I’ve been nursing my wrath to keep it warm this week, while simultaneously trying to get it down to a level of mist that enables a coherent post to be drafted. I had just about managed to shift from scarlet to hot pink and then I read Dr Eoin Clarke’s first class analysis of the personal wealth of the UK Government Cabinet at The Green Benches.
No peeking now, take a guess. How much do you think our top politicians are worth collectively? And this is based on conservative (sic) estimates.
£74 million. Seventy four fecking million pounds. Our Dave tops the list at £20 million while Lord Strathclyde – the Scot who leads the Conservatives in the Lords – is worth a cool £10 million. And I’ll bet you a tenner you and I pay more tax in a year on our paltry earnings than some of them.
Knowing this creates a credible context for this Conservative-Liberal Democrat government’s political narrative and belief system. It explains a lot, it really does.
Like how George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, could stand up in the UK Parliament this week and deliver a slap in the face for the poorest families – the ones who work and receive poverty pay for the privilege – in his autumn statement.
And how Iain Duncan Smith can justify taking money away from poor parents because giving them a larger income will do nothing to address child poverty due to their fecklessness. Yep, that’s right. That is why it is much more sensible for folk like him with his millions to keep the money and determine who is deserving and who is not. Cos, like, he knows what it’s like to support a family of four on £12,000 per year.
Suddenly, David Cameron’s assertion – uttered unto the nations from the relatively safe space of a This Morning sofa – about how unhelpful it is to measure “relative” poverty makes sense. At least to him and his chums. “It doesn’t make any child in this country poorer because you are giving pensioners more money at a time when they need it”.
(And some readers might like to know that I had to stand up and walk round the room to calm down enough to continue after typing that quote).
According to the PM, clearly an expert in social and economic policy, it is “illogical” to measure poverty in relation to average income. How else are we supposed to measure it then smart-arse? I know, let’s measure the “wealth” of families with children under 16 against the wealth of the families in the UK Cabinet. That would do the trick, for it would show that in comparison to this little lot, most families with children in the UK are actually in absolute poverty territory.
If we are living in harsh times when pensioners need a bumper income rise – a whole £5.30 a week, not to be spent on an extra bar on the electric fire, mind – because otherwise more of them would be poor, it stands to reason that not displaying similar largesse to poor families with children does make them worse off. Don’t they need extra money for basics like food and fuel too?
Oh, I forget, giving them that money doesn’t work, cos feckless creatures that they are, they will just spend it on themselves, and not their weans. Ergo, let’s not give poor families anything extra this year, let’s give it to the yummy mummies instead. Cos, like, they’ll spend it wisely. On gym fees and petrol for the Chelsea tractor and bottles of Sauv Blanc.
(breathe in, count to ten, breathe out)
The burd is struggling to work out how they managed to arrive at such a specious, ill-conceived and utterly contrived justification for declaring war on poor families. One for which there is absolutely no evidence base. This decision brings a whole new meaning to the idea of defending the indefensible.
In case you missed it, the Chancellor decided to freeze the amount of child element in working tax credit next year. This is the sum of money that takes account of the cost of raising children when working out if a family earns a paltry enough sum that they need an extra bung from the government. Think low paid workers – because you can only get WTC if you are in work.
But he decided to raise the amount of child element in the child tax credit. Undoubtedly, poorer families benefit from this but given that child tax credit is paid to families earning up to £41,300, it’s clear that better off families win out on this decision.
The Institute of Fiscal Studies rattled all the changes announced in the autumn statement into an income calculator and produced the inescapable conclusion that these measures hurt the poorest hardest. According to IFS researcher, Robert Joyce, “The new tax and benefit measures are, on average, a takeaway from lower-income families with children, and a giveaway to those in the middle and top of income distribution. It’s a slightly regressive Autumn Statement on top of what was already regressive across most of the income distribution.”
You can almost hear Conservative and Liberal Democrat Ministers guffawing with glee. While they simultaneously swig champagne and count their own lolly, all £74 million of it.
First, they came for the benefit recipients; now they come for low-income families; inevitably, this means they have done for women too.
Readers, it’s war. Class war. And I don’t know about you, but I’m up for a fight. Just as soon as I’ve had a lie down in a darkened room to recover from blogging this.