Labour's Failure on Child Poverty

I'm pleased to announce that Huw Lewis has stepped onto centre stage to pose for the next poster in the campaign to highlight just how well Labour has been "standing up for Wales".


Postcard | Hi-res image | PDF

Cerdyn post | Delwedd safon uwch | PDF

By any standard, the failure to cut child poverty levels has been the worst of all Labour's failures. A party that used to pride itself on standing up for those who are less well off conveniently managed to forget all those values when in power. Instead it pandered to the rich, allowed (in fact encouraged) its new friends in big business and the financial institutions to become even more filthy rich, and hoped against hope that some of this money would somehow trickle down to the less well off in our communities.

But their blind trust in the free market economy—and of course they made it more free by not adequately regulating the financial institutions—not only failed to make an impact on child poverty before the credit crash, but brought us all to the brink of ruin when the results of that failure to regulate hit home.


So why is Huw Lewis in the spotlight for this? Dear old Screwloose is a good example of someone whose heart is probably in the right place. There are all sorts of things we can do to alleviate the worst effects of poverty for children in Wales. But the bottom line is that poverty is a matter of money. It is a question of how we as a society create wealth and how we distribute that wealth fairly.

Labour have done nothing for Wales in that respect. Relative to the rest of the UK Wales is progressively getting even poorer, and no amount of spending money on special programmes or placing new responsibilities on local authorities and other bodies is going to do any more than make a small dent in the problem. To make a real difference we must also take the levers that control the Welsh economy into our own hands.

But Welsh Labour are absolutely terrified of taking any sort of responsibility for things like taxation and the benefits system in Wales. This is all the more surprising because having an Assembly with taxation powers has consistently been the most popular model of governance in the annual St David's day poll [see here], and because 60% of people in Wales think that the Welsh Government should have control over the benefits system, with only 23% thinking it should remain in the hands of the UK government [see here].


There's only one conclusion we can draw from this: Labour are great at spending money on programmes, but are absolutely clueless when it comes to turning Wales into a more prosperous country. It is only by taking the levers of the economy into our own hands that we will have any hope of putting an end to child poverty in Wales.

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Anonymous said...

"By any standard, the failure to cut child poverty levels has been the worst of all Labour's failures."

Except that isn't true. Two million fewer children live in households in absolute poverty than in 1997, while 500,000 fewer live in households in relative poverty.

MH said...

I am not at all sure where your idea of "absolute" poverty comes from, Anon. The relevant measure is one of relative poverty, i.e. where income is below 60% of the median.

And I think you might be doing yourself down slightly by claiming that there are 500,000 fewer children in relative poverty, but it's a very long way short of the target you set yourselves. This quote from the Guardian in May 2010 puts it in perspective:

Poverty rates rose sharply in the 1980s before stabilising under Major's administration. Even so, by the time of Blair's 1997 landslide, just over a quarter of children – 3.4 million – were deemed to be living in households where the income before housing costs was 60% or less of the national median. In Labour's first two terms, the total was whittled down to 2.7 million and the previous government looked to have a reasonable chance of meeting its ambitious target to halve the number of children in poverty by 2010.

But then, for reasons still unclear, the child poverty figures began to climb once more. Whether it was a lack of resources or political will, the child poverty total rose to 2.9 million in 2006-07 and 2007-08 before falling to 2.8 million in the latest year for which data is available.

Probably the best access point to the data is here. It gives figures for children, pensioners and working age adults. The number of adults in poverty went up under Labour.

Of course we don't yet know what the figures for 2009-10, the final year of Labour's reign in Westminster, will be. I think you should be grateful that these aren't due to come out until next month, for they are likely to show an increase in poverty due to the effects of the economic crisis.


These of course are UK wide figures. We know that Wales as a nation is now the poorest part of the UK, and that the gap in relative GVA has become bigger rather than smaller. Therefore it is almost certain the percentage of children in poverty in Wales relative to the UK as a whole will have increased too. This will certainly act to offset the already small reduction in relative poverty figures Labour did achieve.

Anonymous said...

"it's a very long way short of the target you set yourselves"

Ah, well if you're going to change the goalposts. You said "the failure to cut child poverty levels has been the worst of all Labour's failures" not "Labour's failure to reach its target on cutting child poverty levels has been the worst of all Labour's failures". I think you need to be clear what you are saying.

The fact is that you claimed child poverty levels have not been cut. According to the latest data, they have.

The idea of absolute poverty, incidentally, is well understood. Labour chose relative poverty as its measure, but its worth also noting the reduction in levels of absolute poverty during Labour's time in office. I'm surprised you are ignorant of this measure.

Unknown said...

The idea of a "Free Market Economy" sounds all fine and dandy, except, as we now know - it is not free at all - it is damned expensive!

MH said...

I'm very sorry it wasn't clear to you, Anon, but I'm sure everybody else will have noticed that the poster says:

Labour promised to cut child poverty by half ... but they failed to

If you click here, I'm sure that even you will be able to see that the goalposts haven't moved an inch.

And, as I said before, I am not at all sure where your idea of "absolute" poverty comes from. Please explain what you think it means ... and provide a link to your figures, of course.

The last Labour politician who tried to pull that sort of stunt made himself a laughing stock by talking about Rwanda. But he's already had his moment in the spotlight, and it's only right that his colleagues get their turn too.

Anonymous said...

Still squriming I see.

The poster talked about the target but you claimed:

"the failure to cut child poverty levels has been the worst of all Labour's failures"

Except that Labour didn't fail to cut child poverty levels. It succeeded in cutting child poverty levels - the opposite of your bogus claim.

As for absolute poverty:

As for the figures, they are from this recent publication:

MH said...

Anon, I think you must be the only person who didn't realize that what I said was actually based on the poster, and that the failure I was talking about was the failure to do what Labour had promised they would do.


But never mind, let's look at your claim on absolute poverty. Your reference to Wiki defines absolute poverty as a "fixed real poverty threshold" which "must be the same in different countries, cultures, and technological levels".

Therefore you are making a world-wide comparison ... perhaps you are Peter Hain.

But for your claim to make any sense, it must mean that more than 2 million children in the UK had been living at or below the international poverty line ... i.e. with an income below $1.25 a day, 2005 PPP.

You are either a very good comedian or stark raving bonkers!

Anonymous said...

Or a Labour activist :)

Anonymous said...

So in summary:

First you completely falsely claimed that Labour "fail[ed] to cut child poverty levels".

Then it turns out you don't even understand the concept of absolute poverty, despite somehow feeling qualified to post on the topic of poverty.

Finally, you assume from the Wiki link on the general topic of absolute poverty that there is only one measure - despite me also supplying a second link that gives the source of my original statistic.


Since you are obviously slow I will try and make this very simply for you: the author of the book linked to above used a measure of absolute poverty (for information, the same one used to measure poverty in the USA) to examine Labour's performance and came to the conclusion that, by that measure, it had succeeded in lifting two million children out of poverty compared to 1997.

Perhaps you should take your own advice to others and go and stand in the corner.

Unknown said...

Anon - if you are going to be abusive, why do you choose to hide behind the 'anon' tag? Only a craven coward would do that!

MH said...

Bless you, Anon. No amount of finger pointing at me will make up for the fact that you simply hadn't noticed what I said in the poster. I can see from the log that you were using a reader, so it may well be that you only saw the text of the post and not the images. In that case, you have an excuse for what you said originally. But why keep on digging now?

I've provided a link to the actual figures so that everybody can see them for themselves. I even showed that Labour did better than you thought they had. But your party still failed to do what it promised. Half of 3.4 million is 1.7 million. That means your party failed 1.1 million children. From your reaction, that obviously annoys the hell out of you ... as of course it should. But don't blame me for reminding people what your party should have done while it was in a position to do it.


Second, let me remind you that you, not me, provided the link to Wiki as your definition of what you meant by "absolute poverty". Why on earth did you do that if what you actually meant by "absolute" was based on a poverty level in, of all places, the USA ... the richest country on earth, though not quite the richest per capita?

We all need a laugh or two, but please don't provide them at the expense of the 1.1 million children you failed.

Anonymous said...

You acknowledge that child poverty levels are, according to the latest data, lower than when Labour came into office. That is, of course, inconsistent with your opening line that "Labour "fail[ed] to cut child poverty levels".

However you try and spin it, however you try and claim that what you actually meant was "Labour "fail[ed] to reach its target of cutting child poverty levels by half" there is no avoiding the fact that you made a false statement.

When we talk about an area like poverty it is important that the facts aren't distorted by ignorant propagandists like you. However far Labour fell short of its target it still succeeded in lifting 500,000 children out of relative poverty and 2 million out of absolute poverty. It also, according to the IFS, succeeded in averting a further 2 million children falling into relative poverty.


Now, onto absolute poverty, where you also appear to think that taking refuge in some technicality can preserve your blushes. From the outset I have quoted from the research of a published academic. I even provided a link to this research. It shows 2 million children fewer in absolute poverty in 2009 compared with 1997.

Because, somewhat surprisingly, you claimed to be unaware of the very notion of absolute poverty I also provided a link to the Wikipedia article on the subject. Going round in circles and claiming I provided the wiki article as my definition merely makes you look even sillier than you already do. And that's pretty silly.

Read the research, then acquaint yourself on the general subject of poverty measurement. Then try posting something worthwhile.

Until then, perhaps you'd be better off creating infantile posters that nobody will read and that won't affect anybody's voting intentions.

MH said...

I have to say that you're showing us rather too much of what's inside you than is good for you, Anon. As anybody who reads this post can see, what you call my "opening line" in fact came after the posters.

And anybody can see for themselves that you gave the wiki link as your definition of absolute poverty. It's just a shame that you didn't take the trouble to read what the link said before you gave it.

And I don't think it's healthy for you to do yourself down so much. You claim that nobody will read these posters; but you're not a nobody, are you? If what I post on this blog matters so little, why are your and your party so annoyed by what I say?

Anonymous said...

What a pathetic response. You make a false, propagandist statement and when someone corrects you, you take that as evidence that you're doing something right? And where are these other people who are "so annoyed" by what you say? Nobody has even mentioned this post elsewhere, let alone reacted to it.

And I note that for the fourth time you've ignored the evidence I've cited from Jane Waldfogel. Her research shows that 2 million children in Britain were lifted out of absolute poverty during Labour's time in office.

MH said...

Nothing I've said in my post needed correcting, Anon. You hadn't seen the poster, and made the mistake of taking part of what I said out of the context in which I said it.

I can't say I particularly care for changing definitions of poverty so as to make things look better. The target Labour set was based on relative poverty at 60% of the median income.

You failed.

MH said...

It looks like our Labour Party activist has gone away. Which is a bit of a shame because there were still a few more shots I had in my locker. So, for anyone who's interested ...

Jane Waldfogel's definition of "absolute poverty" is probably not hers. She refers to it as an "official measure" of the UK government. She describes it as "the share of children below 60% of the median income as it was in 1998-99, with the poverty line indexed only for inflation".

In other words it starts by being a measure of relative poverty, but because Labour failed to meet its target, it changed the goalposts so that it no longer varied as the median income rose, but was measured against inflation instead. As wages were rising faster than inflation this had the effect of making it look as if the Labour government had met its target. In other words it was a complete dog's breakfast obtained by mixing up two different things. Playing about with statistics, to put it bluntly.

And, lo and behold, if you manipulate the figures in this way, it turns out that the government does reach its 50% target ... reducing the level of child poverty from 3.4m to 1.7m.

But this isn't enough for our Labour activist. He's repeatedly claimed that using this measure reduced the figure by 2m rather than 1.7m. He was simply making that up. He is a fraud and a barefaced liar.

If anybody wants to check out whether what I've said is true or not, they can read quite a lot of the book for themselves, for it's online at Google Books. But I've put an image of the relevant page here.

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