Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Telling lies about poverty

Greg Clark and Jeremy Hunt are Tory MPs who have written a pamphlet about how Tories are progressives. It is nice to see that the Tories also have a Pamphlet Tendency, who think this sort of stuff matters.

A quick way to read pamphlets is to start reading, and then stop when you find the first example where the authors either don't know what they are talking about, or are making stuff up to get round inconvenient facts. For example, they write:

"Labour's central view of poverty – that poverty is earning less than 60% of the national median income – has been narrowly and specifically financial."

Just off the top of my head, here's three of Labour's main anti-poverty policies:

1. Sure Start:

"Sure Start is a government programme which aims to achieve better outcomes for children, parents and communities by:

  • increasing the availability of childcare for all children
  • improving health and emotional development for young children
  • supporting parents as parents and in their aspirations towards employment."
2. Decent Homes Standard

"The government wants all social housing to be brought up to the Decent Homes standard by 2010.

Your council will survey your home to find out exactly what improvements need to be made. A home may need a new bathroom or kitchen or the electrical wiring may be insufficient and need replacing. Some houses will need greater improvements than others to ensure they meet the standard. In some instances you may need to move out of your home for a short while during the renovations.

A Decent Homes plan may often include wider community issues such as play areas for children, parking issues and the general communal standard of where you live."

3. New Deal for Communities

"New Deal for Communities (NDC) is a key programme in the Government's strategy to tackle multiple deprivation in the most deprived neighbourhoods in the country, giving some of our poorest communities the resources to tackle their problems in an intensive and co-ordinated way. The aim is to bridge the gap between these neighbourhoods and the rest of England.

The problems of each NDC neighbourhood are unique, but all the NDC partnerships are tackling five key themes of: poor job prospects; high levels of crime; educational under-achievement; poor health; and problems with housing and the physical environment. We want to see outcomes that will bring real benefit to people living in our most deprived neighbourhoods."


Billions of pounds have been spent on these, and many other projects. Whatever your view of their effect, it would be terminally stupid to describe them as 'narrowly and specifically financial'.

Hunt, Clark, Cameron and Duncan Smith aren't terminally stupid. Instead what they are trying to do is spend less on reducing poverty, and more on telling people how to behave and punishing those who don't get married or aren't able to work. And these attacks on 'Labour's targets' and 'Labour's narrow focus on financial poverty' are because they realise that these policies aren't likely to reduce the number of children living in poverty and they want to be judged according to how successful they are in imposing their values on others, not on whether their policies make a difference. And that's a good deal more interesting than the question of whether or not the Conservative Party wants to call itself 'progressive'.


At 2:59 pm , Blogger Tom Freeman said...

Absolutely. They want to change the terms of debate, so they go from 'poverty isn't just about money' to 'poverty at root isn't about money at all' to 'get married you feckless chavs' (I paraphrase).

At 11:36 am , Anonymous Joe said...

"Labour's central view of poverty – that poverty is earning less than 60% of the national median income" ... is actually the internationally recognised measure of poverty, and nothing to do with 'Labour' at all!

Poverty is of course, much like richness, defined by relative wealth.

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