ever hope to achieve this. As the IWCA have recently pointed out in their excellent ‘Labour got what it deserved – and so did the BNP’ article…

“a progressive working class party [sic]t could very well mop up across entire boroughs where previously Labour and then the BNP had once ruled the roost. Why such a possibility exists is because as Searchlight admits ‘in some places such as Barking and Dagenham, one of the fundamental problems is the absence of any mainstream alternative to Labour, so the BNP is the sole beneficiary of the anti-Labour protest vote.’ As the big three continue to shed activists (according to one report the Tories have shed 40,000 members since Cameron took over) and atrophy in terms of popular support, it is a trend that can only become more widespread.

But how to get from the present to there is the tricky bit. One factor is certain. A long-term strategy is now required. It is unlikely there will be any short cuts. So it is the long game or nothing. A daunting prospect. But on the plus side the opportunities unfolding before our eyes do have an undeniable once-in-a-century feel about them.”

Anyone who is angered by poverty and inequality should read the full article and step up to the plate; it’s time to get organised. Get in touch with the IWCA and with local activists in your area (anyone who lives in sunny Doncaster should feel free to contact us via verymerrymen[at]gmail.com). Militant working class activists of all persuasions must come together if we are to seize this ‘once-in-a-century’ opportunity.

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