Could this be a tipping point? The firefighters’ strike and the
wider question of how highly society values the public sector;
topping up fees for university students and the greed of chief
executives claiming mind-blowing financial packages – each tells us
something about social justice or the lack of it; plaited together
as they have been this month, they focus the electorate’s mind
powerfully on who gets what and why under a Labour
The Tipping Point, written by Malcolm Gladwell, examines the moment
when ideas, social behaviour and trends cross a threshold and, like
wild fire, cause rapid and dramatic social change.
So, in today’s climate, are we talking about a revolution?
No, of course not. But we may be witnessing a corner being turned
in the electorate’s apparent passivity about how little the public
sector, and especially the vulnerable for which it works, receives
– and the immunity of the rich under a Labour government.
Jean-Pierre Garnier, chief executive of the world’s biggest drug
company, GlaxoSmithKline had a salary package worth £7m last
year. Profits have since fallen by 25 per cent, the share price by
40 per cent and what does he do? He rewards himself by tripling his
“reward”, according to one calculation, to £21m.
Garnier runs a UK-registered company from Philadelphia.
Britain is now stained by US corporate avarice. In the United
States, between 1970 and 1999, the average salary rose by 10 per
cent – the increase for the top 100 chief executives was one
thousand times that. Top pay and perks are almost as ludicrous
The government has intervened in the firefighters’ strike, urging
modernisation. Not even a murmur of disapproval comes from Blair’s
lips, however, at the bosses’ inflation busting increases or their
scandalously poor performance. Charities are cutting projects
because the revenue they depend on from legacies has slumped as a
result of the fall in the share market – and everyone is feeling
the pension pinch. Labour is now in danger of overseeing a greater
degree of inequality than Margaret Thatcher managed in 18
John Monks of the TUC has recognised that this may be a seminal
moment in British politics by calling on all unions to support the
Support the public sector and tackle the rich – or face massive
social unrest, that is the increasingly clear choice for Labour.
It’s a tipping point – but can Blair see it?