Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Tory Poverty Report Blames 'Undeserving Poor'

IDS's report on poverty had its launch yesterday, attracting fire today from Polly Toynbee. Predictable enough you might think but her well argued case is that IDS is picking out symptoms and slapping 'cause' labels on them.

Yesterday he[IDS] blamed Five Pathways to Poverty - family breakdown, educational failure, economic dependence, indebtedness and addiction.

The distinction between the deserving and undeserving poor goes back to Elizabethan times and the Charity Commissioners but has been extraordinarily difficult to exorcise from the minds of those who are inclined towards the Conservative view of the world. There is nothing the comfortably off resent more than being asked to give up a portion of their comfort for the benefit of those who have none. So reasons to refuse, or at minimum grumble darkly, are eagerly sought and what could be more emotionally satisfying than to blame the victims for their own circumstances? Toynbee observes:

That poverty causes separation or that poor mothers throw out fathers who can't earn, or who are themselves addicts or criminals in a blighted world of deprivation doesn't feature much. Instead, a great leap into logical fallacy concludes that lack of a marriage certificate is the prime cause of all the rest.

Solving the problem of poverty is immensely difficult, entangled as it is with value as well as financial intractabilities but for all its huge length, IDS's report seems simplistic. Cameron has embraced the report warmly, grateful, perhaps, because it clothes his vestigial liberal Conservative position on social policy with garments his 'blue rinse bigade' will readily recognise and feel able to cheer to the echo at the next party conference.

Quite right Skippy, the Tories are deliberately blurring cause and effect. They want to imply that many social ills are caused by family breakdown (or by their old favourite scapegoat 'unmarried mums') but, as you point out, family breakdown is often the result of the same pressures which help cause all sorts of social ills.

IDS, in common with many of the blue rinse brigade, has always been a rather simple-minded soul. This is one reason why he used to get in such a fluster at PMQs when that rude Mr Blair would keep pointing out to him the raft of complicated issues which a PM must face in the 21st century...
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There was some noise about marriage and social depravity back in September. Strongly agree that marriage cannot cure social problems.
Your commenters seem to be deliberately misrepresenting the report. He points to five, yes five pathways to poverty. If we reduce the risk of each of these elements that will tackle poverty. By the way Skipper, I've just added you to my links.
Prague Tory
Will add you to mine too.
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