Are Clegg and Osborne at odds on income inequality?

Nick Clegg today set out his concerns about income inequality in a speech on social mobility. His remarks put him at odds with George Osborne who will talk only of "equality of opportunity".

Speaking today on social mobility, Nick Clegg appeared to create a new front with his Conservative colleagues by openly discussing the need to reduce income inequalities. Only yesterday, George Osborne outlined that his focus was on equality of opportunity and not equality of income. A debate has been raging in recent weeks over the conclusions of ‘The Spirit Level‘ by Professors Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett.

In his speech to the Lib Dem think tank, Centre Forum, Nick Clegg said:

“The goal of improving social mobility overlaps with other objectives for social policy, such as reducing poverty or narrowing income inequality.”

Although making it clear that social mobility and income inequality were not the same, he outlined his own commitment to tackling the problem.

In answer to a question by Sam Coates of The Times, Mr Clegg explicitly referenced the current debate over ‘The Spirit Level’ and, while dismissing the idea that Britain could ever be a perfectly equal country, outlined his view that income inequality was problematic and that “extremes of wealth inequality” were wrong especially when they became “stratified”.

The Deputy Prime Minister’s remarks appear to be at odds with those of Chancellor George Osborne just yesterday. In his speech yesterday, Mr Osborne referred to “equality of opportunity” rather than tackling income inequality. And as noted by Tim Montgomerie on Conservative Home yesterday:

“Mr Osborne used his Today programme interview to distance himself from the idea that greater equality of outcome should be a government aim. He said that he wanted to deliver equality of opportunity and that the Coalition’s reforms in education, welfare and health – as well as the reduction of the deficit – were part of his hope that a child born today would enjoy a better chance to succeed in life than a child born during the Brown-Blair era.”

Although David Cameron name checked the work of Wilkinson and Pickett at his Hugo Young Memorial lecture last year, Conservative think tanks such as Policy Exchange and the TaxPayers’ Alliance have, in recent weeks, been challenging the findings of the Spirit Level. Malcolm Clark has debunked these attacks on this website. Much to Mr Montgomerie’s chagrin, 11 Tory MPs have signed a pledge to narrow the gap between rich and poor.

16 Responses to “Are Clegg and Osborne at odds on income inequality?”

  1. Gary Mark Watts

    RT @leftfootfwd Are Clegg and Osborne at odds on income inequality //bit.ly/dq8FBX

  2. trakgalvis

    Are Clegg and Osborne at odds on income inequality //bit.ly/dq8FBX via @leftfootfwd

  3. Sam Coates Times

    Clegg and Osborne – are they at odds on equality, asks Will Straw //bit.ly/csnIEE

  4. Shamik Das

    Holding the #ConDemNation Coalition to account – on employment: //bit.ly/alIjjR & inequality: //bit.ly/dq8FBX on @leftfootfwd

  5. Duncan Stott

    Aren't 'income inequality' and 'outcome inequality' exact opposites? 😉 //bit.ly/dq8FBX @leftfootfwd

  6. The Equality Trust

    RT @leftfootfwd: Are Clegg and Osborne at odds on income inequality //bit.ly/dq8FBX

  7. Ash

    Good old Clegg. He signs up to a Coalition agreement in which his pet income tax cut, plus assorted Tory tax cuts, are funded by benefit cuts and a VAT increase – then has the nerve to suggest it’s a policy objective (of the Coalition, presumably) to reduce inequality. At least Osborne has the decency to refrain from making such absurd claims and to stick to the language of ‘opportunity’.

    What a farce. How can a government be unsure as to whether it does or does not have as a policy objective the reduction of income inequality?

    The real tragedy is that the present economic situation represents a real opportunity to do something about income inequality: in the present circumstances, there’s a powerful case for protecting the incomes of the worst off while asking higher earners to accept higher taxes and slower wage increases. Alas, we can trust the Coalition to ask the most from those who have the least.

  8. Robin Wilson

    RT @leftfootfwd: Are Clegg and Osborne at odds on income inequality //bit.ly/dq8FBX

  9. Mustafa Ozbilgin

    RT @leftfootfwd: Are Clegg and Osborne at odds on income inequality //bit.ly/dq8FBX

  10. Alex Marsh

    RT @leftfootfwd: Are Clegg and Osborne at odds on income inequality? //bit.ly/csnIEE

  11. Robert

    You have to remember Clegg has to look like he has an idea or authority, otherwise the liberals would walk away, so of course when the boss comes back from holiday he will tell his poodle to get behind him, stop playing the leader and be silent like most lap dogs, Blair did the same when in the presence of greatness with Bush, remember Bush ignoring Blair like he was some left over, it’s the same with the liberals now.

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  13. Gez

    shame Milburn couldnt make it back today for Cleggs announcement that he is to work for the Coalition

    He was on holiday in Bali

    Of Course !!!

    Thats social mobility

  14. Phil Ramsey

    RT @leftfootfwd: Are Clegg and Osborne at odds on income inequality? //bit.ly/csnIEE

  15. The Spirit Level Film: Bringing the message of equality to the screen | Left Foot Forward

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