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2 Apr, 2013 13:07

Millionaires’ reign: UK’s rulers ‘out of touch’ with common folk

Britain’s new political elite is an assortment of multi-millionaires who studied at exclusive universities. But down on the streets there is a growing sentiment that those running the country are detached from those they lead.

The latest example of how a few careless words by a millionaire in power triggers anger from the people affected by his governmental decisions comes from Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith. On Monday, he claimed in a live radio talk show that if he had to he could live on 53 pounds (US$80) a week.

That’s the sum that one of the callers said is left to survive on after the government’s latest housing welfare cuts. Starting this week, some 2.4 million households are facing a rise in taxes, averaging 138 pounds ($210) per year.

British Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith exits a vehicle in London.(AFP Photo / Justin Tallis)

Hours later an astonishing 97,000 people signed an online petition on the change.org website calling on Duncan Smith to prove his words. The text challenged him to “live on this budget for at least one year” instead of spending his salary, which is almost 50 times higher.

At a time when the UK is facing painful public cuts, many feel the authorities are detached from those suffering from the measures being taken, reports RT’s Sara Firth from London.

“They’ve got no idea what it’s like, they’re making all these attacks and they’ve never been unemployed people living on 56 pounds a week,” Helen, a protesting public worker, told RT. “They’ve no idea what it’s like to be a hard-working person wanting to do well when you’re having your pay cut, yours hours attacked. They get tax cuts we get tax increases. It’s disgraceful.”

While the ordinary citizens have to cope with less benefits and higher costs, Britain’s 13,000 top earners are receiving a 100,000-pound tax cut, the Labour Party claims.

While Labour might be accused of scoring political points by waging class warfare, they don’t escape harsher criticism. Ed Miliband and his wealthy counterparts have been dubbed ‘champagne socialists’ by critics.

With Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne having just delivered his budget for 2013 amid a coalition-tailored climate of austerity, the question stands: can the political elite really understand what the cuts mean for ordinary voters?

Conservatives are not looking far to explain how it’s not their fault that the situation is gloomy.

British Finance Minister George Osborne (R) poses for pictures outside 11 Downing Street in London, on March 20, 2013.(AFP Photo / Justin Tallis)

"You can always come up with things that have gone wrong. With the bad economic situation that we inherited it was almost inevitable that we were going to lose our AAA rating," Conservative MP Geoffrey Clifton-Brown told RT.

UK unemployment is up, growth is down and ordinary British people feel unrepresented. And the resurgence of the toffs to some is an indicator of a much greater malaise.

“There is a problem with the political class in general. It is actually out of touch with the general population. They don’t really understand how a lot of families are suffering now with rising basic costs. And of course it’s very much this top-down elites’ policies that is driving these costs up,” Richard Wellings from the Institute of Economic Affairs told RT.