The BBC reports new research that finds the life expectancy gap between rich and poor in the UK is now widening, especially for men, for the first time since the 1870s. Could this be the long-term impact of hopelessly misguided neoliberal economic policies playing out in relatively shorter lives for the poor and longer lives for the rich? It would be a shocking turn in British history, the end of a 130 year positive social trend, and all the more so as we have known the causes of health inequalities for at least half a century: economic and social inequalities. The paper suggests that differences in 'lifestyle choices' between groups could be partly to blame, but Michael Marmot's work on health inequalities shows we must focus on the 'causes of the causes'.
The effects of social and economic inequities take time to accumulate in us and emerge slowly as generations mature. This means that some of the harms of inequality being visited on current generations can never wholly be undone, and that the social gains that will accrue from a more equal society will inevitably take time to become visible.
As a start let's hope that this week we manage to elect a new Mayor who understands that creating a fairer society is vital to our future health and prosperity, and that changing the direction of economic and social policy will take sustained long-term commitment.
Sadiq Khan for Labour has committed to creating an economic equity team right in the Mayor's office, if he is elected. The Green Party's manifesto for it's candidate Sian Berry, puts economic equality at the centre of their economic plans for London. Harder to see recognition of the issue's importance for London in Caroline Pidgeon's Lib Dem manifesto for London, although she spoke very well on the subject at the launch of the London Fairness Commission. Zac Goldsmith's manifesto doesn't mention economic inequality, and he didn't show up at the Fairness Commission's launch event.