First XI: The Tory MPs committed to narrowing the gap between rich and poor

While the swivel-eyed TaxPayers’ Alliance and Policy Exchange continue to have a go at Professors Wilkinson and Pickett - authors of ‘The Spirit Level: why equality is better for everyone’ - at least some on the right seem to have been listening to the independent academics.

While the TaxPayers’ Alliance and Policy Exchange continue to have a go at Professors Wilkinson and Pickett – authors of ‘The Spirit Level: why equality is better for everyone’ – at least some on the right seem to have been listening to the independent academics.

Eleven Tory MPs have signed The Equality Trust’s ‘Equality Pledge’, which states:

“Compelling new evidence presented by The Equality Trust shows that more equal societies – those with a narrower gap between rich and poor – are more cohesive, healthier, suffer fewer social problems and are more environmentally sustainable.

“In view of these findings I am committed to making the UK a more equal society as the most effective means of building a better society.

“I will therefore actively support the case for policies designed to narrow the gap between rich and poor; and engage with the debate on which measures should be implemented to achieve that aim.”

The 11 are: Nicola Blackwood (Oxford West & Abingdon), Nick de Bois (Enfield North), Jane Ellison (Battersea), Mike Freer (Finchley & Golders Green), Zac Goldsmith (Richmond Park), Richard Graham (Gloucester), Ben Gummer (Ipswich), Richard Harrington (Watford), Richard Ottaway (Croydon South), Claire Perry (Devizes) and Lee Scott (Ilford North).

In all, 35 Tory candidates at the last election signed the pledge, including Philippa Stroud, PPC for Sutton & Cheam and the former head of the Centre for Social Justice – currently work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith’s special adviser.

Whether their pledges are worth the paper they’re written on, however, reamins to be seen. None of the Tory MPs voted against the Finance Bill which will increase inequalities overall through the VAT rise, massive public spending cuts – which will hit Britain’s poorest families six times harder than the richest – and the regressive changes to the tax threshold, which would give more to richer households than poorer ones, among other measures.

Update 5:30

It seems our piece has ruffled a few feathers among our friends in the Tory Party. On Conservative Home, Tim Montgomerie, in a piece titled ‘You cannot lift the wage earner by pulling down the wage payer’, wrote:

“I’m disappointed to read on LeftFootForward that eleven Tory MPs have signed ‘The Equality Pledge’ that includes these words, ‘I will therefore actively support the case for policies designed to narrow the gap between rich and poor’. The eleven egalitarians on the blue benches are…

“I’m worried about this idea that conservatives should actively support policies that narrow the gap between rich and poor but before rushing to judgment I wonder what the eleven signatories had in mind? Are they thinking of equality of opportunity policies that might naturally, but not necessarily, reduce inequality.

“I hope they will seize an early opportunity to reject income caps and confiscatory taxes that the many Left-wing MPs who signed the pledge probably envisage. Such policies may produce more inequality but I fear they would also produce a poorer, greyer and jobless Britain…”

When asked if he would offer the “eleven egalitarians on the blue benches” the “chance of writing an article for conhome explaining what they mean by their pledge”, Tim replied:

“Of course…”

We await with bated breath!

16 Responses to “First XI: The Tory MPs committed to narrowing the gap between rich and poor”

  1. House Of Twits

    RT @leftfootfwd First XI: The Tory MPs committed to narrowing the gap between rich and poor: //bit.ly/dhAWnK

  2. Gary Stroud

    RT @leftfootfwd: First XI: The Tory MPs committed to narrowing the gap between rich and poor //bit.ly/dhAWnK < Love the last paragraph

  3. Shamik Das

    RT @leftfootfwd: First XI: The Tory MPs committed to narrowing the gap between rich and poor: //bit.ly/dhAWnK

  4. Chris Horner

    RT @leftfootfwd: First XI: The Tory MPs committed to narrowing the gap between rich and poor: //bit.ly/dhAWnK

  5. Andy Urie

    RT @leftfootfwd: First XI: The Tory MPs committed to narrowing the gap between rich and poor: //bit.ly/dhAWnK

  6. The Equality Trust

    RT @leftfootfwd: First XI: The Tory MPs committed to narrowing the gap between rich and poor: //bit.ly/dhAWnK

  7. Tom Moffat

    RT @leftfootfwd: First XI: The Tory MPs committed to narrowing the gap between rich and poor: //bit.ly/dhAWnK

  8. Phillip Blond

    RT @leftfootfwd: First XI: The Tory MPs committed to narrowing the gap between rich and poor: //bit.ly/dhAWnK

  9. toby blume

    RT @leftfootfwd: First XI: The Tory MPs committed to narrowing the gap between rich and poor: //bit.ly/dhAWnK

  10. Robert

    better ask Labour then why the rich are richer the poor poorer they had 13 years in power, oh and then Brown decided to remove the 10p tax band and reduce the bloody well off tax burden. it’s that problem New Labour has of throwing stones in green houses ,Glass houses.

  11. Andrew Brereton

    Why not link to the follow up reports by Snowdon and the Taxpayers’ Alliance group?

    //spiritleveldelusion.blogspot.com/2010/04/20-questions-for-richard-wilkinson-kate.html
    //www.taxpayersalliance.com/research/splvl.html

    Wilkinson and Pickett may be “independent academics” but they are quite clearly politically motivated. The purpose of the “Spirit Level” book was to popularize the notion that level of inequality within a country is the cause of a variety of social ills. In the case of the supposed link between inequality and mortality, they do this by cherry picking data sets and countries (a point made clear in Snowden’s rebuttal) and falsely claiming the existence of an academic consensus on this subject. There are a plenty of other opposing viewpoints. If anything, the current consensus is not in W + P’s favour. For example, the Oxford Handbook of Economic Inequality (2009) states that

    ‘The preponderance of evidence suggests that the relationship between income inequality and health is either non-existent or too fragile to show up in a robustly estimated panel specification. The best cross-national studies now uniformly fail to find a statistically reliable relationship between economic inequality and longevity.’

    Their other claims about the links between mental illness, homicide rates etc, are similarly weak as the work of Saunders, the Taxpayer’s Alliance Group and Snowdon make clear. W + P’s responses have mostly failed to answer the questions asked of them and, in some cases, simply dishonest. For example, in response to the Taxpayer’s Alliance, they attempted to use the work of the Nobel Laureate James Heckman to bolster their position even though the referenced research had no relevance to the debate (see the taxpayers alliance link). Further still, in response to Snowdon’s complaint that there was no strong evidence in favour of an inverse relationship between homicide and suicide, they pointed to a study that concluded “The overall correlation between homicide and suicide rates was weak and statistically insignificant”. It might seem hard to believe that they could be so sloppy, but it is not actually that surprising once you realize what a careless, politically motivated piece of work “The Spirit Level” actually is.

    I would urge anybody interested in this topic to read Saunder’s report, the various articles published by the Taxpayer’s Alliance and Snowdon’s blog. I was initially very enthusiastic about W + Ps claims when I first heard about them. They seemed to provide a simple and powerful mechanism to improve the welfare of society. Unfortunately it is always hard to find unequivocal support for such a grand sociological theory, especially when the primary evidence in its favour is based on (weak) cross country regressions. Given the state of current research, we cannot confidently say that a more equal society will be healthier or more cohesive or whatever. The Equality Trust is a politically motivated lobby group and not a provider of objective scientific advice!

  12. John Edwards

    In response to Andrew Brereton – his links should be balanced by a link to Wilkinson and Pickett’s response to (most of) the issues he raises:

    //www.equalitytrust.org.uk/resources/response-to-questions

  13. Therese

    RT @leftfootfwd: First XI: The Tory MPs committed to narrowing the gap between rich and poor: //bit.ly/dhAWnK

  14. Mr Jabberwock

    Shamik

    This is not meant to be a rhetorical or partisan question.

    What I am interested in is how equal should a society be in your view. What should be the difference between the 10th percentile and the 90th percentile of income for instance?

    That is, if a progressive policy is one which narrows that gap (and I think that is a working definition on the left, do correct me if I am wrong) then what is it progressing towards and how will we know when we have arrived.

    I am assuming that it is not absolute equality of income as that would provide zero reward for differential labour, skill and risk.

    So what would you consider the ideal society income disparity? I think that would be a very interesting debate to have….

  15. Gary Mark Watts

    First XI: The Tory MPs committed to narrowing the gap between rich and poor //s.coop/2jo

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