Ed Balls addressed them yesterday before launching his much-heralded Children\’s Plan in the Commons today. Before his arrival, they were glum: they feared weaselling and prevarication. But once he spoke those vital words, there was an outburst of relief and applause.
He committed the government unequivocally to hitting its 2010 target for halving child poverty, and abolishing it by 2020. "It is not going to be easy," he said, but "we\’re not going to abandon those goals just because the going has got tough. This is when we need to make sure we try even harder." So there was the promise – though with no word as to how it is to be done.
I will do such things – What they are yet I know not. . .
Shall we book in a pony for each of us as well then?
So how can Labour now reach the halfway goal by 2010? It will cost £4.5bn, to be found in the 2008 and 2009 budgets: Ed Balls declared that the chancellor had signed up to it. Where will it come from? The government could raise that sum from taxing the richest 1.5% of taxpayers on earnings over £100,000 by another 10%.
Err, Polly, you seem not to have grasped the point about marginal tax rates. They do in fact change behaviour. No, I\’m not going to insist that a rise to a 50% marginal rate will lead to a reduction in revenues in the short term, just that there isn\’t a straight line relationship between raising rates and raising revenues. You need dynamic analysis of such changes, not static. And you also need to make sure that the revenues will last into the long term…..because people\’s behaviour does change over time more than it does immediately.
Depressing research from the Department for Work and Pensions finds public sympathy for the poor has regressed in the last decade. Voters are less likely to believe anyone is poor, and more likely to blame the poor themselves. Opinion polls and Rowntree Foundation research tell the same story, as do the hostile bloggers invading the Guardian\’s website after articles such as this. Labour\’s decade of soaring affluence for the 70% property owners has bred a newly virulent despising of the families where 30% of children live below the poverty line.
That\’s because people are beginning to work out that the poverty you\’re talking about is relative poverty, not absolute. Yes, I know that in correctly thinking circles it is relative poverty that is decried (and I\’m even willing to agree that it\’s an interesting concept) but it doesn\’t in fact strike the Great Unwashed in quite the same way. Asking the average bloke on the Barnes Bendy Bus whether children should live in deprivation and the answer is no. Ask whether it\’s similarly appalling that some children have less than others and the answer is again no. The Demos simply isn\’t as worried about relative poverty as you are.
Yet Labour\’s great failing has been in never persuading the well-off that those left behind have any claim on their sympathy or concern.
Quite. As I say, the people don\’t actually give a damn. So why should their money be spent the way you want, rather than the way they want?