This excellent book has been rendered almost irrelevant by the current Government's dismantling of our "Welfare State", but its analysis of the obscene divide between the greed at the top and the misery at the bottom of our society is still accurate, though the greed and the misery have markedly increased over the past four years.
There are some interesting reviews for this book on these pages . I fail to see how any decent egalitarian human being could have any issues with what the authors of this book have put forward and the arguments they raise against the injustice and inequality in our society. Polly Toynbee and David Walker of the Guardian point out that Britain has the second most unequal society among developed countries, after the USA. A UNICEF report of 2007 found that Britain was the worst of 21 `rich' countries for children to grow up in. A fifth of children still live in poverty. After over 12 years of a Labour Government. I vacillated between anger and despair reading this book as the damming facts just kept coming . The authors note that since 1997 the richest 10%'s share of the nation's wealth has risen from 47% to 54%. They write, "parental income pretty accurately predicts whether a child will win or lose in life: the more unequally income is shared, the tighter the link becomes." They note "Boardroom pay is like plunder, you take what you can get away with " and that is has risen by "Many multiples more than average pay ". They also point that tax cuts for the rich rather than removing the incentive to cheat ( only rich people of course can afford the lawyers to do this for them ) makes them more determined to hang on to what they've got. The fact they feel their tax take is misspent almost goes without saying . What might not be so obvious is just how out of touch some of the top earners are. When interviewed top earners in the city are astonished how little other people earn. It is also more pertinently pointed out that the popular conception( especially in the right wing press ) of what the benefits culture cost this country is a drop in a green backed ocean compared to what the rich get away with - using offshore funds and non-domicile status to avoid paying tax to the tune of at least £12 billion a year . This is truly scandalous not the fact that some people work for cash while claiming dole, though I do not condone that either. The book is not just a tirade against the rich , though it will be viewed as such by many .The book tells of projects such as Sure Start, project stated by the Government which improves the early years of children's life's and Newall Green, a primary school in a deprived part of Manchester, turned round by its head teacher. The authors also make clear what they believe will improve things and bring us into line with more egalitarian countries like Sweden .These include tightening the tax and capital gains system , closing loopholes, minimizing the "tax gap " only allowing representation in the Lords by people who pay British taxes and making the minimum wage more realistic. Interestingly on the day I write this the Liberal democrats have announced that under their tax plans anyone earning less than £10,000 per annum will be exempt from tax , with higher taxes from the rich making up the deficit. This, as I stated earlier, seems only fair and simple common sense. Fairness and justice seems to be increasingly hard to come by in modern Britain . The Labour party should be thoroughly ashamed that they have had so long in power and done so little to bridge the gap between the rich and poor. That the Tories would have only made it worse is little comfort and after all , it is what we expect from them .
I found reading the book like a series of long newspaper columns. The issue was the absence of a single narrative which made the book a very difficult read indeed. The other factor was that most of the arguments against taxes and charities etc are known well by now, which further compounded my disinterest. The book is also very pro Labour which became the third non interesting factor for me.