Last week the Queen took time out of her busy schedule to appeal to the nation to find “common ground” in a divisive “modern age”.
Addressing a women’s group in Sandringham, she said she prefers the tried and tested recipes “like speaking well of each other and respecting different points of view; coming together to seek out the common ground; and never losing sight of the bigger picture”.
Her remarks were lauded by Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond, who told the BBC there was “huge wisdom” in what the Queen said. But today’s austerity figures show there was also a great deal of oversight in her speech, made all the more evident from her lofty position in society.
According to a study by the Centre for Cities thinktank communities which are enduring the highest poverty rates and weakest economies are facing cuts twice that of their counterparts in the more affluent south.
The report also pointed to a “city and country” divide, with urban council areas having shouldered cuts to services such as street cleaning, road repairs and libraries, which, are, on average, twice as deep as those borne by leafier authorities.
It begs the question of whether, in a nation clearly divided by haves and have nots, we can ever find common ground when societal polarisation has become so extreme.
As German magazine Der Spiegel put it, Brexit has distracted the UK from its real problems. While politicians continue to bicker over Brexit in parliament a gulf has opened across the country that has gone largely unnoticed by MPs. Just 14 of them turned up to an adjournment debate on the findings of the United Nations Report on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights in the UK and Northern Ireland. The real issues that are dividing society had clearly been swept under the carpet by the government who are either too preoccupied or simply lack the interest to care.
So one has to wonder what “common ground” the Queen is referring to in her unifying speech. The latest Oxfam research finds the fortunes of the world’s richest people rose by £2 billion a day last year while the wealth of the poorest dwindled by 11 per cent. And we know which side of the picture our monarch stands. Meanwhile, the poorest 10 per cent of people in Britain pay a higher proportion of their income in tax than the richest 10 per cent.
So was this really a call for unity, or an attempt to silence the “have nots” while the “haves” continue to see their wealth soar unquestioned?