The TUC have announced today that 2011 will be one of job losses, with the subsequent deterioration in standards of living for many groups of workers. Housing, education and healthcare will all be reduced for those on low incomes. At the same time, the government has just predicted that a fifth of the population may soon be able to live to the age of 100 due to increases in the standard of living and medical advances!
Clearly, there is an increasing gap between the rich and the poor in the U.K. This Christmas I was given a copy of 'The Spirit Level' by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett; an almost scientific manifesto for the importance of a more equal society. It argues convincingly that if we want to live in a genuinely better society, with less crime, more public safety, happier people, then all of our policies should be about reducing the margins between the rich and poor.
The policies of this Government are evidently not in the interests of all. We are not 'all in this together'. This is nowhere more evident than in how local authorities are to face budget cuts. Those in the North, and those with higher proportions of people on low incomes face the largest cuts to public services.
For the sake of the public good, for the sake of our common humanity, 2011 must be a year in which whenever they say 'cutback' we must say 'fightback!'
It must be more than just a slogan. We must expose the way policies will affect the poor in general, and how they will ultimately ruin the wellbeing of the nation. Over Christmas in the UK, the BBC treated us to a wonderful 1930's drama 'Upstairs, Downstairs'. As good as it was, it presented a far too rosy picture of a life of inequalities. We are becoming far too accepting of the differences within society. The struggle for equality needs to won in the hearts and minds of society once more.
In the Christian tradition we can point to scripture; 'Let the person with two shirts give one to the person with none, and let the person with two loaves give one to the person with none'. There is no room in faith traditions (or indeed any humane tradition) for greed and inequality enshrined in government policy.