Vast Inequality Is a Stain on Our Society


By Green Party MEP Keith Taylor

Is there a starker reminder of the inequalities in our society than the publication of The Sunday Times Rich List?

Once a year the paper adds fame to the fortune of the richest people in our land. 2014’s list revealed that we have now have over 100 billionaires enjoying the high life in the upper echelons of our society.

The publication of The Rich List this year came just after new figures revealed what’s going on at the other end of our economy. Those stats, from the Trussel Trust, showed a huge increase in the number of people needing emergency handouts from food banks. In my constituency, where many of the billionaires have a property or two, the number of food bank users was up by over 100%.

For some, the food bank figures won’t be cause for alarm. If the food bank users work hard enough, some will say, they too can become the billionaires of tomorrow. But, behind this British adaptation of the American dream, lies the fact that those born into poverty are highly unlikely to make it to the top while those born into wealth will probably die rich. Indeed a study by the OECD showed that Britain has the lowest level of social mobility of any of the similar countries surveyed.

‘Working your way out of poverty’ is an appealing slogan for politicians, but the reality is that the majority of people in poverty are working. Many employers don’t pay staff enough to get by on, so people are forced to work all of the hours of the day to keep their heads above water.

It’s no coincidence, by the way, that a highly unequal country like Britain has low social mobility. According to economists like Joseph Stiglitz, inequality stifles people’s chance of climbing up the ladder.

It’s astounding, when you take a moment to think about it, that we live in a country where your chances in life continue to be closely linked to the income of your parents. For the 3.5 million children living in poverty in the UK, the chances of ever appearing in the Sunday Times Rich List, are impossibly slim.

Free marketers will accuse those of us worried about inequality of engaging in the ‘politics of envy’. But this is the politics of justice. The market is not free and never will be. Instead it is rigged against those with the least. It shouldn’t be seen as radical to say that we don’t want billionaires to get richer while poor people suffer, yet the media derides those who dare to stand up against inequality.

Thomas Piketty’s new book, Capital, hits on one of the great injustices in our society. That the super rich – who own multiple properties as house prices surge, gamble on the stock market and set up offshore bank accounts – are drowning in income they aren’t working for, while many people are working for an income that doesn’t even cover the basics.

In the UK the level of inequality is shocking. Figures released today show that the top 10% of households own 44% of the wealth in this country, while the bottom 50% own just 9% of the wealth. One if five people have no savings whatsoever.

There can be no greater challenge to a just society than a gaping divide between rich and poor. And it’s a problem that, by it’s very nature, will only get worse unless serious action is taken. That means both lifting the poorest out of poverty and also bringing the richest back down to earth.

And that is where the European elections on May 22nd come in. For Greens these elections are all about the kind of economy we want in Britain. Do we want an economy run for 104 billionaires, or for everyone else? Neither the Coalition, nor Labour have used their chance in power to deal with the soaring wealth at the top of British society – and UKIP would prefer to blame migrants for the country’s problems while letting their millionaire mates off the hook.

Greens are different. We aren’t afraid to say that we want social security protected and the richest in society to contribute more. We have no millionaire backers stopping us from clamping down on the speculators in the City. The bankers don’t like it when Green MEPs cap their bonuses, or curb the power of finance firms, but we’re not in politics to please them, we’re in it to build a fairer society.

At this election everyone has a stark choice. You can either vote for ‘business as usual’ or you can vote Green for a party that takes inequality seriously, and isn’t scared of addressing the deep rooted imbalance in our economy. It’s time to say no to an economy which rewards the gamblers in the city and punishes the poor. And it’s time to say yes to a politics that dares to challenge the power of those with the money.

 You can read the original article in Huffington Post here

Follow Keith Taylor on Twitter here 

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GREEN MEPs Jean Lambert and Keith Taylor have launched a bid to ban ‘canned hunting ‘ – the practice of shooting captive lions and other wildlife for trophies.

They have asked the European Commission to ban the import into the EU of any such trophies, which have increased in popularity since hunting lions and other endangered wildlife has been outlawed in many countries.

According to UK-based charity Lion Aid, as many as 8,000 lions are being bred in captivity for holiday-makers to shoot with bows and arrows and even pistols in South Africa alone.

So-called ‘canned hunting’ – the practice of shooting captive-bred animal for trophies – is an abhorrent and sordid business, and should be banned immediately,” said Jean Lambert.

While it is mainly happening outside the EU we can’t directly put a stop to it, but we can ban the import of any such ‘trophies’ that result to discourage EU holiday-makers from taking part in this unacceptably-cruel activity.”

Green MEP Keith Taylor, who has co-signed the request to ban the import of canned hunting ‘trophies’ into the EU, said: “We must try to stop the breeding of mammals simply for holiday-makers to kill for fun: banning the import of these ‘trophies’ is something we can do almost immediately.

As a recent World Trade Organisation ruling observed, it is perfectly lawful to restrict imports on moral grounds.”

Should public transport be free to cut shocking air pollution?

ktGreen MEP Keith Taylor has suggested public transport should be free to cut shocking air pollution after Parisian authorities make public transport free due to smog

Keith Taylor is calling on local authorities to consider making public transport free this weekend in response to a wave of air pollution hitting the South of England.

Keith Taylor, the Green Party MEP, is making the calls as the UK, and his constituency in particular, suffer a second day of high levels of air pollution. His call follows the decision by Paris’ authorities to make public transport free this weekend because of air pollution.

Mr Taylor said:

“I’m urging local authorities in areas hit by air pollution to do all they can to cut the health risks of this smog. In Paris the authorities are making public transport free as they recognise the dangers of high levels of air pollution.

Local authorities must do everything in their power to cut the air pollution levels, and in this emergency situation they should consider ways to make public transport free so as to encourage people to leave their cars at home.

It’s particularly crucial that the Mayor of London and the council’s in South East England look at acting immediately on the smog hitting their areas.”

According to the Department for Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), the current levels of air pollution in South East England are ‘high’ and are expected to remain so for the rest of the day. The rest of the UK is also forecast to experience ‘high’ levels of air pollution today.

At this level of pollution Government advice states that:

“Adults and children with lung problems, and adults with heart problems, should reduce strenuous physical exertion, particularly outdoors, and particularly if they experience symptoms. People with asthma may find they need to use their reliever inhaler more often. Older people should also reduce physical exertion.”

Keith Taylor, the Green Party’s MEP for South East England and a clean air campaigner, went on to say:

“This smog episode poses a serious threat to my constituents and I urge everyone, especially those with health problems, to follow Government guidelines in order to keep safe.

The fact is that we shouldn’t be needing ‘emergency measures’ to cut air pollution, we should be working to cut levels permanently.

This episode highlights the fact that we simply aren’t doing enough on air pollution in the UK. Every year nearly 30,000 people die prematurely because of air pollution – yet the issue isn’t taken nearly as seriously as it should be.

“People in my constituency with health problems are being forced to stay indoors and avoid exercise exposes. This exposes the fact that much more needs to be done by the Government and local councils to cut pollution levels. We know that most air pollution is caused by road vehicles and local councils need to work to reduce the amount of traffic in our city centres.

Nobody should be forced to stay indoors because of air pollution. That’s why we need to cut the amount of motorised vehicles, particularly those using diesel, on our city centre roads and move towards cleaner transport solutions.”

South East England hit by ‘smog’

Green MEP responds to pollution alert in his constituency

Levels of air pollution in South East England are so high that people’s health is likely to be affected, according to Government monitoring.

According to the Daily Air Quality Index, produced by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affiairs (DEFRA), air pollution in South East England is at ‘level 8’, or ‘high’.  At this level of pollution Government advice states that:

“Adults and children with lung problems, and adults with heart problems, should reduce strenuous physical exertion, particularly outdoors, and particularly if they experience symptoms. People with asthma may find they need to use their reliever inhaler more often. Older people should also reduce physical exertion.”

According to the DEFRA website levels of air pollution in urban areas are at level 9 – just one point off the worst possible level.

Currently the highest levels of one pollutant, know as PM2.5, in South East England are:

Eastbourne – Level 10

Storrington – Level 9

Portsmouth – Level 8

Chatham – Level 8

Oxford – Level 7

DEFRA only monitors a few locations but the general pollution for South East England level is at 8. Continue reading