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Rishi Sunak reverted to Tory type when he chose to leave the world’s poor behind

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29.11.2020

We have all been riding the same storm, but we haven’t all weathered it the same way. The super-rich have had a great coronavirus crisis. To those who already had much, more has been given. The stock market crash at the outset of the pandemic was just a bump on the road to more wealth for them. The Swiss bank UBS calculates that the already vast fortunes of the world’s billionaires had surged to a record $10.2tn by the end of this July. They will have gained many more billions since, thanks to the bounceback in global markets that has recently taken the major US indices to fresh highs.

The merely affluent, while not sitting as prettily as the super-rich, have generally done just fine. If you and those you love have avoided being a victim of the virus and you’ve kept a well-paid job that can be performed from a comfortable home, the worst there is to complain about is Zoom fatigue. The rise in the savings ratio suggests you have probably been accumulating money. Your financial safety net will have improved because you haven’t been able to spend as much as usual on nice meals out, evenings at the cinema or theatre or going on holidays.

We also know who is having a cruel crisis. It is dreadful for those seeking work or in precarious or marginal employment. It is ghastly for those whose livelihoods depend on areas of the economy, such as hospitality and retail, which have been crushed by lockdowns and travel restrictions. It is dismal for the young, who have been asked to make great sacrifices to control a disease that presents little danger to the vast majority of them.

Not only has this epidemic shone a bright light on existing inequalities, it threatens to make them more stark. The International Monetary Fund, not renowned as a nest of Marxists, argues for “absolutely crucial” social spending, expanded public work projects and more progressive tax policies to “mobilise revenues in an equitable way”.

In the early weeks of the crisis, quite a lot of Conservatives gave the impression that they agreed with the case for rewriting the social contract. The “key workers” without whom we wouldn’t have got through the epidemic would be more fairly rewarded. Intergenerational inequality would be addressed. Those who had done well could expect to pay the larger share of the post-crisis........

© The Guardian


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