The Dissenter's Voice

The ocassional comments, opinions, rambling and rants of a liberal dissenter in New Labour's Britain

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Why Polly Toynbee hasn't got the answer

Interesting noises are eminating from the Rainbow Tories. Apparently the Cameroonies want to abandon Churchill policy & embrace Polly Toynbee instead.

The idea maybe of anyone wanting to embrace Toynbee, seems a little odd for me but for Tories it is even more bizarre. What Greg Clark, the moderate MP for Tunbridge Wells actually said was that the Tories should drop Churchull's attitude to social issues in favour of Toynbee's, in particular they should join the C20th and recognise the existence of relative as well as absolute poverty. This is welcome of course but has the rest of us have been living in the C21st for some years it is a little belated.

You see Toynbee's few is outdated as well, she is one of the most articulate advocates of the New Labour creed that work is the passport oout of poverty. This might seem like common sense to most people but then most people don't earn the minimum wage. For the vast majority of 'the poor' the range of jobs open to them do not include those that would allow them to escape poverty whether it is absolute or relative. Working as an unskilled labourer, in a fast food outlet or as a cleaner is not going to solve your financial problems. Indeed it may even worsen them as your benefits are withdrawn or you get tangled in the web of working tax credits.

No the answer to poverty is not more people working long hours in low paid, low skilled jobs.

Poverty is engrained & generational, by and large it is determined not by personal ability but accident of birth. The children of the poor end up poor the children of the middle class, middle class. Breaking that cycle requires a fundamental re-appraisal of our welfare system.

The current welfare system isn't designed to end poverty, just to make it more tolerable. It was designed for an age of full male employment, when the bulk of the work force had jobs for life & the unlucky few who were unemployed could expect to find a job in weeks or months. It was designed to bridge short term gaps to pull people out of economic deprivation - thats why benefits are itched at such ridiculously low levels.

Now working patterns are different, for most people will change jobs many times in their life, and more and more people are left out in the cold by the inadequcies of an antiquated system As Tory & Labour governments have tried to cut welfare bills by holding down benefit levels & trying to force people into the rough end of the labour market so the figures for long term illness have shot up with people trying to find an alternative to burger flipping.

That alternative must come through the transfer of wealth, capital ownership into the hands of the poorest people in society. It's only when you have enough money to put down a deposit on a house, start a business, go to university, or take out a pension that you start to become truly free. Neither minimum wage jobs or subsistence welfare is going to provide that.

It's time to turn our welfare system up side down. Instead of paying people a weekly pittance to stay poor the state should give every newborn a substantial grant that can be invested long term to make the capital purchases that will really make the difference to long-term economic opportunity.

What if every children born in the UK, were given a real baby bond of say £10,000 available from the age of 18 to be spent on major capital outlays? Just think how it would transform their lives. How many people for the first time would have real choices about their future in the world?

Yes, I know what you're thinking - a nice idea this is fantasy politics, think of the cost! Well, there are roughly 500,000 babies born in the UK every year, a £10k baby bond would also cost £5 billion ayear, a collosal amount yes, but much less than the £8 billion a year we already spend on child benefit.

If we really had the will to end poverty we could do it, there are ways & means of doing so, and lord knows I for one would rather given every new born child a fat bank account than pay for the bureacracy of tax credits & New Deal and the whole panoply of the modern welfare state.


Blogger Tristan said...

I think your idea of a bond is too much of a free gift...

The routes out of poverty include work, but more important for breaking the trap of accident of birth are education and aspiration.

The current system stamps out aspiration, it stamps out incentive to work and education is no longer seen as beneficial, perhaps because you can get a relatively easy life on benfits... (although not a dignified life, and many want to remove themselves from it).

I'd prefer axing the minimum wage (it acts as a tax on work and reduces employment) and replacing it with either a Citizens Basic Income or a negative income tax and removing all taxation of income from the poor and reducing indirect taxation.

We then need to show that there are avenues out of poverty, through education (not necessarily formal education though) and work.

I dislike relative definitions of poverty, they are nonsense. Although if there are large groups of people who feel they are hard done by it can cause social tension.

10:15 AM  
Anonymous Mubs said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mubs- Whoever you are, its clear that in spreading such a nasty deliberate smear, you ensure that you don't use your real name in case you may have to account for your lies.
I know both people well, as I am a member of the Lib Dems Federal Executive, and the recently elected chair of the Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats, and can tell you that there is no such rumour, nor truth in the rumour. But then why would a simple matter of truth and decency get in your way. What a disgraceful blog! Meral

10:56 AM  

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