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Labour has failed the poorest

May 13, 2009

column-picture2Your starter for ten: do you know what Jo Moore was famous for?

No?  Well Jo Moore was the Labour spin doctor who, on 11 September 2001 (the day of the Al-Qaeda attack on the Twin Towers), said that the day was a good one for burying bad news.

I know that there is no real comparison between the events, and there is certainly no indication that Labour is using the MPs expenses scandal in this way.

 

Nevertheless there are significant stories coming out at moment that are not receiving the media coverage that they otherwise would, because of the (justified) furore about MPs expenses.

One such story was featured in The Guardian newspaper on Friday last week about the Government failing to hit its targets on tackling poverty and reducing inequality.

Larry Elliott and Polly Curtis say that, ‘Britain under Gordon Brown is a more unequal country than at any time since modern records began in the early 1960s, after the incomes of the poor fell and those of the rich rose in the three years after the 2005 general election.

‘Deprivation and inequality in the UK rose for a third successive year in 2007-08, according to data from the Department for Work and Pensions that prompted strong criticism from campaign groups for the government’s backsliding on its anti-poverty goals.’

These are the hard facts.

Here in one of the most deprived consituencies in the country, our Labour MP will insist on trotting out the various policy initiatives which he believes demonstrate that the Government has acted effectively in helping the poorest.

This is the Labour party line. And Michael Foster may well come to regret tying his own political future so closely to that of the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.

Our MP may be right that Labour has done more for the poorest than the Conservatives have done in the past, or would do in the future.

But the fact remains that Labour has failed miserably to make the case for, and then deliver, a more socially just Britain.

Lib Dem Shadow Work & Pensions Secretary Steve Webb said last week,

“This Government’s promise to make Britain a fairer place where income does not affect a child’s life chances rings hollow. In 1999 the Government pledged to halve child poverty by 2010 and eradicate it by 2020.

“Ministers must take urgent action and radically rebalance the tax system to help those on low and middle incomes to stand a chance of meetings it target.”

There has been much punditry in the national media about the need for a new Parliament to sort out the total mess which is MPs expenses.

Whilst this particular scandal is savaging the already low esteem in which the nation holds its politicians and the political system, I would argue that there is another, equally pressing, reason to call a General Election.

We need a politics in this country which is willing to speak up, and speak honestly on behalf of those low income families that are paying more tax as a percentage of their income than the very wealthy.

We must keep our eyes fixed on the important goal of tackling social and income inequality in Britain, because of all the practical community problems that occur as its side-effects.

The Liberal Democrats have a coherent message on these issues, and (thanks to Vince Cable) we have fully costed plans.

They will be the cornerstone of our General Election manifesto.

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