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Report: Elitism in Britain – How Much Power Does Money Hold?

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Report: Elitism in Britain – How Much Power Does Money Hold?

We all know the rich hold a significant amount of power in the UK. Take the Reuben Brothers for example; the companies registered in their name in the UK never have more than a few pounds in capital assets/total value, or any employees (except from their charity, which is eligible for tax relief). The majority of their companies are filed in offshore tax havens, and recently HMRC decided to move into a building owned by the Reuben Brothers in Newcastle. If billionaires who are suspected of avoiding tax can have the UK tax regulator move into one of their buildings, I wonder how far this “invisible power” held by the rich stretches.

Let’s start by looking at education. Oxford and Cambridge are two of the most prestigious universities in the world, and have been described by The Guardian as being “highly conservative institutions that align with the ideas of privileged groups to perpetuate existing power structures”. If we look at last year’s admissions, the top five schools to receive offers were: Westminster School, Hills Road Sixth Form College, Peter Symonds College, Brampton Manor Academy and Brighton Hove and Sussex Sixth Form College. Somewhat surprisingly, all but one of these schools are state-funded. Could it be that places at these institutions are becoming attainable for all students, and that these power structures are being broken down? The answer is probably not. Westminster School’s fees start at over £31,000 a year which is evidently unaffordable for the vast majority who live in the UK. The other four, while having state school status, are in fact, some of the top state schools in the country. The areas in which these schools are located are all situated in areas where house prices range (on average) from £380,000-£689,000. Conversely, people who earn either below or around the UK national average annual income of £24,000 would never be able to afford to live in these areas which, in turn, limits their access into both these schools and the institutions of Oxford and Cambridge. While a lot of these schools are technically open-to-all and that not necessarily each individual who attends these schools will come from high-earning families, most students going there will come from very privileged backgrounds. The top educational institutions in the country are not ostensibly shut off to people from working class backgrounds; however, it remains significantly more difficult for them to access these institutions than students who go to schools which arm students with the necessary skills and knowledge to open the doors to the most esteemed universities.

Looking at other important industries within the country, we can see that both prior education and money hold a large amount of power too. According to the social mobility foundation, 65% of senior judges and 44% of politicians all went to private school. These people make decisions of “general public importance” every day, which affect everyone in the country either through statutes or common law. However, many of these powerful individuals have never left the protective upper-class bubble of private education. Many argue whether these privileged individuals are able to relate to the day-to-day experiences of the British public when making decisions which impact so heavily on families such as whether to pass legislation such as the Free School Meals Act.

An area where money clearly holds power is over politicians in the form of donations which only have to be reported by law if they are over £7,500. There are donations being made to both the Conservative and Labour parties which seem to be unnecessary. Since 2019, the Qatari government and related institutions have donated a total of £269,870 to UK politicians. Many of these donations simply pay for the visit to Qatar; however, following this visit, a number of these MPs subsequently became significantly pro-Qatar in their public statements. One MP praised the country on its “labour reforms”, with another telling the UK to be less “holier than thou” over public accusations made regarding Qatar’s human rights violations. Three Labour MPs have also received a total of over £345,000 since 2019 from a company named MPM Connect Ltd in which has one registered office in Hertfordshire despite having no employees. Unite Union has also donated over £300,000 to three Labour MPs, and GMB union has donated significant amounts to Keir Starmer’s front bench. Are these donations necessary? Or does the existence of these donations have the power to change how politicians vote?

Money can clearly buy much more than material things. Access to wealth enables access into both the finest educational establishments in terms of schools and universities in the world which, by extension, provides further access into the privileged and powerful positions of society, such as parliaments and the courts. This access to money enables the creation of individual relationships with political parties and creates the question behind how that type of power can be manipulated.

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