With wages stagnant and more children growing up in poverty, there’s a place for Labour to reach voters who a better Britain.
No matter how exceptional the circumstances of Brexit and austerity, or how much is currently at stake, this election, like any other, can be boiled down to one thing: how politics resonates with voters’ lives. We saw it with the leave campaign’s “take back control” – a message that simultaneously spoke to fears and hopes – and hear it each time Theresa May positions herself as “strong and stable”. And, inconveniently for the Conservatives, it sits at the heart of the most important matter of all: in Britain today, millions of voters work hard, week in week out, but are struggling more than ever before.
The words Labour chose for the launch of its election campaign this week spoke directly to this feeling: 8 June is “a chance to take our wealth back”, to “transform Britain for the many not the few”, to overcome a “rigged” system. This is not empty rhetoric, but a response to what is now a reality for an increasing share of society.
For proof, just look at two news stories from the past seven days: one that made headlines, and the other that got barely a whisper. As 2017’s much-publicised “rich list” showed, the UK’s richest 1,000 individuals and families have watched their wealth grow 14% in the past year, while the Institute for Fiscal Studies released a report saying that during the course of the next parliament incomes would stagnate and inequality increase.
This comes as the Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts another year of squeezed wages and inflation spikes – that’s in the midst of the worst decade for pay growth since the Napoleonic wars – as outlays, from council tax, energy bills and the weekly shop continue to grow. The number of children in absolute poverty – the point where parents can’t afford even the essentials for their children – is now at its highest rate in almost two decades. The only reason poverty figures in general are unlikely to rise over the next five years is because the people set to be hit have already been pushed below the poverty line by previous cuts.