A couple of days ago I flicked past Newsnight and heard the term “feral rich” for the first time. Two words you don’t often hear said together. They were referring to an article by Peter Oborne.
Originally written for The Telegraph, I found a copy on Open Democracy.
Mr Oborne’s article highlights the “terrifying decline in standards among the British governing elite”. He points to the scandal over politicians expenses. The hypocrisy of the government’s efficiency adviser Philip Green, sending a billion pound divided off shore.
While their actions may well have been within the law, they were not in Mr Oborne’s opinion, or mine, moral. Mr Oborne notes that “an almost universal culture of selfishness and greed has grown up” among those at the top. He offers the example is Rotherham MP Denis MacShane who in the House Of Commons debate about the riots remarked “What the looters wanted was for a few minutes to enter the world of Sloane Street consumption.” This from a man who claimed £5,900 for eight laptops. Of course, as an MP he obtained these laptops legally through his expenses.
While Mr Oborne racks up a steady count of politicians all guilty of hypocrisy. Exposing the “get what you can” mentality that infects our society from top to bottom, and argues “that the criminality in our streets cannot be dissociated from the moral disintegration in the highest ranks of modern British society”. I think you have to go back thirty years, to the government of Margaret Thatcher, to understand the true causes of what happened a couple of weeks ago.
Put simply you reap what you sow. Mrs Thatcher’s period in office set in motion a series of social changes that we are only now starting to pay for. Her premiership brought with it a social shift that positivity promoted an ethos of rampant self-interest. It is my opinion that the recent banking crisis was caused by individuals who began their careers while she was in office. Her ethos rose with them through the industry. It was her brand of greed that ultimately brought the banks down.
Prompted the massive bail outs, that has lead to the cuts, caused the unrest we saw in May, and ultimately exploded in recent lawlessness. The looters wanted what those at the top of the pyramid have, and got it, the way those at the top get it, by taking it.
I think Mrs Thatcher’s legacy roots deeper still. She changed the nature of our economy, from manufacturing to service. In doing so she condemned an entire generation of people to a life on benefits. Those people who now live the nightmare of joblessness, are exactly the same people who would have found work in manufacturing. Those failed by the education system, are now forced to compete in an employment market that is saturated with graduates. The irony is, with graduate unemployment now at its highest since the mid-nineties, even the most menial job is hard to get. What’s left for those without a university education? Minimum wage jobs that make befits seem like a pay cut?
Cutting benefits is not the solution. Creating jobs is the solution. Jobs that pay enough to give people a decent standard of living. How can that happen, when the cost of living is rising, and those at the top of the Sunday Times Rich List are able to increase their wealth by eighteen percent? It can’t. Because to create jobs you have to spend money, and this government is intent on deficit reduction. A deficit that should be paid off by those who caused the problem in the first place. The bankers put their interests about everyone else, and we’re paying the price. Not just in cuts, but in the social misery of poverty. Those at the bottom don’t have the luxury of walking away from their debts, why should the “feral rich” at the top?
The question shouldn’t be why did the riots happen? The question should be. Why aren’t there more riots?