Polly Today

This is pretty much a manifesto of what Labour should do to win the next election. As such, rather amusing.

So Downing Street has fired and hired. If the man from Ofcom, Stephen Carter, gets a grip, Brown will focus on a few priorities instead of doing everything. If David Muir, the man from advertising, is any good, the government may, for once, succeed in conveying some of the good it does.

Erm, excuse me, but is it really right that tax money pays to tell us how well a specific political party is running the country? Even the message "The State is your Friend" is a party political one.

There\’s nothing much to be done about a tidal wave sweeping in from Wall Street, except batten down the hatches. So far, fingers crossed, not much real pain is felt, with best ever employment figures, high street sales up, holiday sales buoyant, wage inflation lower than expected – and interest rates falling.

Deckchairs and Titanic rather comes to mind here.

That is the heart of the matter, the dispute within the party\’s divided self. There is probably little disagreement on what both sides would do if they could – tax and spend more, direct wealth from rich to poor, make state schools outshine Eton, ditch Trident, embrace Europe, put petty thieves into community programmes, and so on.

Tax and spend more? When we\’re at 45% of the economy and rising? Eeeek! Embracing Europe of course enrages me but the most interesting one is getting state schools to outshine Eton. An excellent ambition, truly. The only thing is, how are you going to do it? I can see no way whatsoever without freeing the education system from the central bureaucracy. And, of course, in Polly World, such things are anathema.

Labour needs to win such seats as Hastings, Luton, Basildon and Harlow. But the Blears/Hutton modernisers behave as if they are trying to win Surrey and Hampshire too. They fall for the myth of the right that "middle England" belongs to the affluent, when the real middle England is the land of the £23,000 median income, well below the £38,000 top tax bracket that only 10% join – mostly Tories.

To be a little more serious, this is actually something that rather interests me. The UK does have a high level of inequality when measured by market incomes. One set of figures I\’ve seen gives a Gini of 0.51, when the US is on 0.48 and other European countries lower. (The post tax, post benefits ones are obviously much lower.) However, I\’ve also seen that female white collar wages (just as an example) in Newcastle are 60% lower than they are in London (and I think I\’m remembering that correctly, 60% lower, not 60% of). Prices are also a lot lower in Newcastle than they are in London, so that regional disparity in pay is giving us, nationally, a much greater appearance of inequality than we would get by looking at consumption figures.

So this leads to the question: how much of the measure inequality of wages is actually driven by regional differences in pay? How much of it is the looming presence in London of our national figures? Certainly, if we\’re looking at national market incomes figures and we\’ve got a 60% disparity in those on purely regional grounds, with consumption inequality (presumably) being much smaller, then we\’re at least in part overstating said income inequality. And all because in London (with well over 10% of the population, and more than that of GDP) we\’ve got a larger concentration of the economy in one place than most, if not all, other countries do.

So, does anyone actually know? How much of the UK\’s vaunted inequality is chimerical, being based purely upon regional variations in incomes, without taking account of regional variations in prices and thus consumption?

And finally, from Polly:

Be first to clean up politics. Ban all political contributions except individual subscriptions; let the state pay but cut the total spend drastically – and, yes, abolish union donations.

Oooh, yes, let\’s pass the Incumbency Protection Act and all just to give Labour a little nufdge in the polls.


2 thoughts on “Polly Today”

  1. PT: “Wipeout in southern England stares Labour in the face.”

    That is the predictable prospect for a government under which southern England has been set up fiscally to bankroll the rest of the country. Try:

    The REAL north-south divide: How the South-East is ‘bankrolling’ Britain:

    It really brought it home to me to read high-powered studies from non-political sources showing how much taxpayers living in London and the South East regions are being continually fleeced to bribe voters in the rest of Britain:

    While voters in the north and the fringes will likely want the fiscal fleecing of the south to continue, it would be reassuringly rational for southern voters to conclude that enough is at last enough.

    On top of all that, taxpayers at large are now at risk to the tune of c. £100 billion to protect us all from the consequences the Northern Wreck.

  2. Regional price variations would only affect the trend in income inequality if prices in the expensive areas were getting more expensive every year relative to the cheaper ones.

    The absolute amount is about 10% difference between highest and lowest. The ONS found in 2000 London priecs were 6.8% higher than the average for the country, and in the S.East 3.1% higher and in the East 1.5% higher. All the rest were lower, with North East, 4.7% lower.

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