For all their faults, and there are many, Labour have at the very least done one thing right (though not perfectly). When they came to power in 1997, they pledged to eradicate child poverty in the UK by 2020. This issue also provides a useful illumination of the new Conservatives.
But first a little history by way of statistics.
According to the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), the level of child poverty in the UK throughout the 1960s and 70s was fairly steady. But between 1979 and 1997 the number of children living below the poverty line rose from 7% to 30%, and did not begin to fall until after 1998.
I’m not sure it can be coincidence that ’79-’97 saw an extended period of Conservative rule. CPAG agrees:
“After 1979, with rapidly growing inequality (and with some growth in the numbers of children in groups, particularly lone parents, which have traditionally been poor), many families with children were left behind as societal income rose, thus explaining the rapid rise in child poverty.”
But that all happened under the old Conservatives, let’s give Dave a chance to speak for himself. He says, “We can end poverty – I mean it.”
So how does Dave mean it? Well, while both the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party have adopted formal policies to eradicate child poverty by 2020 and halve it by 2010, CPAG notes:
“The Conservative Party has, under David Cameron’s leadership, announced its support for the 2020 child poverty pledge as an ‘aspiration’. It has given no support, however, to the 2010 target and the lack of a firm commitment on 2020 leaves open the possibility that the 2020 target would be effectively scrapped by its downgrading under a Conservative administration.”
The most at risk children are those living in a workless household. As we saw in a previous Thought Vomit, Caring Dave wants to force people back to work, even if they are single mothers, and if they “won’t work”, they will be stripped of their benefits.
I hope I’m being unfair, and that an aspiration amounts to the same thing as a firm commitment with a coherent and workable policy, but if I’m not, it’s worth reading the latest literature from CPAG:
The graph on page seven shows clearly the massive impact of our last Tory government.