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Let them eat cake

There is nothing quite as ridiculous as the spectacle of Britain’s ‘great and good’ enriching themselves on the back of faux concern for the poor.  It is in this light that we should treat the Tory government’s new Inclusive Economy Partnership that is supposed to foster new and innovative solutions to the problems experienced by low and middle income families.

Most telling is the exclusivity of the advisory group – that was no doubt selected for their intimate knowledge of what it is likely to struggle to make ends meet in Britain today:

“The advisory group members are: Olly Benzecry, managing director of Accenture UK & Ireland; John Pettigrew, chief executive of National Grid; Joe Garner, chief executive of Nationawide; Mark Evans, chief executive of O2; Robert Noel, chief executive of Landsec; Jacqueline de Rojas, president of techUK; Mark Norbury, chief executive of UNltd.; Peter Holbrook, chief executive of Social Enterprise UK; Sir Stuart Etherington, chief executive of NCVO; Dawn Austwick, chief executive of Big Lottery Fund; Cliff Prior, chief executive of Big Society Capital.”

Given the group’s complete understanding of just how difficult life is when one has to struggle on a six- or seven-figure salary (particularly now that Brexit has made it so much harder to find an Eastern European au pair) we can surely depend upon them to develop entirely realistic and workable solutions to the problems faced by nurses who have to fall back on food banks to feed their families, disabled people whose benefits have been cut to the point that they must choose between food and heating, or the army of Uber drivers and Deliveroo workers that depend upon the arbitrary algorithms of multinational corporations just to have an income at all.

We have seen committees of this kind many times since the collapse of real incomes began in the mid-1970s.  First they recommended ‘flexibility,’ then it was re-training, next came starting small businesses, then A4E-style job coaching.  At each turn these corporate welfare scavengers enriched themselves with lavish government contracts while the residents of a hundred towns like Doncaster, Stoke, Jaywick and Ebbw Vale sank ever deeper into the economic wastelands.

The only thing that is going to regenerate the growing list of failed communities across Britain is a massive redistribution of wealth and income.  That, of course, is the one thing the doyens of corporate welfare will never recommend.  However, before they patronise everyone with the latest version of Marie Antoinette’s “let them eat cake” as a rich person’s solution to bread shortages, they might want to consider the damage that those people have already wreaked upon the British elite.

It is precisely those communities that have had their faces ground into the dirt for the best part of 40 years that tipped the balance in favour of the economically disastrous and administratively paralysing vote to leave the European Union.  It was their counterparts in the USA who chose to inflict Donald Trump on the world rather than put up with any more business as usual.  And that is just the start.  If the best the British establishment can rustle up is yet another corporate welfare scam, they may just want to consider what happened to the French aristocracy not that long after suggesting that hungry French people might benefit from eating cake.

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