Status anxiety

Lefty myths about inequality

The Tories have nothing to be ashamed about when it comes to the last parliament’s record on poverty

4 April 2015

9:00 AM

4 April 2015

9:00 AM

As a Tory, I’ve been thinking a lot about inequality recently. Has it really increased in the past five years? Or is that just scaremongering on the part of the left?

By most measures, there’s not much evidence that the United Kingdom became more unequal in the last parliament. Take the UK’s ‘Gini co-efficient’, which measures income inequality. In 2009/10, it was higher than it was at any point during the subsequent three years. Indeed, in 2011/12 it fell to its lowest level since 1986. Data isn’t available for the last two years, but there’s no reason to think it has exceeded what it was when Labour left office. George Osborne claimed that inequality had fallen in his budget speech and the Institute of Fiscal Studies confirmed this, if you assume everyone has faced the same rate of inflation since he became Chancellor.

The fact that Labour’s track record on tackling income inequality is worse than the coalition’s doesn’t mean present levels are acceptable, of course. The median income of the highest-earning 10 per cent of couples with two children is roughly eight times larger than the median income of their equivalents in the bottom 10 per cent. Is that too high?

Few conservatives would object to income inequality on principle. Rather, it is regarded as the inevitable consequence of the fact that talents are distributed unequally, with some being able to charge more for their labour than others. For the most part, conservatives have the same attitude towards wealth inequality (which has grown over the course of the last parliament, thanks mainly to rising property prices). Like Peter Mandelson, we’re intensely relaxed about the rich.

We might be more troubled by in-equality if it was leading to more crime, but it isn’t. According to the latest Crime Survey for England and Wales, crime has fallen to its lowest level since the surveyors started collecting data in 1981. Violent crimes and sexual offences have increased by a small amount since 2002/3, but that’s due to changes in the way they’re recorded. The murder rate in London has fallen to its lowest since the 1960s.

The big issue for conservatives is not inequality per se, but the condition of the poor — sometimes referred to as ‘the long tail’. Did they suffer more under the coalition than under Labour, as the proliferation of food banks would suggest? In fact, poverty has fallen in the last parliament, provided you define it in relative terms, i.e. those households earning less than 60 per cent of the median income. Again, figures aren’t available for the last two years, but in 2012/13 relative poverty (before housing costs are factored in) was at its lowest point since 1985.

Broadly speaking, relative poverty is declining for the same reasons that income inequality is. The rich are paying more in tax than they were five years ago and the coalition cut tax for 26 million people and took three million out of tax altogether. In addition, almost two million new jobs have been created and the unemployment rate has fallen significantly since Labour left office. To claim that those who’ve found jobs in the last five years are all on zero-hours contracts, as Owen Jones would have us believe, is false. Fewer than 700,000 people are on zero-hours contracts in the labour force, a mere 2.3 per cent of the total.

True, social mobility isn’t what it might be and that’s a real issue for conservatives. But defenders of the last government can point to Michael Gove’s education reforms and the record numbers of children from disadvantaged backgrounds going to university, where ‘disadvantaged’ is defined as those living in households in the bottom income quintile. They comprised 18.3 per cent of the total last year, the highest percentage on record. So much for the argument that the rise in tuition fees would deter children from low-income families from applying to university.

What about the children from disadvantaged families who don’t go to university? The coalition created over two million apprenticeships and the Conservatives have pledged to create an additional three million in the next parliament.

All in all, I don’t think supporters of the last government have too much to be ashamed of when it comes to income inequality and relative poverty — and the Conservatives have the best policy when it comes to tackling wealth inequality, which is extending home ownership. Try to remember that over the next five weeks when angry lefties try to shame you into voting Labour.

Politicians should leave the wealthy alone– they already contribute more than their fair share

Jtazoin us on 22 April for a Spectator debate on wealth and politics. Are wealth taxes the answer? Or is it wrong to squeeze the rich? Chaired by Andrew Neil.For the motion: Toby YoungWilliam Cash and Fraser NelsonAgainst the motion: Owen Jones, Jack Monroe and Molly Scott Cato MEP. For tickets and further information click here.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Toby Young is associate editor of The Spectator.

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Show comments
  • tjamesjones

    top drawer

  • PetaJ

    A good summmary of the last five years’ achievements; a lot done, still a lot to do but on the right track. Labour would waste all of that in the same way as they wasted the Tory economic legacy after 1997.

  • Dan O’Connor

    The most monstrous and unforgivable display of insitutionalised inequality in the West today is the wicked and cynical entrenched and selective racial double standards that the entire Western ruling elite in goverment , media and academia have been waging against their own historical majority ( soon to be minority ) populations over the last 50 years

    They deny the same rights of land and heritage to their own people that they recognise as being undeniable for all other peoples
    Bit of an elephant in the room no-go zone , what Toby ?
    There is the reason why every politician, policeman , teacher, judge, civil servant and mainstream LabLibCon media journalist is pretending the emperor is wearing clothes
    It’s because in the West today , they all know that’s how they keep their job
    The ethos of modern Western man is cringing conformism and moral cowardice
    It will be interesting to see what future historians make of this historically unparalleled mass psychosis civilzational suicide cult .

    • henryGrattan1800


      • Geoff103

        Succinct. Correct.

    • DennisMcScumbag

      I have wondered this too but if the history is to be written by the winners, whom wanted this to happen, why would it be accurately documented, certainly in the west. If the far east do take on the beacon of civilization it would be worth them recognising this decline and who or what created it.

    • Tynam

      Well, if it were left to you the ethos of modern Western man would clearly be “panic, ignorance, and bigotry”, but fortunately some of us are braver than that. Also informed about our history. And less racist.

      Farage is welcome to you.

  • This has been a party political broadcast for the Save Cameron’s Bacon party.

    • John Carins

      Bacon that Miliband cannot eat.

    • Verbatim

      Somebody just put that bacon on the stove and I can smell it burning! Pass me the eggs, please!

  • victor67

    Oh dear Toby I think you should leave Kensington and your gilded cage once in a while. Although inequality was rising long before the posh boys got in, they have hit the accelerator with it. In the 1960s the difference between executives and workers pay was 50 times greater. Now its nearer 500 times greater. The billionaires think this isn’t a problem but more and more ordinary people are waking up and realising they are being shaf-ed
    Coupled with the ideological assault on benefit claimants and low paid workers with divide and rule tactics a great many people realise work doesn’t pay and is not the gateway out of poverty that Duncan-Smith keeps parroting.

    • Indeed – the greedy fat-cats removed their pay differential.

      With the rich/poor gap actually getting ever wider – it is clearly no longer just greed – it is avarice – insatiable greed.

      With zero hours we are back to the dark ages, when workers stood at the factory gate, waiting to see if the well-fed fat boss would pick them.

      Not forgetting to doff his cap – lest he upset the boss and not get picked again.

      • Gerschwin


        • You may be right – Mr Balls may be the answer – he may well be able to slow inequality down.

          Hopefully Mr Miliband will cut down most of those exploitative zero hour contracts.

          Perhaps New Labour will have a Fair Wage Act to cut down excessive pay for the greedy rich.

          • Gerschwin

            Labour Voter!

          • Are you – I am sorry. Do you get disability benefits?

          • tbusby3

            Vote Mayor for Mayor!

          • NoWeCant

            Labour know nothing about fairness. What I consider “fair” is subjective..

          • Labour are now New Labour – which is Tory Lite.

            They still understand though that the Tories are the party of the rich – and that all governments squeeze the working class
            the most – as workers have little (if anything) left after the bills and tax.

            So they are more ‘fair’ than the Tories – in that they recognise these facts and try do something about them.

    • grammarschoolman

      Toby lives in Acton. Not much gilding there.

      • CommonSense Matters

        Under the Tories dramatic house price increases mean even Spec propagandists can only afford Acton. Begs the question why Tobes even wrote the article when he should be voting Labour. The headline should be “When the Tories are in power I live in Acton and have to slum it with the Lidl people”.

    • NoWeCant

      Absolute nonsense. So the ratio is 10 times. Prices have increased more than than that. Go work things out.

      • Err.. you don’t understand wage differentials do you?

        • Yes but it makes absolutely no difference even if the difference between the top executives and lowest workers pay was 1000 or 5000 times greater IF the lowest workers were better off…and they are. So much better to lift everyone than bring everyone down.

          • So – you don’t understand wage differentials. People are paid proportionally more for their skills e.g. you as, junior manager, paid twice that of worker – your boss four times as much as worker – the CEO being top of tree at 20 to 50 times in the past.

  • Ludo – CurrencyFrog

    I can’t take you seriously if you believe as you state that increasing home ownership is the key to reducing inequality. And governments certainly shouldn’t be trying to increase or decrease it. What they should be doing is introducing a land value tax to increase the supply of land. Of the three factors of production, it’s the only one that isn’t taxed annually when it’s the only one that should be taxed! Land cost nothing to own but costs a fortune to buy.

    And if someone wants to rent, let them rent. It’s a disgrace that we encourage people to get into debt that they can’t afford. And it’s not done for their benefit, it’s done for the benefit of existing home owners to prop up prices. The whole system is rigged to enslave the young.

    I’m a libertarian, so I welcome any reduction in the state, but the Tories don’t actually believe in trying to make everyone’s lives better. They’re almost as happy as labour are to trick people into thinking the state is the solution.

  • Mr Cameron had been claiming his government had improved inequality, but I
    did not believe him. The rich have been increasing their income by compound rises of up to 30% year on year – and the poor now have to use food banks in record numbers. Surely government know inequality had worsened – something did not add up.

    However, he is supported by the Office for National Statistics, surely these are honourable people? Like you say, the ONS use the ‘Gini coefficient’ to measure inequality – but it must be some sort of a confidence trick or else I was badly mistaken.

    This is why I conducted analysis and testing of the Gini coefficient.

    I have definitive proof the Gini coefficient actually mitigates inequality and hides just how bad it really is getting. Unfortunately, the people at the top of the ONS have been evasive in their emails and will not confirm or deny my findings.

    The Gini coefficient is useless for comparing inequality of poor to rich – it is also clearly futile for comparing one country to another country. This is demonstrably a fact and not simple opinion – as you can see on the linked chart or the linked video.

    The method uses frequency distribution to hide the widening gap between the privileged wealthy and the millions of poor families. Like other methods (e.g. S80/S20 ratio) it does not measure how inequality between the richest and poorest is widening. I use the analogy of measuring inequality with a rubber band in my video. The richest people at the top always pull further away from the poorest at the bottom – clearly increasing inequality – yet this may not increase the measurement and it may even look better.

    The methodology also only compares the poor to the average income and not the wider inequality of the poor to the rich – obviously a much lower standard.

    I have also wrote to professors of economics about this subject. I have asked them politely to tell me how my findings are wrong – but they cannot or will not. Presumably because the findings are demonstrably true.

    It can be seen in the chart below how a country with a much more equal income differential of six times can have the same Gini coefficient as us in the UK. If the Gini measures inequality then it is obviously unfit for purpose. I honestly do not believe mathematician’s and economist’s can be so intellectually inept to keep believing the Gini is a realistic measure of inequality. 32.3_zpsgiehcjm9_1.png/

    Here is a video which explains in detail, which I made simple enough for most people with basic maths skills to understand – except for those at the ONS it seems:

    I have wrote to a few newspapers – but they will not answer – but perhaps you will be brave enough Mr Young. Even a clever sixth form pupil can see the maths is correct – maybe you can tell me how the maths is wrong – when the experts could not.

    • Gerschwin

      ‘…the poor now have to use food banks in record numbers’. ‘Have to’ or just choose to because it’s easy and convenient. If I put out a food bank even on the King’s Rd or around Knightsbridge I guarantee there’ll be plenty, regardless of wealth, that tuck in. Food banks are a little lefty con trick to make people think the streets are full of starving children – obesity figures suggest that’s false.

      PS – No one will read beyond your first paragraph, I certainly didn’t. Life’s too short.

      • The food banks cannot be used by just anyone off the street – shows your ignorance.

        Handy for some not reading further – save having to use their tiny brains to try understand simple maths.

        Likely their heads will explode.

      • Verbatim

        Please don’t suggest the short attention span has reached these pages!!

  • tolpuddle1

    In a global village, those with the global savvy and contacts are sitting comfortably on gold mines.

    The rest are f*****.

    This has created a social gulf that even Davos Man is worried about. And in the process, whole nations – Britain for instance – have been eviscerated and suffered identity-theft.

    We realise, of course, Toby, that you are a sycophant and spokesman for the super-rich (what else are Tories in 2015 ?) – but at least try to make a more convincing job of it.

  • Gerschwin

    Inequality means as much or as little as you want it to. It’s just license to bribe the ‘have nots’ to vote for you. Whether inequality exists or not is neither here nor there, what matters is that someone with wealth can have it taken from them on the pretext that no matter how hard they worked for it in some way they never deserved the advantage/opportunity that came their way in the first place.

    • henryGrattan1800

      greed and more greed and screw the lot, the Tory creed and pretend it was all earned honestly…

      • Gerschwin

        greed and more greed and screw the lot, the Labour creed and pretend it was all earned dishonestly…

      • Verbatim

        A typically resentful and out-of-touch comment from a ‘have not’!

    • Verbatim

      Absolutely bravo for this apposite remark. Well done! There are a great many people who agree with you sir/madam.

    • Tynam

      I love your silly assumption that if someone is rich, it’s because they worked for it.

      In most cases, it’s because they’re parasitising on the hard-earned wealth of other people, stealing from the work done by others using an ingeniously rigged system that favours “already being rich” as the most efficient means to gain wealth. People who actually earned their wealth by doing something is a minority of the rich, and the figures show it.

      • Gerschwin

        No figures show anything, except when they’re rigged to show a particular result. You’re a sad little man, stop blaming ‘the system’ for your inadequacy- you lack the character to make something of your life, that’s your problem.

        • right1_left1

          Thank goodness for that BBC bod, I forget his name , who was ‘earning’ 850k a year.
          Now reduced to a life style threatening 450k a year.
          How gratified we are to have local government execs ‘earning over 150k a year. In one case over 220k.

          Don’t forget the legal profession sucking zillions out of the system for no useful result.
          See the cost of the inquiry into the ‘bloodie sunday’ incident and the McPherson report that blamed the police for all our ills.

          You Gerschwin need to learn to keep a restrained pen in your hand.
          your posts are abusive showing you at root to be a porcine ignoramus.

          • Gerschwin


          • Guest

            If you don’t like the cut of my jib sling your hook and learn to spell.

  • Dan O’Connor

    Mmmmm , difficult decision .

    I suppose it’s a toss up between the Conservative Globalist / Internationlist / Cultural Marxist — ” Yipee you are going to be a minority “— ethnic cleansing socially respectable sociopath party

    Or the Socialist / Internationalist / Globalist/ Cultural Marxist
    ” Yipee , you are going to be a minority ” ethnic replacement socially respectable sociopath party

    Hey , that was a great trick they played accusing their opponents of being ” fascists ”
    ” racists ” and extremists ” for the last 60 years as a way to paint themselves as the exact opposite
    Boy…. did we all fall for than one eh ?

    • Ed  

      The original national socialists were, well, socialists. Odd how often people call right-wing folks by a left-wing insult.

      • T E

        No they weren’t, they privatised German state industries

        • Ed  

          Yes, the national socialists were socialist. They didn’t care who owned what, so long as they did the state’s bidding. Quite socialist, that. And don’t get me started on what the national socialists did to groups; everything they did was group-based. Nothing at all individualist about them. Socialist to the core.

          • T E

            You have no idea what socialism means.

          • Ed  

            Yes I do. It comes in international and national flavous, both unpleasant. Ask Stalin, Mugabe, Pol Pot, or Hitler. Or Fidel Castro, or Hugo Chavez. Any one of them could explain it to you, after washing the blood from their hands.

          • T E

            “It’s a bad thing done by bad people”, huh? Thanks for the specifics. Phrases like “workers owning the means of production” are so 19th century, even if they are technically correct.

          • Ed  

            If you want specifics, I’ll direct you to Mussolini’s career with the Italian Socialist Party and the Socialist International. I’ll also direct you to points 7 and 11 of the Nazi Party’s 25 Point Plan – the government must guarantee full employment, and the abolition of non-labour income. Both classical points of socialism.

            The best way I’ve heard it phrased is “national socialism and fascism are heresies of socialism”. You can hardly argue that Protestants aren’t Christian becaus they’re not Catholic, and you can hardly argue national socialism isn’t socialist because it’s not communist.

          • T E

            Mussolini was EJECTED from the Socialist Party when he moved towards the right, and I just posted a study about the Nazis privatising industries which proves the 25 point plan was simple propaganda. Hitler lied a lot, you should judge him from his actions.

          • Ed  

            The national socialists didn’t always lie. They said they’d invade their neighbours, and then did. They said they’d fight for lebensraum, and then did. They said they’d kill the Jews, gypsies and slavs, and then did. As holocaust survivors said, “when people say they’re going to kill you, believe them”.

            However, let’s judge Hitler by his actions. There was very little he did that wasn’t group-based. Socialism is all about groups, and the Nazis were as anti-individualist as they come. “The German race must purge itself of Jewish dirt”. This isn’t the language of Churchill, Disraeli or Thatcher.

            The national socialists weren’t European conservatives; they hated the junkers and the Kaiser. They certainly weren’t individualist/libertarian “leave-people-alone-ist”. They weren’t anglospherically conservative, trying to preserve the legacy of Magna Carta, limited government and the rights of free Englishmen. No, their actions were entirely group-based, making their philosophy, and their acts, socialist.

            If your study was on who owned the industries, without considering what would have happened to the richest and most powerful German industrialist who didn’t cooperate with the Nazis, then you missed the point. One of the points Hitler prided himself on was skipping the inefficiencies of marxism by implementing socialism through government control of private industry. He didn’t care about ownership, as long as the aims of the state were served. Sure, Krupp and Messcherschmitt were rich, and had title papers. Rommel’s choice was piano wire or cyanide, and theirs would have been too, if Hitler had twiched his baby finger, and everyone knew it. Define “ownership” in this context.

            National socialists were socialist.

          • T E

            Ed, I will stop replying now as I am concerned that I may inadvertently cause permanent injury to you the next time you bend over backwards.

          • Ed  

            Hee hee. Surrender accepted.

            Seriously, though, I’m not without sympathy. I do realize how much of a shock it is to some socialists when they come to realize the company they’re in; that Woodrow Wilson the racist and Margaret Sanger the racist eugenicist are not the worst of it.

  • Dan O’Connor

    The first task for our people is to jetison the false opposites between Conservatism Inc. and Progressivism . Between the the Tory / Republican / party and the Labour / Democrat party. Between Global Capitalism and Global Socialism . They are not opposites . They are fales opposites .
    Western universities align perfectly with the people in power.
    Multicultiuralism and your multiculti sensitivities training course goes hand in hand with Goldman Sachs . Fortune 500 corporate billionaires donate to Left activist groups that combat ” White privilege ”
    The system we have in the West today is best described and Left Capitalism , which is Global Capitalism within the economic sphere which exploits Cultural Marxism
    ( Political Correctness / Progressivism / mass immigration race replacement ) within the cultural sphere . There is no Left opposition to Global Capitalism
    The New Left are the Left wing of the Capitalist Plutocracy

    • Chamber Pot

      I couldn’t agree more there is either ‘ globaloney ‘ or there is national democracy. At the moment we have cross party consensus on international dictatorship and the bogus national democracy of ‘ pretend ‘ politics.

  • Verbatim

    “Equality” and the endless search for it is the biggest load of hokum in the world today. People are NOT born equal either socially or before the law; that is a total LIE. It’s part of the massive propaganda from the west and it’s leftist liberals which is designed so that all of us pay more tax and are hamstrung by political correctness.

    Equality? Absolute tripe.

    • van Lomborg

      Paying more taxes, like the Danes, will not necessarily make British society more equal. I believe you it will have no difficulty wasting the increased tax take should you actually ever get your head round collecting it.

  • CortexUK

    William J. H. Boetcker’s “Ten Cannots”

    You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
    You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
    You cannot help little men by tearing down big men.
    You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer.
    You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
    You cannot establish sound security on borrowed money.
    You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
    You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than you earn.
    You cannot build character and courage by destroying men’s initiative and independence.
    You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they can and should do for themselves.

    • CortexUK

      Boetcker also enumerated “Seven National Crimes”:

      I don’t think.
      I don’t know.
      I don’t care.
      I am too busy.
      I leave well enough alone.
      I have no time to read and find out.
      I am not interested.

      • henryGrattan1800

        I don’t think., no you do not with shite like this

        • DeltaNaught

          I really love the logical argumentation in your comments.

          Please keep posting – we’re all very interested in what you have to say.

          • Verbatim

            Ditto, ditto, ditto.

        • Verbatim

          Go way; you’re just feral.

        • LOL…this answer says so much about you: confirmed by your other comments.

    • henryGrattan1800

      sounds like some clap trap from some Victorian prayer book, written by some self serving divine of the Church and secret pederast

      • Gerschwin

        Must have been by Dromey then or one of the others from P.I.E.

      • Verbatim

        Feral to the power of 10!!

    • Mr_Twister

      Labour think that you can!

    • Excellent!

  • ohforheavensake

    Toby- even by your own standards this is really remarkably stupid. The Gini coefficient ticked down in 2011-12 because of the recession caused both by the crash and by the government’s austerity policies: since then the evidence is that it’s been rising.

    Here are some facts-

    and here: this is from the IFS, who, unlike you, actually know what they’re talking about-

    You’re an ignorant little man, Toby. Frankly, it worries me that you have anything to do with education.

  • CortexUK

    Listen to this, and hope your leaders were listening too:

  • Molly NooNar

    Why define inequality so strictly? Why don’t we define it in terms of geography, for example? It would be quite easy to show how the Tories have favoured London and the South in general relative to the North (with the southern councils gaining £s for their budgets while the northern councils have £s lost). London gets an olympics, big upgrades for its underground infrastructure and a ludicrously expensive HS2, for example, the north gets a pipe dream HS3 that will never materialise. There are so many ways to define inequality showing the Tories favouring their 1% at the expense of the rest. Articles such as this denying and ignoring the obvious add precious little to the debate.

  • CommonSense Matters

    Desperate times and the Tories call for desperate measures – is this it? The crux of this article is using a tool to measure inequality the Tories themselves invented during this term. How surprising you find the result favourable. Cameron: What shall I give myself on dealing with inequality. I’ll give myself 100%. Job done then.

    • CortexUK

      Just like Brown’s “golden rule” for which he changed the timescale of the “cycle” regularly to fit the data.

      Though to be fair he did abandon it (or the pretense of it) in 2009. Not that he had any choice – or credibility – left.

      • CommonSense Matters

        You’re speculating CortexUK.

        • CortexUK

          Reporting an historical fact is not “speculation”.

          You’re speculating that the Tories’ own measure must be wrong.

          Brown used to mark his own economic forecasts too. Unsurprisingly, they too were always really good and helpful. Fortunately the current government stopped that fraud and set up an independent body to provide the projections that underpin the budget.

  • henryGrattan1800

    Do not mention the people who have died as a result of their benefits being cut off diabetic ex-soldier David Clapson, 59 died starving after officials axed his benefits., the 2 nation Briton of have all and have nothing has been accelerated under the Tories and the results will mean that Boris will need his water cannons.

    • Gerschwin

      No. He won’t need them. You’re an irrelevant minority of whom the real Henry Grattan would have been unimpressed, and there’s a part of you knows it too – hence the agro. You’re a nobody with nowhere else to whinge and whine for a cause very nicely destroyed for good by Lady Thatcher but here to the likes of me. Maybe the Easter Bunny will bring you a treat.

  • Jacob Goodman

    The reason relative poverty is declining is because median income is declining, a direct symptom of increasing inequality. It’s not that the poorest are becoming better off, it’s that everyone who is not at the top of the ladder is becoming worse off.

  • Binky Tatler

    I have never quite recovered from the night on television you delivered a programme called “When Dave met Boris ” it was in my opinion one of the worst made programmes ever to hit the screen. On the basis of that I take all of your scribings with a huge rock of salt.

    • Gerschwin

      And yet you watch, you read…

  • Quote: “The big issue for conservatives is not inequality per se, but the condition of the poor — sometimes referred to as ‘the long tail’. Did they suffer more under the coalition than under Labour, as the proliferation of food banks would suggest? In fact, poverty has fallen in the last parliament, provided you define it in relative terms, i.e. those households earning less than 60 per cent of the median income. Again, figures aren’t available for the last two years, but in 2012/13 relative poverty (before housing costs are factored in) was at its lowest point since 1985.”

    Eh? So the steps in the argument are:

    (1) Tories are concerned with absolute poverty, not relative poverty.
    (2) Relative poverty has decreased. (So what? I thought you didn’t care about that measure?)
    (3) You don’t have any evidence on absolute poverty. (Whoops? I thought that was what you cared about?)

    Woeful, woeful journalism. Quite embarrassing, actually.

    Even Polly Toynbee doesn’t put her self-contradictions in the same paragraph.

  • Anthorny

    The intellectual left hate the poor white working class with a passion. That’s why they were kept down and trapped on benefits or taxed massively when on low pay under labour, the idea being that they would be “grateful for their lot” under their labour masters. Now there is a path to a working exit and upward social mobility from benefits changes and a tax-free head start.

  • Tynam

    Of course, that “extending home ownership” idea is rather badly screwed up by the total lack of construction, caused by Thatcher’s government thirty years ago and left that way by every Conservative government since.

    Because the magical free market was definitely going to fix that. Any second now. Just you wait.

    Since land ownership has consolidated massively, an increasing majority of the homes and land are owned by just a few people, who get rich from the rent everyone else has to pay just to exist.

    But hey, Ian Gow’s son got rich exploiting once-public assets. And that’s the important thing for governments to arrange.

    “Relative poverty” is a nice term, but rather conveniently conceals the fact that the _median_ real-terms income is worse. Relative poverty has dropped not because the poor are better off, but because the middle are increasingly crushed out of existence.

    Bank CEOs, however, now make three times as much as they did a few years ago. So that’s all right.

    • Gerschwin

      Brilliant. Labour Party had 13yrs to solve this at a time of this county’s most abundant wealth and did nothing… but you want to tip toe on past that one. Brilliant.

      • Tynam

        Since this article ends by talking about how wonderful the Conservative plan for home ownership is, I responded on that topic. I can tell that you’re disappointed that I didn’t reply to a completely different claim not published here instead, but it didn’t really seem relevant to this article.

        Here is a useful rule of debate for you: attacking a Conservative failing is not the same as supporting Labour. Therefore, “Labour messed up too” is not a defence when discussing Conservative failures.

        The objective is *good* governance, not “some other guys were nearly as incompetent so it’s OK to fail miserably” governance.

        (Your basic point is correct, of course – Labour’s response to Conservative government completely screwing up home ownership for two generations was a resounding no action. Thatcher called Tony Blair her greatest achievement, and she was right.)

        • Gerschwin

          ‘Your basic point is correct, of course – Labour’s response to Conservative government completely screwing up home ownership for two generations was a resounding no action. Thatcher called Tony Blair her greatest achievement, and she was right’

          Nice to have you on board. Well done.

          • Tynam

            My position is “attack bad policy and misinformation, and support good policy and an examination of facts”. Whoever is responsible for it.

            So I’m not sure if I _am_ on board.

            From our admittedly brief exchange, your position appears to be “reflexive defence of the Conservative party, while being happy that anyone who attacks Labour is on your side”.

            The fact that Labour are corrupt, foolish and a failure doesn’t in any way change the fact that Cameron has been working hard to make “corrupt, foolish and full of fail” look like the good old days.

            I’m not sure that’s what you meant by my being “on board”, but if it is, then yes I am.

            No main party’s leadership currently contains – or has contained for years – any person who isn’t either murderously stupid, utterly corrupt, so contemptuous of the lives of British citizens as to be an active threat, or in a few cases (Smith, Balls, Farage) all three.

            Government is not a team sport.

            Booing the opposition doesn’t make us better at it.

            The only way to be good at it is intelligence, study of the facts, and above all things have the ability to change your mind – to improve your policy – when events prove you to be wrong about the current one.

            This last quality was not present in any way in the governments of Thatcher, of Major, of Blair, of Brown, or of Cameron.

            Which is why we’re in such a mess.

          • Gerschwin

            Bull’s eye.

    • La Fold

      If you think that “extending home ownership” has been screwed up by a lack of construction then you are either blind or being deliberately obtuse. Im plucking for the latter. There is no lack of housing units available in this country, nor a lack of construction. its a lack of first time buyers who are struggling to get onto the property ladder.There is less construction because there are simply less people able to afford to buy houses. Why? Because the market was fatally skewed by Blair and Browns economic nonsense.

      Go to Northern Rock and sign off your own mortgage at 8 times or own salary. Why not? Whats the worst that can happen? How much did it cost the tax payer? how many billions? Where as in a free market it wouldve cost the tax payer nothing.

      Secondary the increasing price of property is also caused by the skyrocketing in price of land with planning permission, caused again by things such as green belt laws etc.

      • Tynam

        You have the arrow of causation reversed. “There are simply less people able to afford to buy houses” BECAUSE there is less construction. House prices are not a magic number divorced from the realities of the marketplace; they are a result of supply and demand like everything else.

        Fact: over the last 30 years, the ratio of house price to salary has nearly _doubled_. First-time buyers struggle because homes have never in our history been so impossible to afford.

        This did not happen by magic. It happened because demand exceeds supply.

        The social housing waiting list has doubled in the last ten years alone. (No surprise, since Thatcher deliberately sabotaged social housing and Blair and Brown did nothing to fix it.)

        According to the “free market fixes everything” theory Thatcher was pushing – and Blair pushed, and Cameron is still pushing – all this can’t happen, because the increased demand leads to more supply. If there’s demand for houses, the market will provide, right?

        Guess what? It didn’t.

        (I find your blaming everything on “Blair and Brown’s economic nonsense” particularly silly, since their policies were Thatcherite policies, identical in every meaningful way to Conservative policy. That was Thatcher’s greatest triumph – her opponents were replaced by her copycats. Indeed, Cameron spent most of his time in opposition complaining that they didn’t go far enough.)

        • GraveDave

          ou have the arrow of causation reversed. “There are simply less people able to afford to buy houses”

          ; they are a result of supply and demand like everything else.

          The Tories are doing all right out of it though.Especially all those MP/BTL landlords.

  • Bigtallsimon
    An evidence based approach to evaluating the effect of inequality in society.

    Any change that may or may not have occurred in the last 5 years is unlikely to be that significant given that the UK is currently one of the most inequal developed nations

  • Fred Uttlescay

    Toby thinks that poor people should be squeezed. Silly sausage.

  • Andrew Cole

    ‘The rich get richer’, ‘Money attracts money’, ‘speculate to accumulate’…………….Nope never heard these phrases until the last few years.

  • country_exile

    I would rather cut my own arm off than vote Conservative.

    I was a member. I have stood in rain soaked streets in Labour heartlands thanklessly pushing leaflets through doors. But no more.

    Just ask yourself some simple questions?

    – do you believe in reintroducing grammar schools?
    – do you believe in spending above 2 per cent GDP on defence?
    – do you believe in a proper police force and prisons that punish?
    – do you want to reduce overseas aid?
    – do you want to control Britain’s national sovereignity?
    – do you want to welcome immigrants but not be overwhelmed by them?
    – Do you believe in lower taxes for ‘higher earners’?

    None of these are Tory party policy.

    These are things I care about and a lot of still Conservative voters care about I think. I didn’t desert the Tories, they deserted me. I am still in the same place and I’ll be voting UKIP. Not waving a NIgel Farage teatowel but simply because with all their faults, they are the closest to what I believe.

  • GraveDave

    Lefty myths about inequality

    The Tories have nothing to be ashamed about when it comes to the last parliament’s record on poverty

    Ever had a deja vu?

  • Raz

    So if you squint hard enough at the right statistics and ignore the facts on the ground (the ever growing queues outside the food banks etc) you can continue to pretend your bankrupt ideology of trickle up (aka rob from the poor to feed the rich) economics is fair. Gotcha.

  • GaryMG

    A wonderful piece. It should be framed and placed in every food bank in the country. Their hunger will vanish once they realise how much better off they are now. Reality must not be allowed to interfere in Young’s well thought out arguments that black is white and white is black.

  • Elle

    so the only possible possible down side to wealth inequality is a rise in the crime rate? I’ll tell the parents starving to death to feed their children to stop worrying then, at least they haven’t committed a crime. Phew!

  • As a Tory you could not give a XXXX about inequality; it’s been you divine right since 1661 to rn the country – and latterly the global economy – for the benefit of the super-rich.
    If you changed your party’s name to the Social Darwinist Party it would be clearer what you stand for.