Monday, 23 April 2007

Lack of Ferraris is an indicator of Welsh socio-economic plight under Labour

I once caught my friend Craig, who was at the time a card-carrying member of the Communist Party of Great Britain and a PR for London’s poorest borough, ogling a bright red Ferrari. When I mentioned that his adoration of this object seemed paradoxical given his political leanings, he answered that, on the contrary, he wanted a Ferrari for everyone. I proffered that a Ferrari everyone could afford would not be a Ferrari, but he was oblivious, lovingly running a hand over the curve of its wing.

After a decade of Labour government, Ferrari sales are at an all-time high but we are further away than ever from a time where everyone could afford one, especially in Wales. In the City of London, Ferraris are now almost de rigueur - indeed, those with serious bonus prospects hanker after the superior status inferred by a Lamborghini or Pagani - but you won’t see many exotic sports cars in the valleys.

Despite the economic boom that’s apparent in London and most other English cities - in Cardiff too, to a lesser degree - Wales is poorer than England, Scotland or Northern Ireland and the gulf is getting wider.

Much of this disparity has to do with the fact that we’re largely a working class nation and Labour is the party of the middle class. The Conservatives are the party of the middle class too (only more so), and so are the Liberal Democrats. Politically, we’re stuffed.

A central tenet of Labour’s socio-economic remodelling of British society has been to bring as many people as possible into the middle class. Under Blair, the middle class has become rich beyond its wildest dreams while the poor have fallen further behind. Rhodri Morgan’s assertion that the ‘representative Welsh family’ is £5,000 better off will probably come as a big surprise to most representative Welsh families.

When Welsh interests conflict with those of England, Wales loses. The destruction of the Capel Celyn community in North Wales to make way for Liverpool’s reservoir at Tryweryn in the 1950s is still perhaps the most dramatic example, but the recent closure of the Burberry factory in Treorchy turned out to be a particularly enlightening example since the ‘Britishness’ Burberry claimed its brand represents was clearly shown to be the essence of England – of Big Ben and Beckham and Buckingham Palace – not the post-industrial wasteland of the Rhondda valley.

So, under Labour, the English middle classes have got richer and the Welsh have got poorer. The sad thing is, whichever party wins the forthcoming elections, this inequality will continue unabated because, as it ever was, the power to make meaningful economic change rests in England, not in Wales.

Nothing in this article is meant to imply criticism of my oldest and dearest friend. I don’t amount to much more than a rabble-rousing troublemaker and I wouldn’t presume to pass judgement on a good person. However, it’s apposite to my premise for you to know that Craig, the son of a window cleaner from Llanelli, is now the executive editor of a well-known motoring website, based in London.

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