Charles Kennedy: 'Inequality is worse now than it was under Thatcher'

From a New Year address by the leader of the Liberal Democrats

Share

This Labour government keeps telling us that Britain is getting better; but it's not getting better for everybody. Unfairness divides our society. Inequality is worse than under Margaret Thatcher. We have an unfair tax system which means those on the lowest earnings pay more of their income in tax than the richest. Yet the new economy and the new information society have brought challenges and opportunities which should enable every individual to have the chance to make the best of their lives.

Fundamental unfairness in modern Britain isn't just about wealth. It's about life-chances and opportunities. It's about social injustice which splits communities and divides families; and is embedded in the most fundamental aspects of life - housing, social mobility and education.

There are tens of thousands of families in the country living in overcrowded housing. Yet there are half a million fewer social homes now than when New Labour came to power in 1997.

The statistics are chilling. In 21st-century Britain, a baby born in Westminster will live, on average, eight years longer than a child born in the Canning Town area of London. While Department of Health figures show infant mortality is twice as high for children of parents in manual work as those in managerial and professional jobs.

The Prime Minister has made it a speciality to trot out statistics about how life in this country is improving. But it hasn't for these families and their children. Labour's short-termist policies, far from denting inequality, are actually contributing to a continuing widening of the gap between rich and poor. And what is worse, social mobility has stalled. Those born into poor circumstances are more likely to be trapped under Labour. It is the sad fact that a party once dedicated to the advancement of the underprivileged has presided over an ever-growing divide.

Unfairness breeds division, division breeds distrust. Public distrust - and New Labour's politics of fear - have already undermined some of the very foundations of the democratic society in which we live.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

 

In Sickness and in Health: 'I'm really happy to be alive and to see Rebecca'

Rebecca Armstrong
Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine