Friday, November 24, 2006

Iain Dale attempts to defend Greg Clarke

Iain Dale thinks the right wing response to Greg Clark is overblown but I think he rather misses the point when he says:

"I am not someone who believes that everybody must be equal. Like Boris Johnson in today's Telegraph, I believe that society needs winners and losers. Winners must be rewarded, but society cannot function properly if we forget about the losers. But I actually regard it as a triumph of our society that we can even talk in terms of losers being people who earn 40% of the media wage.

As Pascal says in the comments to the previous post... "Maybe I am confused, but doesn't the concept of relative poverty means that there ALWAYS will be poverty, no matter how much you raise the lower incomes? At least not until everybody earns the same amount."

I don't think even Polly Toynbee is suggesting the latter, but Pascal's point is a valid one, and perhaps one which Greg Clark ought to address. I don't know what the media wage is in Liechtenstein, but I suspect that under the current definition of 'relative poverty' a large number of very wealthy people would be caught in the poverty trap there. We Conservatives must not be defined by the language of the left and if Greg Clark made an error, it was possibly falling into that trap."

This is exactly what Toynbee and Clark are suggesting. In fact, more than that, they're suggesting 60% of the median wage for the cut off. This isn't Greg Clark falling into some linguistic trap. Look at the graph in his full report (this opens a Word document): that is based on the 60% of the median figure when other thresholds are available in the same DWP data series(I checked - this opens an Excel file).

While, as I acknowledged, there might need to be some adjustment of the absolute standard over time relative poverty does mean something distinct; that people are in poverty if below a certain portion of the median income. Clark is trying to convert the Conservatives to the view that inequality is poverty; that if everyone's income doubled poverty would not fall. Iain should be careful who he defends.

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