I swear, I don't set out to give Giles Fraser a hard time, but there's something in the combination of self-righteousness and ignorance found in his Guardian articles that makes it hard to resist ripping him a new one. Today, for instance, he complains that Tower Hamlets has very rich people and very poor people, and that there's some connection between these two situations:
We were told by the Thatcherites of the 80s that wealth would trickle down. Tower Hamlets is proof positive that it doesn't. If anything, it flows the other way. Have a walk around Bow and Whitechapel and Bethnal Green. Then go to the great glass towers of Canary Wharf, still in the borough but in all other ways another world completely. No, wealth is sucked upwards, it doesn't trickle down.Where to start? How is the wealth "sucked upwards" in Tower Hamlets? Who is taking the wealth of the poor people? By definition, being poor, they don't have much wealth. The only way I can think of that money is taken from the poor is where people working full-time on minimum wage pay 20% income tax - and here's an idea, let's stop making them do that. But Giles doesn't touch on this, for some reason.
At the other end of the scale, even the worst scumbag BarCap investment banker is going to be paying an average of 40%+ NI and income tax on his salary and share units. Their expensive houses attract high council tax. They spend their money in local shops on convenience groceries, bottles of wine, cigars etc. Their offices employ people to do low-salary jobs, but at least they are real jobs, and those people are disproportionately likely to come from nearby because their minimal transport costs and time make it more feasible for them than for people commuting in from Slough or Luton.
Everything that is wrong with Fraser's reasoning in one sentence:
The gap between rich and poor widened with every passing year and with huge social consequences.There's no bloody connection, Giles. Beyond envy, the effect on poor people of their rich neighbours becoming richer (assuming that their extra money is not actually taken from the poor) is positive - the trickle-down may not be huge, but it makes a difference. They put more money into the local economy. Nation-wide, more rich people means increased tax income which means more money for the Government to piss down the nearest drain - sorry, funnel into spending programs to alleviate poverty. And we've seen how successful throwing money at poverty has been.
Giles, if you want to improve the lot of poor people in communities like Tower Hamlets, you should be asking pointed questions about the standard of their schools and their staff's ability to throw out troublesome pupils and crap teachers in order to give the fighting chance at an education to the rest of the students. You should also look at who is committing the local crime that erodes the spirit and resources of the community; I'm almost sure that it's not banker Algernon Smythe, but rather rodent-like teens Lee Jones and Duwayne Barrie who are stealing pension books, vandalising cars and breaking windows of impoverished residents who can ill afford the loss.
I note that Fraser doesn't quote any figures about the employment rates, incomes or benefits paid to the poorer Tower Hamlets residents over the past 5 years. Perhaps he's concerned it might detract from his case?