I’m so saddened to hear that Michael Meacher, MP for Oldham West and Royton, has passed away. He was a strongly principled, thoroughly decent MP and the loss of such a great man is a huge loss to the Labour Party, as well as to family, friends and constituents. He will be missed very much.
Michael, the former Labour environment minister who served in the governments of Harold Wilson, James Callaghan and Tony Blair, died aged 75 after a short illness.
The MP for Oldham West and Royton kept his seat with a 14,738 majority at the 2015 general election and was one of the of MPs to support Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership contest.
He described Corbyn’s election as a “seminal day in British politics, marking the coming together of the two great conditions needed for transformational change”.
Michael was a hardworking Member of Parliament from 1970 until his death, initially for Oldham West and then from 1997 for Oldham West and Royton.
He was a champion of social justice and equality, and talked such a lot of sense.
Meacher appeared as himself in the excellent BBC Television drama serial the Edge of Darkness in 1985.
Michael Meacher in the BBC’s Edge of Darkness
On 23 September 2006, Meacher became the sixth Labour MP to start a blog. Mr Meacher has also written articles for ePolitix.com, which included criticism of Blair and Brown for their centre left-wing policies, including privatisation. He also called for a more conciliatory policy in the Middle East, attempts to tackle income inequality, and a greater commitment to reducing energy use.
In 2013, Meacher strongly criticised the firm Atos and the Work Capability Assessments of sick and disabled people carried out on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions, in a sustained and excellent campaign documented through his blog. Meacher was also staunch campaigner against austerity and inequality.
He was a prolific and skilled writer, as well as an outstanding, talented speaker, and I recommend you visit his site.
1,000 richest Britons now hold assets worth £547 billions, 13m Britons now in poverty, half in work
The Murdoch paper Sunday Times has just published its Rich List for 2015 which shows that the richest 1,000 persons based in Britain now have wealth valued at £547.1bn. That works out at an average level of wealth of nearly £550 millions per person, though there are wide variations between the threshold level of £100 millions at the base to £13.2 billions at the top (someone called Len Blavatnik). These are not only staggering figures, but perhaps even more staggeringly, they have more than doubled since the financial crash in 2009. In that year the richest thousand had £258 millions, but they now have 112% more. They include 117 billionaires with a total wealth of £325 billions, nearly £3 billions each on average. Indeed Britain apparently now has more billionaires per 100,000 of the population than any other country in the G20 group of the world’s biggest economies, more even than the US. The number of billionaires in Britain has almost trebled in the past decade: there were only 40 in 2005.
This is the richest 0.003% of the population. At the other end of the spectrum there are now over 13 million persons in poverty households as officially defined, i.e. the household’s total income is less than 60% of the national median income. That works out, though varying according to family size, to about £240 a week. What however is most disturbing, though little recognised, is that in more than half these households at least one person is in work. This arises because the national minimum wage is very low (£6.50 per hour), and even that is rarely enforced against unscrupulous employers, but also because of the alarming zero hours contracts system. That accounts for some 20% of the population at the bottom; in contrast the top 1% take home in excess of £3,000 a week, including thousands who are millionaires getting over £20,000 a week.
Inequality in Britain is now grotesque. What should be done? Labour is proposing a Living Wage of at least £8 per hour at the base and at the top a mansion tax on properties worth over £2m, an increase in the top rate of income tax from 45% to 50%, and a bankers’ bonus tax to raise £2.5bn. But that is nowhere near enough to bring inequality within acceptable limits. What is really needed is a wealth tax. A wealth tax pitched at 1% should raise £5.5bn from the richest 1,000 persons so long as it was made clear that any failure to report the true and accurate level of wealth would be penalised by doubling the rate of tax. A wealth tax aimed at the richest 1% (some 310,000 persons) would of course raise several more billions. To assist in the rigorous collection of these taxes the number of tax inspectors, which the Tories (and Blair-Brown before them) hugely reduced, should be built up to whatever level necessary since ARC, their professional body, calculates that they raise between 30-180 times their salary each year.
Rest in peace, Michael Meacher.
November 4, 1939 – October 21, 2015