Figures are always something that comes into dispute, demands of evidence put forward, or in need of further data and examining to fully understand its results and implications. However, there are then the figures that say all that one needs to know about its implication, figures that would one reads and cannot comprehend, and there can only be one meaning, one understanding. That is the insinuation of Oxfam’s declaration that five British families own more than 12.6 million Britain’s put together. It is a continuing parallel and continuation of how 85 global millionaires have more money than more than half the population of the world.

What can be taken from such a figure? Clearly, Britain is only a part of the capitalist legacy that has resulted in a widening gap between the rich and the poor. In the background of public rage at bank bonuses, soaring housing prices and bedroom taxes, politicians have dealt with the wealth gap by allowing it to continue. Some would argue that Labour’s failure to curb bank oligopolies and the Tories failures to call the bonus bluffs at Lloyds and RBS are what have exaggerated the gap between wealth and poverty. Some would also notice the disparate exchange in wealth from the hard workers to the talented artists, footballers and entrepreneurs that gain more. Family legacy has also been an important factor in keeping wealth within the people that have been born in a rich family.

Who are the rich families of Britain? The Duke of Westminster has a wealth of £7.9 billion, owing the bulk of their wealth to owning 77 hectares of Mayfair and Belgravia. The Reuben brothers have £6.9 billion, making their money out of metals, controlling a widely diversified business empire. The Hinduja brothers have £6 billion, owning a multinational conglomerate while the Cadogan family have £4 billion from their 90 acres of property and land in Chelsea and Knightsbridge. Finally, Mike Ashley has £3.3 billion, owning Newcastle United football club and became a billionaire through his Sports Direct discount clothing chain

The Oxfam report has stated that ‘the extreme levels of wealth inequality occurring in Britain today threaten to exclude the poorest, whose standards of living are being squeezed as they are hit by increasing costs for basics like food and energy bills and cuts to services and support when they are most needed.’ Oxfam warned of the UK’s growing tax gap and has estimated that at least £5.2 billion a year is evaded by wealthy individuals using tax havens and has urged the government to balance its books by “clamping down on companies and individuals who avoid paying their fair share of tax and starting to explore greater taxation of extreme wealth”.

From Britain, warily on its way in becoming a divided nation, other concerning figures have emerged regarding its wealth gap, such as how at least one out of every six children in the UK lives in relative poverty, according to data released by the Department for Work and Pensions, the true figure possibly being even higher. Oxfam has also announced that in the UK, the world’s sixth largest economy, 1 in 5 of the UK population live below our official poverty line. Figures are figures, and sometimes rather than using them as a point of contest and argument, perhaps it is time for politicians to take a good look at what they represent, and consider what is becoming of Britain in their implications.

Sources

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/18/osborne-wealth-gap-governments-conspire-obscene

http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/mar/17/oxfam-report-scale-britain-growing-financial-inequality

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/10702213/Five-richest-families-in-UK-worth-more-than-the-poorest-20-per-cent-in-society.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-22887005

http://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/our-work/poverty-in-the-uk