Guido popped down this morning to the Demos Ikea showroom
/ think tank to hear what the 18th
(to be) Baronet of Ballintaylor in the County of Tipperary and heir to a fortune had to say on “fairness”
. George Osborne’s pamphlet is here
and the speech echoed the charges that inequality has increased under New Labour. Strangely Guido thinks that New Labour is too afraid to defend itself on this issue.
Relative poverty has increased only because we have generally got richer. Absolute poverty has not increased. The problem for those who put equality before liberty is that they are too embarrassed to say that whilst we have all in aggregate got richer, some have got even richer, even faster. So What? Essentially if you believe in the conceptual value of the idea of “relative poverty” you believe that if Warren Buffet moved to London poverty would increase. Britons would after all now be relatively poorer compared to the average. If George when he becomes Chancellor succeeds in driving rich, non-domiciles away from British shores he will be able to claim he has reduced relative poverty. Not one single poor person’s absolute circumstances will have changed (apart perhaps from a few more unemployed domestic staff ). Splendid, Polly Toynbee will be pleased.
There was a moment of comedy when an extremely bedraggled looking Derek Draper piped up with a question from the back. Osborne congratulated him “on his new role as psychological consultant to the PM. Good luck with that.” Osborne was also quizzed about the ideological incoherency of all this cross-party triangulation on poverty and social justice. He said something wonkish about there being a continuum of political thinking from himself through Alan Milburn to Brown with the same long term goal.
Osborne took the opportunity to praise Alan Milburn. Mischievously saying, to much laughter, that he also shared with Milburn “his short term goals”…