Equality in the Eyes of the Law

Every person in the United Kingdom is equal in the eyes of the law. But some are more equal than others.

When a lower class criminal sticks their hand in the till and takes a few grand the full weight of the law crashes down, splattering them like a bug. They will be publicly named and shamed, fined, and imprisoned.

When a wealthy businessman or banker commits a crime (often involving millions of pounds) they get a slap on the wrist, a comparatively small fine, or it is swept under the carpet completely. Or, which to me is even scarier, they follow legal channels so that they’re not technically doing anything wrong at all, even though they are causing just as much pain and damage to us underlings. To quote a Morrissey song, “Educated criminals work within the law”.

Look at the Libor scandal. Libor (which stands for London Interbank Offered Rate) is an average interest rate that many markets use as a reference point. It turned out that banks, most notably Barclays, were manipulating Libor for their own benefit – highly illegal. They stole billions, but was anyone held accountable? I bet hundreds should have got prison time for their part in the scandal, but they got off with a few measly fines.

Big companies are exempt from the law. Now and again, in extreme circumstances, one person will take the blame and lose their job. Yeah, and if I went to work on Monday and battered someone to death I’d lose my job too. But I’d also go to prison.

Then there’s the ability of the upper class to pay for the best solicitors (getting “justice” is easy if you can afford it).

And don’t get me started of judges! The people dishing out the sentences are from the same stock as the bankers, politicians, and the leaders in industry. The lack of diversity in the judicial system leaves it filled with out-of-touch white upper class males (and therefore the whole system benefits white upper class males).

To have equality in the UK we need to get the basics right. Equality in the eyes of the law is a must!

To be Blunt…

MP Chris Bryant stated that it is easier for a person from a privileged background to succeed in the arts, specifically naming actor, Eddie Redmayne, and musician, James Blunt. James Blunt responded via an open letter, very maturely calling the MP a “classist gimp” and a “wazzock” before moaning about how hard he has had it, and that it was just as difficult for him to succeed in the arts.

James Blunt was born in an affluent area of the country. His father was a colonel in the army. He went to the best schools (Harrow) and his education was paid for with army bursaries. After education he went into the army and trained at Sandhurst, and was fast-tracked into high ranking positions. While in the army, he didn’t deal with the hand-to-hand combat and getting shot at kind of thing so much as captaining his army ski team. To be Blunt isn’t such a bad thing, as far as I can see, thanks to Colonel Daddy. During this privileged start he was able to listen to, learn, and compose music. He was also able to make contacts with powerful people and earn a lot of money. James Blunt is the definition of a “Chosen One”.

On the flipside, a person brought up in a terraced house, who starts with nothing, who goes to work in a factory at 16, who worries mainly about housing and feeding oneself, may not even think to pick up an instrument or a paint brush. Art is a luxury that people can turn to once the essentials are covered.

But James Blunt says that his privileged background was a disadvantage in the world of the arts. Believe it or not, I agree with him.

Working class people are the most diverse, interesting, gritty, thoughtful people on the planet. They are exposed to harsh lifestyles. They experience hardships and horrors daily. They work the hardest jobs for the crappest pay, and at the end of the week they go home to their families with a smile on their face. This is where real art originates.

Anything the James Blunts of the world can come up with will pale in comparison. James Blunt may be able to walk into opportunities because of his social class, and he may be rich beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. But he will never write a song with the heart, pain, and emotion that the likes of Bruce Springsteen has written. He will never compose a melody that will rival anything by the Beatles. His voice will never convey emotion like Morrissey. He will never mesmerise a crowd like Tom Waits. He will never put his soul into an instrument like BB King or Jimi Hendrix.

So yes, I believe Blunt’s true artistic ability is diminished by his privileged life. But make no mistake, to be Blunt isn’t a bad thing, and I’m not going to shed a tear for him.

Democracy Day

Today is Democracy Day on the BBC – an event that marks the 750th anniversary of parliament and the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta (which established that the King was no longer above the law of the land).

The sealing of the Magna Carta transferred some of the King’s powers over to the nobles, and democracy as we know it in the UK stemmed from there. However, it hasn’t evolved quite as much as it could have done. Maybe that’s because parliament is used as a tool for individuals to gain and maintain power as opposed to being a force for good and equal opportunities across the country.

All those years ago, it was the nobles who were given the power. Fast forward to today, and it’s our modern day nobles that have all the power.

Of course, most UK residents are allowed to vote in elections now, as opposed to the privileged few. But we weren’t handed that opportunity on a silver platter. The people of the UK had to fight for their rights every step of the way. 750 years of parliament, and women were only given the vote in the 20s (by that I mean the nineteen twenties). Does that sound as crazy to you as it does to me? It wasn’t until the late 1960s that 18, 19 & 20 year olds were given the vote.

When people gain power they use that power to keep it. All the positive changes to democracy have come through relentless dogfighting, and further rights are given to the masses only sparingly and reluctantly as a way to try to appease people. This process has been continuously plodding on for 750 years, and we are still far from having a fair democracy in the UK.

The Chosen Ones still have a death grip on our society. Power is still hereditary. The underclass don’t have an official sway on policy (our only unofficial sway we have on policy and law is striking and protesting – a concept that is slowly dying thanks to legislation brought in by people in power that reduces the power of unions).

One could argue that the UK isn’t really democratic at all. A component of our parliament is the House of Lords, the second largest decision-making body after China’s National People’s Congress. It consists of nearly 800 unelected officials. And we supposedly live in a democratic country. It’s embarrassing!

What do we actually vote for, anyway? We have the choice of a few select careerists, and that’s our say over with. After that, it’s over to them to make all of the decisions (which is democracy for them, but not for us). What if, for example, you vote for Nick Clegg based on his shameful lies and then he gets elected into office? You’re stuck with him making decisions for you for the next five years just because of one day of public voting.

Of course, now and again a referendum comes along (see Scottish Independence), where the public get a chance to vote on one political question. However, this only occurs when either A) the government is pretty confident they’re going to get the outcome they want or B) they want to wash their hands of the decision and blame the outcome on the public.

Here’s an idea, why don’t we get rid of parliament and make ALL of the decisions ourselves? In this day and age most people have a computer, a smart phone, a tablet. I wouldn’t mind getting messages sent through to me a couple of times a week asking me how I want my country to be run. We could use the money we’d save on politicians’ wages to provide a tablet to all the people too poor to buy one for themselves, and invest in a broadband network to improve communication channels.

This would be true democracy, free of power-grabbing careerists. Do you think we could make this happen? No. Because the power-grabbing careerists in power wouldn’t allow it.

Happy Democracy Day, everyone!

Mansion Tax

The prospect of a Mansion Tax has really rubbed rich people up the wrong way.

Myleene Klass has stated that the Mansion Tax, which would be aimed at properties worth over £2m, would affect “little grannies” in London. I believe that’s what she’s concerned about as much as I believe that David Cameron really cares about whether or not the Green Party are involved in the TV election debates.

Millionaire Myleene stated that £2m wouldn’t get you much in London, and that these “little grannies” will have had these properties passed down to them through the generations. Firstly, as I have touched on in a previous blog, some wealthy people are completely out of touch with the real world, therefore, what Myleene Klass classes as “not much” could well be a mansion to someone like us. Secondly, if people are getting mansions passed down to them through generations, these are the types of people who are born into wealth and don’t have to lift a finger their whole lives. Thirdly, if the Mansion Tax would cause these people so much hardship (although, what they call hardship and we call hardship may be totally different things), they could move away from London and purchase a whole street in the North.

Other well-off people have spoken up against the Mansion Tax. Do they expect people to show sympathy for them? If you have a property worth over £2m, you’re a very lucky, wealthy person.  I have seen a lot sympathy for these rich people in the press…but maybe that’s because the people who run the media are very wealthy people with £2m properties. Take it with a pinch of salt. And be under no illusions, very few of these people went from rags to riches. 99.9% of them were privileged from birth and had opportunities presented to them on a platter. The other 00.1% will know what it’s like on the flipside of the coin and won’t oppose the tax.

I’ve seen a few common arguments against the Mansion Tax. One is that a person may have bought a house for much less than £2m originally, but it has since gone up in value. So, am I supposed to shed a tear because the value of someone’s property has skyrocketed? Wait, isn’t that what dreams are made of!?

Some say it’s not equitable because the cash-poor asset-rich owner of a large house is liable for this tax. In other words, these are people who inherit a mansion and blow their money on a hedonistic lifestyle instead of getting a job. If born to the underclass these people would be called scroungers, deadbeats and bums. If they’re so cash poor, why don’t they sell their £5m mansion, buy a £1.5m property (if that’s not beneath them), and then live on their £3.5m? You wouldn’t have to work a day in your life with that sort of dinero. Or they could keep the house, and maybe just sell off one of their Ferraris, or a Rembrandt, to help pay the tax.

A Mansion Tax would help reduce wealth inequality in the UK and redistribute resources to help people at the other end of the scale. The rich will still be rich. The poor will still be poor. But it would be a step towards improving the quality of life of the worst off amongst us.

Bring on the Mansion Tax.

The Primitive Working Class

It’s no secret that the elite upper class that run the United Kingdom are completely out of touch with every day working class people. This is obvious due to the constant blunders that we witness on TV, radio, and social media. They are so out of touch that when they try to look ‘in-touch’ they look more out of touch than ever.

Rory Stewart (MP) describing his constituents as “primitive”. Michael Fallon (Defence Secretary) saying that towns on the East coast are “under siege” and “being swamped” by migrants. Lord Mandelson saying unemployed Brits are unwilling to work. Would he work in poor conditions for minimum wage?

I know Alan Duncan (MP) wouldn’t. He famously complained that MPs were treated like “s–t” and had to live off of “rations”. For those of you that don’t know, MPs get a basic pay of 64 grand a year, not including expenses. My heart bleeds.

Similarly, Boris Johnson (Mayor of London), described the £250,000 earning from his newspaper column as “chickenfeed”. Maybe if you’re a supplier for KFC.

Gaffes like this are commonplace, and they’re all very funny until you realise that these people aren’t cartoon characters. They are actually making real decisions about our lives. They are the ones representing us worldwide. Most of them see the working class as a curiosity at best, sub-human at worst.

This is dangerous because 1) they are making decisions about things they don’t understand and 2) they are causing people to turn to despicable political parties such as UKIP (who are also out of touch upper class elitists, only with nastier intent and ideology).

The UK is stuck in a rut. I believe the 18th century parliamentary set-up we have is out-dated. We need a huge political reform that encourages a representative cross-section of society to make decisions at the highest level.

Baby is Born

Baby is born.

Baby is brought up in a mansion in the countryside. Baby has everything he needs, and more. Baby has the best food, baby has the best toys, baby even breathes the best air.

Baby goes to the top schools, baby is taught English, Maths, and confidence to the highest level. Baby goes to the best university. Baby walks straight into a high-paying occupation thanks to family contacts. Baby makes sure he makes friends with other babies in roles of high power and baby makes money. Baby makes sure his friends make money. Baby calls in debts and pulls strings and rises to power in politics.

Baby has the right look. Baby has the right luck. Baby becomes Prime Minister. Baby rules the country. Baby stops being Prime Minister. Baby calls in debts he accrued from his leadership and walks into a very high-paying job for a few years.

Baby retires. Baby moves into a mansion in the countryside. Baby has everything he needs, and more. Baby has the best food, baby has the best toys, baby even breathes the best air. Baby watches his baby get a high-paying job and rise to power. Baby dies, aged 90.

Baby is born.

Baby is brought up on a council estate. Baby has nothing. Baby is malnourished, baby has simple toys, baby breathes in toxic air from nearby factories.

Baby goes to state schools. Baby is taught keeping out of trouble, street smarts, and self loathing. Baby walks straight into unemployment. Baby makes friends with others like him. Baby gets a job in the factory. Baby never makes money.

Baby works so he can live. Baby works so his baby can live. Baby keeps working. Baby never retires. Baby dies, aged 60.

The Chosen Ones

Inequality is everywhere you look.

There is race discrimination, gender discrimination, nationality discrimination, sexuality discrimination, age discrimination, and religious discrimination everywhere. There’s even discrimination discrimination, where people are discriminated against depending on who they themselves discriminate. These are all very real. But, in my opinion, these are all sub-categories under the umbrella of the ultimate inequality tool: class discrimination.

Let’s just look at one of the highest employment positions of the UK: Prime Minister. How many Prime Ministers came from wealthy backgrounds and studied at OxBridge? Answer: all of ’em. So let’s have a look at my situation. I was born into a coal-mining/steel-working family. I studied hard and got decent grades despite living on the breadline. I wanted to go to university, so I got a job at a popular DIY chain and worked there for a year before getting a place at Sheffield Hallam University, where I studied hard and earned my degree.

After all that, which is more life experience than any UK Prime Minister in history has ever had, I had statistically zero-chance of becoming Prime Minister. In fact, a life in politics was never put forward to me as an option throughout my whole academic life. Why? Because that sort of job isn’t for the likes of me.

In the 80s we had our first female Prime Minister. Thatcher managed to break a glass ceiling within the sub-division of gender inequality. But, of course, she didn’t break the titanium ceiling of socio-economic discrimination because she was an out-of-touch OxBridge toff.

And this is much bigger than the Prime Minister role. The same can be said for all the other high-powered, influential roles in the UK: religious positions, big company executives, media head honchos, and, of course, those damn dirty bankers.

The country is run by a council of Chosen Ones, and it has been since our Kingdom became United. The positions of this council are as hereditary as our monarchy and we have reached a situation where a privileged few who are born into power control the 65 million people who inhabit our islands (despite there being many more intelligent, experienced people who are better equipped to run the country).

This issue is right under our noses and it never gets mentioned. Is that because people can’t see the forest for the trees? Do the Chosen Ones distract us with other issues so we don’t see the elephant in the room? Do people think this is the way it should be, and that lower class scum shouldn’t be allowed to make the big decisions? Is it because people think it’s something that can’t change, so why waste time discussing it? Meanwhile the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

The class gap is putting a lot of people under immense pressure, and it is becoming increasingly apparent that a portion of the upper class are completely out of touch regarding underclass issues (“the unemployed are lazy” “the mansion tax will destroy us” “let them eat cake”) – and, scarily, i’m starting to see more and more evidence of certain upper class people viewing the working class as lesser being, and not worthy of the type of life that they themselves enjoy.

I think we need a big change urgently, and I believe change comes from the bottom up (the people at the top don’t want change because, well, they’re at the top!). But has the working class got any fight left in it, or has the relentless barrage from Tory governments turned us into submissive dogs? I know that France took a stand when the government tried to raise the retirement age to 62, but the UK doesn’t seem to care that our government want us to work till we’re dead so that we’re not such a burden on the state.

Are the Chosen Ones here to stay?