It is a truism to say that the last few years have been politically tumultuous. So why was it not until Friday that so many people, for the first time, referred to a political decision with the words, “but this could actually change my life?” Uber. That’s what it takes, is it? The recognition that your safety, efficiency, and bank balance might take a noticeable hit.
The relative economic security of those with the loudest voices has largely protected them from the troubles of the past decade: the great recession, wage stagnation, the ups and downs of Brexit and wider European uncertainty. To those further down the distribution, any security in such times comes not from a strong asset base, but depends on solid governmental decisions. State intervention in the form of the UK’s progressive tax and transfer system, which continues to have the greatest effect on income inequality. A focus on jobs. A focus on continuity. A focus on trying to balance the books. A focus on the advantages — for us and elsewhere — of leaving the European Union.
Whatever you think about the various political successes and failures of the past years, it is sobering for Conservatives to recognise that their party’s unrest could lead to a Corbyn government. Maybe you don’t like May. Maybe you’re frustrated about the transition or the divorce bill. But Khan’s attack on Uber reminds us that the people Labour’s policies would hit the hardest might well be the least able to cope — in the same way that cutting students’ fees (rather than helping them with their living expenses) would benefit the middle class the most, and the Labour-lobbied introduction of a cap on social-care payments (rather than just lifting the floor) protects the most advantaged.
Starmer’s London elites might have the resources and flexible sense of solidarity to abandon a Labour-ruined half-done-Brexit nation. But what about everyone else?