The Labour parliamentary establishment is squealing like Footsie 100 executives whose bonuses are being taken away. The election of Jeremy Corbyn as his party’s leader has exposed the gross inequality in policy influence which has developed in recent decades.
Go back to the 1970s and 80s and the annual conference debated and decided policy. Since then conference has become a jamboree and power centralised. This policy grab has followed a similar timeline to to the increasing pay differential between the well paid and the poor which has risen faster in the UK than in most western countries.
The reaction of some of the Labour figures who have chosen the back benches above support for the new leader is likely to be as nothing as Corbyn moves to reduce the “gross inequality” of income in the UK, his first priority. In 1986 the top 10 percent in the UK earned eight times more than people in the bottom 10 per. By 2008 this figure has risen to 12 times, according to a report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
I believe one of the reasons why pay inequality has grown so much faster in the UK is the emasculation of the trade unions under Margaret Thatcher which Labour failed to roll-back when in power. Working as a industrial reporter I saw how, in the 70s, unions used pay inequality as a bargaining tool: companies were restrained in raising top pay by the knowledge that information in the annual accounts would be used by the unions to energise their members.
Giving power back to the unions which has to be a part of Corbyn’s attempt to reduce income inequality will unleash vicious attacks from the wealthy.
It is not just the left that sees this as an issue. The OECD sees rising equality as a threat to encomium growth and social stability. This video uses average figures fro OECD countries.
The situation in the UK is worse. The tables below are from a 2014 OECD report.
The first table shows that the wealthiest one percent’s share of UK income is second only to the United States and has risen more than any of our European competitors. Some countries have seen no or relatively small rises.