The Rich List should be an election issue

By Symon Hill
April 25, 2010

The front pages of two of today's newspapers say a great deal about the skewed priorities that are continuing to shape the general election campaign.

The Sunday Express is scraping the barrel for stories with which to smear Nick Clegg, reporting that he once spoke in favour of returning the Elgin Marbles to Greece. The paper is providing a fine examples of the depths to which the campaign has sunk. This is surely the first time that the Elgin Marbles have been an election issue.

In contrast, the lead story in the Sunday Times may appear to have nothing to do with the election. It focuses on the paper's annual “rich list”, published today. It reveals that despite the recession, the fortunes of the richest 1,000 people in the country have increased by 30 per cent in the last year.

This is a reminder of the obscene wealth enjoyed by a few at the expense of the many. There is still public outrage over the bankers' treatment of society and worry about the cuts that the main parties want to make to public services. But despite all this, inequality is not an issue that Brown, Clegg or Cameron seem keen to prioritise. They will talk about health, crime, education and perhaps even poverty, but they rarely make the links with economic inequality.

It is unlikely that anyone will ask about the Rich List in the Leaders' Debate on Thursday. Nor will they point out that the gap between the richest and poorest in Britain is now considerably larger than it was in the late nineteenth century.

But the Sunday Times has reminded us that members of today's upper class are immune from the recession that has harmed the rest of society so badly. This should have more relevance to our political decision-making than any number of front pages filled with speculation about coalitions – or with a ludicrous non-story about the Elgin Marbles.

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