Thursday, November 23, 2006
Polly Toynbee to Head Tory Commisison on Poverty?
As a devotee of this 'Bolshevik broadsheet', I have occasionally been irritated by her views but long ago-after reading her book on low pay based on working as a cleaner -decided always to read her far from wishy-washy articles. On poverty and low pay I have always thought her by far the best informed columnist and now, from the opposition, comes irrefutable confirmation. Her 'caravan in the desert' analogy, borrowed by Greg Clark, the above mentioned front bench spokesman, who has doubtless caused blood pressure amongst Telegraph readers to soar, is a good one. She reprises it today:
'All [in the caravan] may move forward, but how far behind do the poor at the back have to fall before they cease to be part of the same caravan at all?'
She calls for a more generous minimum wage. This is something which I strongly support since my son has been living with me after university, working in Manchester, seeking to save money to finance a year's study to become a professional actor. I can testify he is not living in the slightest bit extravagantly, yet, even though he pays no rent, he has saved nothing at all. How much more difficult is it for someone with a family to survive on the basic 'fiver plus a bit' per hour?
As Polly observes, it is Conservative acceptance of the notion of 'relative poverty' that is the real breakthrough; before that they tended to cling to Churchill's minimum 'safety net' standard. Polly reinforces the point:
'Poverty is measured internationally in relative terms, because that is how people feel it. To be poor is to fall behind what most ordinary people have in your society.'
And Greg Clark's advice to his leader does underline the one undeniable achievement of the legacy-hungry Blair: he has succeeded in extinguishing the remaining life in the head-banging school of thought initiated by Thatcher's 'no such thing as society' assertion. And long may it remain buried somewhere in one of the far from glorious chapters of the Conservative Party's history.
Others will counter perhaps that some Labour controlled councils went on pursuing 'loonie leftie' policies even after the light had dawned in Walworth Road that this wasn't the way to get a Labour government elected.
These observations might explain why both parties have taken as much power as they can get away with from local councils but it does beg the question that if the Tories are busy trying to be New Labour and Labour (under Gordon Brown) will be determined to remain New Labour why don't the two parties merge and let the extremes drift off where they may?
Nice idea but only likely to happen if there is a move to PR. Then both big blocks could merge should they choose but more likely the finer shades would be distinguished and extremes as well as centrists would have more choice on election day.
i agree it doesn't mean much in terms of what might happen after an election but I do believe rightwing Conservatism is over; not that Michael Oakshott would agree. He is real, he is not a piss-take and he is angry over the embrace of Polly.
Agree re paint but politically lack of choice is a factor making for apathy and, one could argue the present system limits democratic choice to candidates and voters alike.
And no I don't believe right wing ideas have been consigned to the dustbin just because one political party, in a rather unimportant country, has a misguided idea of how to win an election.
Oakeshott, I suppose you know all about idiots. You see one every time you look in the mirror.
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