2016: The Year Of Rebellion By The Abandoned: Will The UK’s Elite Take Any Notice?

“When people feel that the whole system is manipulated for the rich and those in power, they get very upset”. This is not a quote from an extreme left-wing activist. It was an observation made in January on BBC TV’s “This Week” programme by Michael Portillo, formerly Defence Minister in Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative Government but now a respected media commentator. He went on to point out that, although “democracy is about equality, capitalism is about inequality and hence has become despised by the very people who are supposed to support it”.

The Socialist Party of Great Britain’s website has expressed some surprise that Portillo’s views on this issue coincide with their own: “We agree with him (they note) that, whoever you vote for, the newly elected government gives immediate priority to the interests of the wealthy minority who profit from investment, not to the majority who work under their control for a relatively meagre wage”.

This was an opinion also frequently echoed by the 75-year-old American ex- Senator, Bernie Sanders, during his formidable but unsuccessful attempt to challenge Hillary Clinton for nomination as the Democratic Party’s presidential candidate. According to The Guardian on November 11th, Sander’s explanation for Donald Trump’s victory was that “People are tired of working longer hours for lower wages, of seeing their jobs go to China and other countries, of billionaires not paying any income taxes – all while the rich become very much richer”.

During the US election campaign, the American political satirist and journalist P J O’Rourke described Trump as a “jerk”, but also as someone “who sounds like the rest of us” and with whom he could imagine playing a round of golf (though not with Hillary). We are, proclaimed O’Rourke, “in the midst of a global revolt against the high and mighty – the political, intellectual and international financial elites. We’re sick of the supposed experts, the so-called authorities and the self-appointed cognoscenti. We’re fed up with people who think they know what’s best for us better than we do”.

The apparent rejection of “the experts who bedevil our great country” was similarly a key pro-Brexit theme expounded by the now somewhat discredited ex-Cabinet Minister Michael Gove during the weeks preceding the European Union Referendum in the UK on June 23rd.

An article published by “Technology News & Trends” on November 7th and titled “Backlash To The World Economic Order” asserted that “the global elite who promote Sustainable Development, Green Economies and Globalization are completely mystified by the open rebellion of citizens around the world”. For these favoured few, their new enemies are populism, protectionism and nationalism which “must be defeated so their plans can move forward”.

Research undertaken by the charity Oxfam International; prior to the World Economic Forum in Davos last year, predicted that by 2016 “The combined wealth of the richest 1% will overtake that of the other 99% unless the current trend of rising inequality is checked”. Richard Wilke of the Pew Research Centre in Washington has characterised the latest statistics on the gap between the rich and poor around the world as “stunning” and illustrates this contention with a reference to a Credit Suisse survey indicating that “a small group of privileged people representing just 0.7% of the global population now controls 41% of the world’s wealth”.

This exclusive band of immensely affluent individuals not only (laments Oxfam) “has it all, but wants more”. They generate and sustain their “vast riches” through their interests and activities in the most important economic spheres, especially finance, pharmaceuticals and healthcare: “Companies from these sectors spend millions of dollars every year on lobbying to create a policy environment that protects and enhances their interests further”  The International Business Times reporter, Robert Kelsey, warned the elite on August 31st that they “should be aware that attitudes towards them are hardening”, a trend which is “apparent from both ends of the political spectrum and increasingly translating into voting behaviour”.

Ten years ago, the right-wing “Spectator” magazine announced that the “UK Establishment Is Dead –But Something Worse Has Replaced It”. The most important division in Britain, it concluded, is no longer Conservative versus Labour but between “a narrow, self-serving and increasingly corrupt governing elite and the mass of ordinary voters”.  The distinction, it added, between those in and out of ministerial office has become blurred: “The primary purpose of general elections is to consolidate the hegemony of Britain’s Political Class.”

This view would appear to be at least partly justified by data issued by the Sutton Trust educational charity in February and analysed extensively by The Guardian and The Independent. Both newspapers focused on the confirmation that “privately educated people in the UK still take the top jobs and dominate not only politics but also the legal, medical and journalism professions” As the Sutton Trust Chairman, Sir Peter Lampl, told the Guardian’s Education Correspondent, Sally Weale: “In addition to academic achievement, an independent education tends to develop essential skills such as confidence, articulacy and teamwork, which are vital to career success”.

Graduates from Oxford and Cambridge continue to maintain a clear advantage, “even though these two universities educate less than 1% of the population”. Furthermore, 74% of the highest-ranking judiciary, 54% of the country’s principal journalists and just under half of Prime Minister Theresa May’s Cabinet (47%) attended “Oxbridge” ; 61% of the UK’s most eminent doctors, 71% of senior military officers and 42% of Britain’s leading film & theatre actors were educated at private schools.

Although only 13% of Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn’s “Shadow Cabinet” went to private schools and 32% to Oxbridge, anyone looking to the Labour Party for an alternative might be disappointed: The “Daily Telegraph” and “Daily Mail” have portrayed as hypocritical the decision by Diane Abbott (Shadow Home Secretary and MP for Hackney), Baroness Chakrabarti (Shadow Attorney-General), Emily Thornberry (Shadow Foreign Secretary & MP for Islington South and Finsbury) and the Guardian’s “veteran left-wing columnist”, Polly Toynbee, to send their offspring to private or selective schools – while simultaneously advocating state education for everyone else’s children.

Filed under: Politics, Society | Posted on November 14th, 2016 by Colin D Gordon

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