It’s the same the whole world over,

It’s the poor wot gets the blame,

It’s the rich wot gets the gravy,

Ain’t it all a bleeding shame?




The Prime Minister has made some impressive claims about the Tories’ record in tackling poverty and its symptoms. For example, he said that rough sleeping was, “lower than at any time during the last eight years.”

Unfortunately for him – and far more unfortunately for the rough sleepers themselves – the truth looks like this. (In the context of this graph, the word ‘homeless’ means literally without shelter, not merely being forced to move from place to place).

So it is clear that, on this metric at least, the record of the Tory government is not good – and that there are consequences, up to and including death, for the victims.

But this is an extreme case, even if as some believe, the official figures understate the true extent of rough sleeping.

What is the more general picture? Is mass impoverishment really an important phenomenon or is it just a case of a little healthy belt-tightening?

Last week saw the publication of a 10-year follow-up to the original Marmot Review. And its results are shocking:

  • life expectancy in the UK has stalled – for the first time in more than a century;
  • for the poorest 10% of women it has actually declined;
  • health is increasingly linked to wealth – and the gap between the healthiest/wealthiest and the least healthy/wealthy is growing.

Life expectancy in the UK has stalled

The Marmot Review comments,

“Life expectancy at birth has been increasing since the beginning of the 20th century. However, these improvements, which were around a one-year increase every five-and-a-half years for women and every four years for men during the period 1981 to 2010, slowed to a rate of a one-year increase every 28 years for women and 15 years for men in the years 2011 to 2018 (18).”

This is a dramatic change in a very long-running trend, and consistent with the results from the British Medical Journal cited below.

For the poorest 10% of women life expectancy has fallen

The Marmot Review highlights an unprecedented fall in life expectancy for the most deprived 10% of women.

The gap between the healthiest/wealthiest and the least healthy/wealthy is growing.

Austerity has hit every region of the UK, and as the British Medical Journal pointed out, it has already cost over 120,000 lives. But the cost has not been born equally – the heaviest burden has fallen in the most deprived areas, as the Marmot review shows:

As the Marmot review says,

“Marmot2020 confirms an increase in the north/south health gap, where the largest decreases were seen in the most deprived 10% of neighbourhoods in the North East, and the largest increases in the least deprived 10% of neighbourhoods in London.

The 10-year on review discounts the theory that the slowdown in life expectancy increase can be solely attributed to severe winters or flu. The report lays out that more than 80% of the slowdown, between 2011 and 2019, results from influences other than winter-associated mortality. And the slow-down in life expectancy improvement in the UK is more marked than in most European and other high-income countries, except the USA.

Marmot2020 highlights that our health is not just a matter of how well the health service is funded and functions, important as that is. Because health is closely linked to the circumstances in which we are born, grow, live, work and age, large funding cuts, under the banner of austerity, have had an adverse effect. Deprived areas and areas outside London and the South East have experienced larger cuts.”

And so the mortality effects, which are strongly related to levels of deprivation, have been worst in the already most deprived regions.

As long as mass impoverishment continues, these kinds of results will continue. But the good news is that for that to happen, government has to make a continued sequence of poor policy decisions. Even economically neutral policy would produce better results than these. And if government is prepared to – or can be persuaded to – implement five simple steps, mass impoverishment and the sort of consequences highlighted in the Marmot Review can become a thing of the past.

If this matters to you, please do sign up and join the 99% Organisation.