Two separate newspaper reports today struck me about the reality of today’s Britain.

The first – ‘Anger at gap between rich and poor‘ – in today’s Guardian presents the findings from an ICM poll:

“A sharp drop in economic confidence is hitting poorest people hardest, according to a Guardian/ICM poll published today. It shows that economic optimism has fallen away since the start of 2008…

…That suggests the gap between rich and poor is widening, a source of growing public resentment. A large majority, 75%, say the gap between high and low incomes is too wide in Britain, the highest ever level found by ICM. Only 15% think the wealth gap is about right. That suggests public unease about the so-called super-rich, amid political controversy among both main parties over plans to tax non-domiciled residents.”

The second article – ‘Life expectancy gap divides Birmingham‘ – in the Birmingham Post, highlights the difference in life expectancy between those who live in the most and least prosperous areas of the second city:

“A 10-year life gap separates residents in Birmingham’s prosperous suburbs from their counterparts in the inner city, a new study reveals..According to the study, men in the Sutton Four Oaks ward can expect to live 2.4 years longer than the national average of 76 years. The figure for women is 1.2 years above the national 80.5 years.

This is in stark contrast to Ladywood, where the mortality rate for men is 7.4 years below the national average and for women 3.4 years below…

…Councillor Carl Rice (Labour, Ladywood) said: “It is shocking. There are lots of reasons why this is the case in Ladywood including poor housing, low education levels, high unemployment. We know there is a lot we could do and should be doing.”

The reality of today’s Britain with its widening gap between rich and poor and its ever deepening inequality divide, sits in stark contrast to the observation made by Gordon Brown’s in his address to the Labour Party conference in 2006. As a result of the Labour government’s preceding nine years in power, Brown announced that this country is:

“no longer a Britain of ‘no such thing as society’ and me-tooism”

The intended meaning of Brown’s speech was that ‘new’ Labour had destroyed Thatcherism, encapsulating and epitomising her philosophy of heartless individualism by referencing her 1987 remark observation: “There is no such thing as society”. Despite suggestions to the contrary however, it seems that Brown was wrong and despite the spin that he and his new Labour cohorts want to put upon it, we’re still living in – and having to cope with – the lingering remains of that self-same ‘me-tooism’ that has permeated much of our society since the Thatcher years.

It’s a sad indictment – and huge disappointment for a lifelong Labour supporter – of the Party’s ten plus years in power not least because of the ringing endorsement for change and opportunity that British ‘society’ handed it following its landslide election victory in 1997. Sorry Gordon but there’s still too much ‘me-tooism’.

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