Sunday, May 31, 2015

The reclassification of 'poverty’ was a con-trick by the Left
...From all this it is clear that the relatively poor of today are vastly richer than the poor of 120 years ago, let alone beforehand. Indeed, at least one leading figure in the Labour Party acknowledged the fact in 1959. Barbara Castle remarked, “the poverty and unemployment which we came into existence to fight have been largely conquered”. Since she spoke, of course, average incomes have risen much higher. As recently as the 1980s people looked at the figures for how many households had inside lavatories and how many had fridges. Now virtually every household has these things, so nobody bothers with the information any more.

Given all this, how is it that so many pundits and charities talk about widespread poverty in Britain?

It dates back to 1962 and the annual conference of the British Sociological Association. Two Left-wing academics, Peter Townsend and Brian Abel-Smith, developed a new way of defining “poverty” based on the income level at which people were entitled to a payment called “supplementary benefit”. One person at the conference reported “a mood of conspiratorial excitement” about the idea of redefining poverty. These are her words, not mine, and they do seem revealing. It is as if some people on the Left were longing to find a way in which poverty had not been “conquered” as Barbara Castle had said. They had found a way in which it would always be possible to use the huge emotional power of the word...