Long Reads

The horror of Britain’s Hidden Majority

Poverty is a term which has a string of misconstrued representations in the modern day. The type of poverty that has arisen over the last decade lies in the wake of the biggest financial crash of the 21st century: a crash which consumed livelihoods, took jobs and resulted in economic turmoil for the general population. The response, at least here in the UK, was to enter a harsh era of austerity, something which Theresa May declared was all but over in October of last year. The former Prime Minister took office with a heralding speech which promised to “fight the burning injustices” in modern Britain- words that befitted a historic speech by only our second female leader. May made it her mission to make our Union a “country which works for everyone” an idea which was, at the time, a mirroring of David Cameron’s ideas regarding the importance of society. Even he, the bespoke Etonian schoolboy, believed in a ‘society’, as long as it was not confused with the state. Modern Conservative Party ideals have since been lost in translation, and regardless of political alignment, this has to be admitted. In her relatively short period in office, the indications are that Theresa May failed in justifying the promises in her premier speech three years ago.

“That means fighting against the burning injustice that if you’re born poor you will die on average nine years earlier than others”

Theresa May, July 13 2016.

In England, life expectancy has worsened between the richest and poorest, a solemn rate which goes some way in highlighting the massive disparity between the well offs and the worse offs. This could still yet change, with May sanctioning an extra £20 billion in funding for the NHS to improve health provisions across the country. What shouldn’t be misinterpreted is that life expectancy is a figure delicately dancing between various important variables, but this goes no way in hiding that the United Kingdom is still lagging behind in expectancy- ranked only at 18 in Europe in 2016. But, life expectancy isn’t the most serious indicator screaming over the horrors of poverty in the sixth biggest economy in the world, much to the anguish of the ‘silent majority’. Yet, the failings of a decade are only being noticed now, a full eleven years on from the crash that inflicted such societal wounds in the first place. It would be ignorant to suggest that poverty is a new phenomenon, but the displacement of finances and the consequences that have entailed since 2008 have been the heaviest of a generation.

Poverty hasn’t a fixed state, nor an actual face value. The problems surrounding poverty are formulated through a principle that poverty has relatively few forms. Poverty is an all consuming black hole which has scores of different forms- each one having varying levels of strenuous pressure on families and society alike. Poorness isn’t the sole bearer of poverty in the United Kingdom. Economic disparities among people are the easiest trends and figures to allude to, but poverty does indeed have far reaching social implications for a society- social richness being the cornerstone of a generation. Whether that be childcare, strong schooling, healthy community support or certain local provisions, the increasing deficit in social wellness is hard-hitting on the hidden majority. The hidden majority are those who desperately need help from strong local community institutions, but through the unnecessarily deep measures of austerity, their concerns fall on deaf ears. The Conservatives’ response to poverty has been irresponsible and tragic: a UN delegate condemned the “uncaring ethos” of the governmental shift of social policy. It should have been better, in fact, it had to have been better. The “tragic consequences” which Professor Alston reported should have been something unthinkable for a One Nation Conservative government; whose ethos centred around the core principle of Noblesse Oblige-stating the need to look after the worse-off in society. Both Mr Cameron and Ms May were clear of their One Nation ideals, so, hiding behind a staunch Conservative facade is useless. And, as the jittering process of Brexit stumbles on, there is a genuine concern that the hidden will soon be the forgotten.

David’s (Cameron) true legacy is not about the economy, but social justice “”

May’s first speech as Prime Minister thanked Cameron for his social policies.

While May’s government increased spending into local communities in the final months of her administration, the problems are so deeply cut that throwing money at the problem will not change the fate of those trapped in trouble. Trouble being a plethora of consequences which have manifested across Britain. The effects of poverty on local communities have been alarming- social deprivation being the most prolific killer. Around 33% of young children are in poverty in the United Kingdom, according to results found by the Social Metrics Commission– a leap of approximately 400,000. And, there is an inextricable link between children experiencing social turmoil and those living in poverty to gangs. The harsh realities that local communities have faced has allowed for exploitation of young people with an invariable connection with growing gang-related activities across the board. Research is indicative that fourteen to seventeen year-olds are the children at greatest risk of falling into the trap of gang life and following a warning from The Children’s Society group, a coherent response from local governments and the government itself is needed.

It is always difficult criticising a government for making cuts following a heavy recession, but there has been evidence enough to suggest that the extent of the cuts exceeded what was required. Yes, borrowing had to fall. Yes, the deficit needed to be cut. But no, there wasn’t a need to perform such stinging reductions in welfare and social care areas. Some organizations have even accused that infamous coalition of ‘economic murder’ in which may have resulted in 120,000 deaths. That is no feature of a ‘compassionate conservative’ party. That is carefree Conservatism.

There is undoubtedly a social crisis in this country, alongside the impending political one. The mismanagement of political institutions in general has given way to such problems, which will have long-term consequences. London is at breaking point- more rough sleepers than ever before. A soaring crime rate. Something needs to give and quickly. The works of small organisations isn’t enough- Homeless Link is barely managing with the help it gives to those on the streets.

There is clarity over one thing: something needs to change. This shouldn’t be an ideological battle, there are real people who haven’t a voice and haven’t hope. There could be light in the idea that there was a revolt in the referendum three years-ago. Why wouldn’t there be? An incompetent opposition, behind a bulldozing ‘do or die’ government. It’s a shame that Brexit is becoming a partisan issue. Or, an opportunity for ideological, purely fantastical dreams about a ‘correct Brexit’. The only Brexit that should be in consideration is one that would ensure social security, so that society’s worse-off don’t fall into an even deeper hole of insecurity and poverty- financial or social.

It says alot about the state of politics that neither party is trustworthy enough, or ‘alive’ enough to enforce impactful change. If Brexit is to happen, a deal is the only option viable enough to safeguard the social security nets, which are already on the brink. A no-deal would further the pain of those of us on ‘running the fine line’; those of us already struggling and members of society who have been left in the dark. This is a clear dividends in our politics. Drop the ideological toxicity- gamesmanship isn’t a solution to the serious political questions of our time. If there was ever a need to do politics properly, this is it. The end of the road for political posturing. Communities are on the verge, and they need to be resuscitated or it could signal yet more struggle and more uncertainty. There must be an urgent focus in the following weeks and months ahead in helping to improve the lives of the hidden majority.

There needs to be urgency, as the hidden could well become the lost.

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4 comments on “The horror of Britain’s Hidden Majority

  1. Interesting read and I agree with your points.

  2. ejazuddin7

    Brilliant read upon a topic that is not usually pondered upon

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