One of the reasons why I want to become your MP is because I read a book, The Spirit Level, about inequality in the developed world. It shows that the UK has the highest level of inequality after the US. It makes a clear link between inequality and a range of social problems, from levels of crime and stress, to teenage pregnancy and obesity. We can put forward policies for each of these, but until we tackle the underlying inequality, these problems will continue.
‘A Tale of Two Britains’, a recent report by Oxfam, stated that 1 in 5 people in the UK live below the poverty line; and that the five richest families in the UK are wealthier than the bottom 20% of the entire population. According to the council, 30% of households in Kirklees live below ‘an acceptable standard of living’.
In the sixth richest country in the world, we have seen an explosion in foodbanks since the coalition government came to power. Both the Welcome Centre and the Holmfirth and Honley foodbanks report a doubling in the number of people using them over the past year. I admire the selfless volunteers who staff the foodbanks and the enormous generosity of the public in making donations, But I’m appalled that so many of our fellow citizens need to resort to foodbanks.
Everything I would do as an MP would be driven by my determination to tackle inequality here in the UK and around the world.
Labour will do this by:
1 - Tackling poverty pay Labour will raise the National Minimum Wage to £8 per hour and ban unfair zero-hour contracts. Most children and working-age adults in poverty in the UK are living in working, not workless, households.
2 - Putting in place a just welfare system This will make sure that when we fall on difficult times, we can live with dignity. Labour will repeal the bedroom tax, and reform the disability assessment and the benefits sanctioning regime. The Conservatives have stated that they will freeze benefits for people of working age for two years. Yet the charity, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, says that at current levels of benefits a single adult of working age gets just 40% of the minimum they need to live on.
3 - Tackling tax avoidance and evasion This costs the country an estimated £35 billion a year - 30 times more than benefit fraud. Labour will apply an ‘anti-avoidance principle’, push for greater European and international action on multi-national companies and employ more tax inspectors.
4 - Supporting a progressive tax system We will bring back the 50p rate of tax for those earning over £150,000 a year and introduce a lower 10p starting rate of tax; and will impose a tax on properties valued over £2 million.
The Governor of the Bank of England recently said that “relative equality is good for growth”. I say that it is good for our families, for social cohesion, for a better world.