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I'm glad that Cameron will say that. It proves what many of us have believed all along. Cameron is not a conservative in any way shape or form. The notion of relative poverty is the antithesis of conservatism. Cameron is a total disgrace and the party deserves to wither and die if he remains leader.

Well done David.

I am sure we are all looking forward to paying increased taxes to fund your particular vision of the future even if the economy cannot let alone the individuals cannot afford it.

No doubt your experience and social conscience mean you envisage us all being able to enjoy the head start you had in life with a silver spoon education at Eton and Oxford plus membership of the Bullingdon and all that followed? No. Well what about a grammar school education instead? Quoi? Then what's in it for me and what's in it for you?

Does this man really expect to be taken seriously?

Maybe I'll draw up a list of those things I lack, which others in society take for granted, and pop it in the post to him. I'll expect action once he's PM.

All nice and cuddly in the abstract. Cameron can afford to pay increased taxes. I can't.

I don't regard being without the latest mobile phone or video game as "poverty", relative or otherwise. Maybe that's not what he means, but it certainly sounds like it.

Pity he doesn't cut the waffle and tell us exactly what he means which is - obviously -more taxes.

So it's clear? The Cameron strategy is to attack Labour from the Left in future.

This policy is a victory for the principle of equality over the principle of freedom, and it is completely inconsistent with what the Conservative Party has always stood for.

1. The day after the Tory Party told people it wants them to stop lusting after material things and getting into debt, we read that David Cameron thinks it is quite acceptable for people to want what others have, even if theoretically there is nothing objective quality of their standard of living.

2. The idea that the state should be deployed to justify anything that the Prime Minister finds morally distasteful is an argument for big and virtually unlimited goverment. It justifies Tony Blair in attacking any regime he doesn't like the look of and would justify Gordon Brown in taxing anybody as much as necessary so as they live according to his values. I find adultary a moral disgrace; if I were to get elected perhaps my goverment should ban that too!!

3. It suggests that the Conservative approach to poverty under Cameron is going to be just the same as Gordon Brown's - a measure of the money people have. I prefer the approach by the Social Justice Unit, focussing on community based projects to improve the lives and surroundings of the poorest. All the money in the world is no good to a pensioner who never sees anyone and is afraid to leave his or her house for the crime outside.

This policy is eye-catching, and I'm sure Ms Toynbee will approve. However, it puts to pains the idea that Cameron has any philosophical attachments to the beliefs of the neo right, and encourages that the idea that he will say anything to win.

There is no clear divide between absolute and relative anything.

Poverty is by definition relative. If everyone had nothing, no one would be poor. Poor means nothing unless juxtaposed alongside rich.

Poverty is only absolute if there is a clear definition of what constitutes absolute poverty. Who is competent to make such a judgement?

In a society of millions, there could be hundreds if not thousands of different ideas as to what absolute poverty should consist of. Which one should prevail?

David Cameron's statement is good brand positioning, but is almost meaningless. Only actions and real life events can define the terms of this debate.

Relative poverty could mean lack of a Mercedes and a Van Gogh in the hallway.
Cameron's words sound like policy, but are in fact as long as a piece of string.

He's not as keen as Toynbee to push up the minimum wage to £10 an hour and put millions on the dole, it seems. But he's willing to play a war of words with anti-Tory media.

I'm a huge Cameron fan, but I struggle with putting so much emphasis to relative poverty. Relative to what? The work of the Globalisation and Global Poverty Group is looking at how we best help the many millions in the world whose poverty doesn't even allow them a roof over their heads, water or something to eat. Not being able to afford an annual holiday abroad is a completely differnt type of poverty. We do have pockets of great deprivation in Britain still, and we must address those as a top priority, but we must not diminish the meaning of the word "poverty" by using it lightly.

I would like a more comprehensive definition of 'relative poverty', and I think voters particularly conservative voters are entitled to a clearer definition.

I also get extremely fed-up with people going on and on and on about an Eton education, as if that is the source of so much privilege, that people who happen to be lucky enough to experience it couldn't possibly understand how sad/difficult life is for everyone else. Self-pity and envy never did anyone any good. And it is a pity when apparently (I say apparently because maybe the individuals who DO go on and on about it on this website are not conservatives) conservative supporting people, KEEP returning to this one fact, as the answer, in their minds, as to why David Cameron isn't a very effective shadow PM. When are THEY going to remind themselves a bit more that the present PM and others in Labour went to the Scottish equivalent of Eton, (but of course it doesn't sound so effective!!).

I found the quote from Adam Smith used at the end of Greg Clark's draft paper (which kick-started all this nonsense) very interesting.

It talks about "a creditable day labourer" and "that disgraceful degree of poverty which ... nobody can fall into without extreme bad conduct".

This moral aspect to poverty clearly isn't why Mr. Clark cites the quote. There was, at one time, a concept of "the deserving poor", as opposed to the feckless who were in poverty as a result of their own (in)actions.

Today, this distinction has been completely lost. The poor (whether absolute or relative!) are viewed as deserving, per se. If anyone is responsible, it's the better off (who then proceed to develop a guilt complex as a result).

This post will no doubt be dismissed by the 'modernisers' as old-fashioned and even 'high Tory'. To be honest, I'm getting to the point, with the Party under its current leadership, where I couldn't give a Toss(er).

I am with Richard Allen, word for word. The Conservative Party is now in the middle between Labour and the Lib Dems - that is assuming (and I could well be wrong) Cameron is more conservative than the Lib Dems.

Tapestry @ 18.29 - I agree very much with your discussion of 'relative' and 'absolute' in the context of poverty. One could also say that if everybody in the world had everything (that they wanted), there would by NO means be happiness throughout the world, but I think there are a fair number of people around who do NOT believe that!

I am beginning to wonder if Cameron and his mates live in a parallel universe. Yes I know
they do in the sense that they are universally privileged and any proscriptions they prescribe for the hoi polloi are unlikely to affect them (just like New Labour). However I am now beginning to fear the manifestations which I previously attributed to cynical political self interest may in in reality reflect their unwittingly having swallowed hook line and sinker the whole post modern gramscian agenda which has all but ruined this country. Keep it real he says. What a cheek.

Being a huge DC fan myself, I think this is heading into territory which annoys me incredibly.

I admit that absolute poverty should be tackled, it is morally right to do so. I admit that occasionally, social security should be used to help people improve their education, health and job prospects.

But relative to what? Should we penalise the rich, as some people at the lower end do not have the qualities to earn those huge amounts?

We all know Labour has weaknesses on almost every issue now, Cameron did the right thing "outflanking" labour on the left on the NHS...but this is purely opportunistic and non-conservative.

Greg Clark's Toynbee-not-Churchill paper had Dave's fingerprints all over it and this confirms it. Presumably the Clark paper's publication was timed to run 48 hours ahead Cameron's speech tomorrow. Joined up policy-and-news management at CCHQ. Well done, chaps. Pity this is pure socialism.

We jolly well do NOT need to think of poverty in realtive terms on this side of the political spectrum, Dave. If the Churchillian safety net becomes a Minimal Lifestyle Guarantee for those presently without iPods, 3G phones, Sky dishes and bling, which might very well be what "others in society take for granted", then you achieve, among other things:

1. Further entrenchment of the welfare state in more citizens' lives;

2. An increase in the "entitlement society";

3. Further disincentive to find work (and don't tell us the job's aren't out there).

This man is not by nature a conservative and has no business imposing his socialism on the party.



I am sorry if you do not like people being reminded of Cameron's privileged background. I think it is relevant and if you don't fair enough. The same applies to Oxford and (and if you have been there you'll understand why) the Bullingdon.

Contrasting Fettes with Eton strikes me as irrlevant.

Three words for the time being, until I can post a fuller response.

We are fucked.

This is horrific. I backed Cameron, fought his corner in my constituency, and was pleased with the rebranding effort, approved of the focus on the environment. But even I find this very hard to stomach. The idea that someone is in poverty because their kids don't have an Xbox, or they can't afford a foreign holiday, or whatever, is disgraceful.

It is disingenuous because it takes the focus off fighting real, absolute poverty, and puts it onto what is effectively lifestyle readjustment. It undermines the fundamental Conservative belief that hard work and risk should be rewarded financially - surely the basis of capitalism? It will always be so much easier for Government to make the rich poorer, rather than the poor richer - and that is what this new focus on 'relative' poverty seems to say to me.

I really hope that Cameron, Clark and Co clarify what they mean by this pretty quickly - I don't know if I can stick with the party if we keep pushing for the Toynbee vote...


Brevity is the soul of wit.

I would agree James Maskell...

However, that's not the say we shouldn't vote Tory, we know that 95% of the party is sane..

Somethings can be abandoned to win an election, but I personally think this is line to socialism. Lets just hope its just spin (and lies).

The same applies to Oxford and (and if you have been there you'll understand why) the Bullingdon.


BTW...how do you deal with "poverty" when Romanians and Bulgarians and Poles and Slovaks and Czechs and Hungarians are poor absolutely and can all come here to better their lot.............not to mention the poor from Nigeria, Congo, Mali, Senegal, Somalia, Chad, Malawi.................in fact this task will never end...........

"However, that's not the say we shouldn't vote Tory, we know that 95% of the party is sane.."

That is pretty irrelevant when the party in that case is run by the 5% and when 95% of the policies are un-Conservative.

The danger with this is that it fosters the politics of envy and not aspiration, and provides a reason for people to look to the state and big government if they don't have, or can't keep up with the Jones.

My father remembers the Jarrow march as it passed through London.

My mother remembers legless WW1 veterans begging for money in the streets. She also remembers children going to chool without proper clothes in the midddle of winter and returning home to find the landlords had ripped the front doors of their houses becuase they had no moneyu to pay the rent.

My great-grandmother who owned a shop gave
credit to people (it was called putting it on "tick") in the full knowledge they would bever be able to pay for it and she would not ask for it.

I suggest that that was absolute poverty and no doubt Cameron has seen worse in Africa; I know I have. Our energies should be focussed on eliminating that.

Can I please ask how many people who've posted so far have actually read the paper?

As someone who works in the welfare sector, and is a conservative I find it fairly easy to reconcile conservatism with tackling relative poverty.

DC has stated repeatedly on numerous occasions that the state doesn't have the answer. Those implying that he has moved to the left of labour because he's decided to make an issue out of relative poverty simply haven't taken any notice of anything he's said.

The conservative welfare spokesman was on the Today programme a few days ago - he clearly stated the solution was work not increased benefits.

What Churchill never invisiged when he mentioned the net and ladder was the net tangling people up. The benefit system is a mess and disincentivises work. A few weekends ago I saw an article in the FT put out by Hammond arguing that the private and voluntary sector should be more heavily involved in helping people into work - paid for by using benefit savings - what could be more conservative than that? No state, and people (with help from the social entrepreneurs) dragging themselves out of relative poverty.

The cost of someone out of work is approx £11k p.a. to the state. A bit of (Conservative) imagination and the harnessing of the PVS means relative poverty can be tackled.

How is that not Conservative?


Even hardened Cameroons are being turned off by this latest crap. Can it be that Dave is simply exploring how far he can push the worms before they turn?

Now let's bring the situation down to earth with some commonsense from the late, great, Milton Friedman.

A society that puts equality - in the sense of equality of outcome - ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality or freedom. The use of force to achieve equality will destroy freedom. On the other hand, a society that puts freedom first will, as a happy by-product, end up with both greater freedom and greater equality. Freedom means diversity but also mobility. It preserves the opportunity for today's less well off to become tomorrow's rich, and in the process, enables almost everyone, from top to bottom, to enjoy a richer and fuller life.

arachnica, I think you, Cameron and Osborne are in the wrong party. Or rather, since Cameron is in power at the moment, that I am in the wrong party: the UKIP is calling. If that means another Labour term, so be it.

Well said Jamie Oliver's Sausage or rather well said Milton Friedman. I am not sure however that Blue Labour just like New Labour are that interested in social mobility.

jorgen - why because I believe the government if it used a bit of imagination could 1) get people into work 2)tackle poverty (relative and absolute) and 3)save the Exchequer a load of money

if you don't believe in that then I think you probably are in the wrong party.

Gosh what an uproar - I must admit I have difficulty with the concept of defining poverty in terms of fixed percentages of median incomes but recognise that if income distributions become too extreme, particularly if an underclass develops, there are resulting social evils. Measures of absolute poverrty move with time as well.

Before joining the uproar though I will wait though on what the prescriptions for the solution are - if its just increasing welfare payments then much of comment above is fair. If it's closer to the US Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act which looked to active intervention to move people out of dependency, or by removing disincentives through tax and welfare reform or through interventions supported by local & voluntary organisations targeted at reducing drug dependency etc. then I've much less of a problem.

arachnica, if it only was as easy as 1, 2, 3.

I agree pretty much entirely with Arachnica's comment on this. When I saw the title of the post, I had to dive in, in anticipation of all the indignant spluttering within!! As usual, I haven't been disappointed...

The quote above recognises relative poverty - it does not say that the state should hand over a wedge of cash to address it. The "net and ladder model" is in need of some adjustment. People are getting tangled in the "net" of benefits and tax credits, some of whom it was never even intended for, and being disincentivised from self-advancement. That ladder is not providing the social mobility it should, and some are rejecting it.

Addressing absolute poverty is a moral obligation on us all, and on our government. I think addressing relative poverty is more about creating an opportunity society where people are encouraged to remedy this for themselves - done in the right way, that must be a positive thing for them, the economy and the country.

I actually hope that this is an area that dovetails nicely into DC's theme of social responsibility (I like themes, I think we've been light on them in the past) - an area where it's important to recognise that government doesn't have all the answers.

I think I now know how so many Labour activists feel towards Tony Blair - that he is a Tory in disguise who has failed to enact anything dear to the Labour activists who secured his repeated election as Prime Minister.

I cannot help but wonder if David Cameron is a socialist in disguise, or at the very least an old-style Tory Patrician wet. For someone who says that the state is not the same thing as society, he really does undertake a hell of a lot of state-enhancing lecturing and moralising.

I did not join the Conservative Party to campaign against tax cuts, to swallow political correctness and affirmative action, to adopt Greenpeace's environmentalist and luddite agenda and to prefer equality of outcome to equality of opportunity.

And the millions of Tory voters who deserted the Party in the last decade and whose votes are there for the taking will not return to the Tory fold if this is the flavour of what Cameron and his Etonian chums say is the price for victory.

With a week or so until the first anniversary of Cameron assuming the leadership, one wonders if the poll were to be held again whether the result would be the same. Somehow now we know what Cameron really thinks, I doubt it.

>>I think addressing relative poverty is more about creating an opportunity society<<

How are you proposing to do that then? Tax cuts? Surely not?

Anyway, why are you having to explain what you think Cameron might mean? Whay can't he do it himself.

Your oh-so-familiar bleat about "indignant spluttering" looks even more pathetic than usual when you and your buddy are in a minority of two.

Even the ever-loyal Ted is struggling to raise enthusiasm for this latest Cameroon outrage.

Those of us who paid the price (unemployment) in the 1980's in order to liberate the economy after 30 years of failed economic consensus will not accept a retreat from the free market under the cover of assisting the poor.
The market mechanism is the most efficient means of securing prosperity for the British people.
The electorate recognised this in 1979. They voted to make themselves prosperous by electing a government that would allow them to do so.
The poor and others need two essential items from their government: a defence of the United Kingdoms Parliamentary institutions and a defence of the free market and free trade. Together these two matters will liberate the British people and secure individual and national prosperity.

Good on yer Donal!!!

Good on yer Connell!!!

Well said CONNELL.

As for Richard Carey and "indignant spluttering" there'll be a lot more of that to come. Cameron and his mates are not our betters to tell us what to do. They talk the talk but cannot walk the walk.

Your oh-so-familiar bleat about "indignant spluttering" looks even more pathetic than usual when you and your buddy are in a minority of two.

Except that you and your fellow anonymous posters seem determined to carry on with it, JO'S.

I'm interested as to what you take such great exception to in my post, though. No, I haven't proposed a detailed policy to alleviate poverty in a few lines on a blog, but I am interested to see whether the Conservative prescription develops along the lines I discussed.

Even the ever-loyal Ted is struggling to raise enthusiasm for this latest Cameroon outrage.

I'd suggest you get a sense of perspective. The situation in Darfur is an outrage. The plight of some of the poorest nations in the world is an outrage. This is an isolated quote from the advance text of a speech. Doesn't really measure up, does it?

The hysterical reaction of some of the commentators on this blog is amazing.Would it not be prudent to wait at least for the whole speech before branding Cameron the devil incarnate. If Cameron and Osborne start recommending big tax increases then perhaps some of the comments above would be justified.But they haven't done anything yet. Perhaps some on this blog would prefer it if DC came out with slogans like 'the poor?,who gives a toss?'.


I think your reference to "hysterical" is unfair. Some of us saw the writing on wall over a year ago, we took Cameron at his word, and voted for Davis. Those who voted for Cameron are now meeting their nemesis.

Buying into the "relative poverty" arguement of the left means buying into the big state solutions that are required to accept and address it.

Did anybody notice about 8 years ago how the measure changed from half average earnings to 60% of the mean? This is what happens. If you deal with poverty, it is simply re-defined to keep all the state funded counsellors and other people who work "in poverty" in a job.

Whilst I don't believe Greg Clark did anything other than set out a few interesting ideas, the only sliver of support I have for Cameron's statement is the one voiced yesterday which stated that the level at which somebody is seen as "in poverty" does have to be assessed relative to the circumstances of the day. So to have only an outside lavatory 80 years ago would not necessarily be seen as a symbol of poverty, wheras it would be today.

True poverty is not having enough to feed and clothe and house yourself and, if you have one, your family. The state should ensure that nobody falls below this line and leave just enough above it to fund the search for work. That the level of this is arbitrarily judged by reference to average earnings is plain wrong. People's needs vary with age, the age of their children, their health and geographical location, even within the UK.

A single, healthy adult ought to be able to get by in London, just, on £70 a week, paying rent on a room in a shared house, feeding themselves carefully and looking for work. Two adults with two children might need more and their welfare should be set accordingly.

Whatever happens, this "we care about the poor" stuff means nothing without a commitment to meaningful welfare reform which tackles the problem of withdrawl - hugely high marginal rates of "tax", sometimes over 100% - as people on welfare start to earn. That requires significantly higher and "needs tested" personal allowances and a complete re-think of "National Insurance" with hypothecation of contributions to personal health insurance, pension fund and unemployment insurance.

We used to be the "Can Do" party who thought the unthinkable and undid most of the damage that 35 years of socialism, under Conservative and Labour Governments from 45 - 79, had done to our economy.

Until we have the guts to take the same approach to those things we never really touched between '79 and '97 - health, education, welfare - then the millions who gave up on us, (and who probably didn't go off to Tony, they probably just gave up voting), until then, they will never come back to us and we'll be scrabbling around in the mythical "centre ground" for the votes of disaffected lefties and frankly there aren't enough of them around to help us to win.


An excellent post except I do not accept we did not not touch "between '79 and '97 - health, education, welfare". We did so and in some ways well and in others ways not so well.

The danger in the style of language used is it makes it politically more acceptable for genuine left-wing parties to raise taxes, even if that isn't Cameron's preferred solution.

I'd suggest you get a sense of perspective. The situation in Darfur is an outrage.


Yes Richard, and in case you hadn't noticed, the situation in Darfur is POVERTY also.

Not having a shiny new car or not owning a (mortgaged) house does not amount to the kind of poverty that the state needs to assist, or that we need shed tears over.

This latest left-wing notion to be swallowed hook line and sinker by Cameron is not new. It is the good old socialist politics of envy dressed up in a shiny new frock.

Socialists were always able to grab votes on the "up go we" principle that every man was as good as the next and nobody had a right to a right to a better lifestyle that the stalwart socialist elector.

That, of course, is the same socialist principle of "equality" that Cameron says he supports, but just like the "equality" enjoyed by the citizens of the Soviet Union it seems that the Eton Politbureau are going to remain a little more equal than the rest of us.

No doubt Cameron will argue some tosh along the lines that he wants to level up rather than down. It's nonsense because the sums don't add up. You level up by promoting enterprise through low taxes. You level down by taxing and spending in order to provide handouts.

This time he's scored a fantastic own goal and it'll probably be the first of many.

Those who adopt the approach of "we should wait until the speech is actually given and judge it then" are, of course, usually the same people who subsequently come forward and say that you cannot oppose the thrust of that speech because to do so is disloyal and therefore debate is stifled.

Compare and contrast the seven sentences set out at the head of this thread with the following: "[The Victorians] distinguished between the 'deserving' and the 'undeserving poor'. Both groups should be given help: but it must be help of very different kinds if public spending is not just going to reinforce the dependency culture. The problem with our welfare state was that - perhaps to some degree inevitably - we had failed to remember that distinction and so we provided the same 'help' to those who had genuinely fallen into difficulties and needed some support till they could get out of them, as to those who had simply lost the will or habit of work and self-improvement. The purpose of help must not be to allow people merely to live a half life, but to restore their self discipline and through that their self esteem."

And for good measure: -

"But I never forgot that the unspoken objective of socialism - municipal or national - was to increase dependency. Poverty was not just the breeding ground of socialism: it was the deliberately engineered effect of it."

Margaret Thatcher, The Downing Street Years (I could not find the P-word itself in the first quote, despite the index, but the theme is clear).

Now, if an attack on "relative poverty" is in fact coded language for helping the deserving poor, all well and good - many ways suggest themselves, from dismantling the Brown tax credit system to restoring the assisted places scheme (and in the long term, grammar schools) for bright children of less well off parents.

But if our leaders are only thinking of a different form of state sponsored redistribution, let's just hope they pause for thought first. Do they seriously wish to repudiate Margaret Thatcher's thoughts upon this issue?

Tory Loyalist

With apologies to Patsy, I do like your reference to the "Eton Politbureau".

I always fancied doing PPE 'cos I thought it was a bigger skive than my own subject. Now I know I was wrong.

Well we didn't start this "exclusive" thread so we have to work with the evidence available.

However on past form I'm not expecting to be pleasantly surprised.

Everything that I and the vast majority of my colleagues fought for over several decades of party activism is being wantonly thrown over and abused. And for what?

The party will never be able to hold up its head again after these people have finished debauching it.

Apologies, I did of course mean right.

esbonio @ 18.52 - no I have only driven through Oxford, once so I don't know the Bullingdon whatever it is.

I disagree about Fettes, it is I believe, apart from Gordonstoun, THE poshest school in Scotland, so it is comparable.

I don't consider myself a Cameroon, and I have reservations about some of his policies, or at least some of what he is saying, but I don't judge him because he went to Eton. Perhaps the accusation of a corporate background would be more appropriate, but then for goodness sake what on earth IS the appropriate background for a prospective PM, whatever it is Blair hasn't benefitted from it!!!

And perhaps we should turn the Eton accusation around the other way and say, WHAT school would be considered reasonable for a future PM??

Apart from this education thing, there are some very interesting ideas about 'poverty', welfare, and the role of government and other things, coming out in this thread.

Some people are poor because they are proligate, the answer to their problems is to rein in their appetites, if anything differentials are good for the economy encouraging aspiration and entrepreneurial activity.

The focus should not be on reducing relative poverty, but rather on as much as possible phasing out the rather corruopting use of means testing and aiming to provide more comprehensive coverage of minimal fixed rate but simple benefits - whatever government does there will be the odd person who somehow is let down by the system, but the aim should be to minimise this - I think the notion of a residency based universal payment for UK citizens is an eccelent notion, usually people proposing this suggest absurd levels or add complexities into it, obviously there would have to have to be additions for the severely disabled and the elderly but otherwise this might mean increasing relative poverty for those in benefits while adding greater security because of the removal of many complex income assessments and focusing instead on whether residency and citizenship criteria are fulfilled. With such a flat rate benefit anything anyone earned would be in addition to that amount (maybe non-fixed costs would have to be covered by low interest loans more like Student Loans, things such as Housing Costs and Medical Care), people out of work on the benefit thus would certainly not have it easy, would have an incentive to earn more and would know that they would not be penalised for it both because of perhaps repayments for non-fixed costs and interest being on the same sort of basis as Student Loans and their Residency benefit continuing and because the rates of the benefits would be held down so the taxes they would pay once in work would be held down too - that is the future, reducing relative public spending, allowing relative rates of benefits to earnings to fall but focusing on greater universality and lower taxes leaving people more responsible for their own lives.


Good for you.

In some respects simply driving through Oxford (if you can manage it given the one way system) might be the best thing.

To be honest the I am not that bothered about Fettes or Gordonstoun although I do recognise that the Scottish educational system has had a formidable reputation. My own grandfather benefitted from it when he studied there albeit a long time ago.

Now let's bring the situation down to earth with some commonsense from the late, great, Milton Friedman.
interestingly enough it was Friedman who came up with the idea of Negative Income Tax which he based on the notion that the biggest problem with welfare was the complexity, was having lots of different schemes with lots of different criteria for things and that all his Negative Income Tax would do would be to hand out the money that they would probably get anyway - this was after richard Nixon brought him in to look at Federal Welfare in the USA, the Nixon Administration then introduced a form of Tax Credit that incorporated many of Milton Friedman's ideas, and the in Work benefit. Citizen's Payment schemes that have been proposed obviously are rather more all encompasing on the whole although Milton Friedman's suggestions on this have influenced the debate heavily on all sides.

Why has my comment been deleted? Was saying 'wait for the speech' really so unpalatable?

"I think the notion of a residency based universal payment for UK citizens is an eccelent notion"

Can't say I agree. This money will come from the taxpayer and then be given back to the taxpayer so you might as well let the taxpayer keep it.

I cannot believe the negativeness of some of the comments. Just had the results of a council by-election today (in the "North") in which we trounced Labour. We were on 37% of the vote and Labour down to 25% of the vote. Some people above talk about a parralel universe - but that seems to be a place inhabited by a minority of serial whingers,


>>Why has my comment been deleted? Was saying 'wait for the speech' really so unpalatable?<<

And that's the one in which you called everybody else "hysterical"

Calm down, Malcolm dear. Your post is in exactly the same place as it's been ever since you posted it.

Get yourself a new pair of specs.

>>Just had the results of a council by-election today (in the "North") in which we trounced Labour. We were on 37% of the vote and Labour down to 25% of the vote.<<

Where was that then? Without further details this information is worthless.

I fail to see how you can deal with povery in any form if you have open door policies whereby whole Romanian villages can arrive in Britain and import even poorer people.

It is impossible to keep a welfare state with open product and labour markets. The Welfare State has only functioned in a Nation-State ......ever. The British Empire did not eliminate poverty either in Britain or India, nor could it have done...................but in trying to pursue such policies today you must eliminate poverty throughout the European Union since everyone in the EU has the right to live in Britain, to stand as a Councillor in Britain, and to vote in Council Elections

>>Patsy - no I have only driven through Oxford, once so I don't know the Bullingdon whatever it is.<<

Judging by the following, you're probably one of the lucky ones.

The Bullingdon Dining Club, a top secret drinking society, draws its membership from Oxford’s super-rich, enticing them to a life of secrecy, champagne drinking and ritualised violence. Their excesses have cost them thousands of pounds, sparked threats of imprisonment, and once incurred a ban on entering within 15 miles of Oxford.

Last December, images of snivelling Bullingdon members were splashed all over the tabloids after all 17 members were arrested for wrecking the cellar of the 15th century pub, the White Hart, in Fyfield.

17 bottles of wine were smashed into the walls of the pub after the civility of a gourmet meal descended into a brawl, leaving a trail of debris that was compared by eye-witnesses to a scene from the blitz. The inebriated members started fighting, leaving one with a deep cut to the cheek, and the landlord recalls attempting to pull apart the fighting parties, only to have them set on each other once more, exclaiming, “Sorry old chap, just a bit of high spirits.

The club was once banned from entering within a 15 mile radius of Oxford after all 550 windows of Christ Church’s Tom quad were smashed in one night.

‘I like the sound of breaking glass’ is one of the society’s mottos and particularly true of one member who, at L’Ortolan in Berkshire, took it upon himself to eat his wine glass rather than his Michelin starred meal. At another infamous Bullingdon garden party, the club invited a string band to play and proceeded to destroy all of the instruments, including a Stradivarius.

There's more. Much more.

Nice to know that our party leader is used to moving in such elevated circles.

"I cannot believe the negativeness of some of the comments. Just had the results of a council by-election today (in the "North") in which we trounced Labour. We were on 37% of the vote and Labour down to 25% of the vote. Some people above talk about a parralel universe - but that seems to be a place inhabited by a minority of serial whingers,"

And how on earth is that connected to the fact that Cameron has begun to start using the absurd concept of relative poverty which essentially says people are poor if they don't own as many TVs as everyone else?

I wouldn't believe everything you hear about Oxbridge drinking societies. There is a tendency for embellishment as stories get told and retold.

Maybe Cameron has done the math, and for every person we lose to UKIP, we get two from Labour or the LibDems.

Cameron's strategy seems to be composed of warm words (social justice, environment, relative poverty, etc.) coupled with a lack of specific policies. He is criticised for both separately, but taken together, it means that he hasn't actually made any shifts to the left in terms of policy. Suppose we win the next general election, how hard would it be for specific policies that address the above issues to be rather more traditionally conservative? For example tackling "relative poverty" could mean getting more of these people into work (and not bigger cheques). He's leaving himself enormous room to manoeuvre. Should we give him the benefit of the doubt? Do recall that before Cameron became leader the party's biggest problem was one of image and not policy.

As much as I would like to hear a Thatcher-like speech, this may be the right approach to win the election (which is what he's supposed to do, and not preach to the converted).

Opened the Daily Mail in the early 80's to discover a double page spread outing my sister & friends (who were pictured) as the key members of a female Bullingdon - shock! horror!
Truth - four or five broke female students who monthly had a meal together at a reasonably proced restaurant. Very little truth, lots of DM embellishment.

On the subject of thread - good to hear DC this morning talking about social enterprises, artgeted actions to pull people up the ladder rather than just the Toynbee double the benefits/minimum wage solution.

The difficulty I have with absolute measures of relative poverty is where you draw the line - 40% of median wage is an arbitary measure just as attempts to say what a poverty line is in absolute terms (food, shelter, health provision at x level) is arbitary and definition of wants over needs is different acording to opinion and relative position of the community/country. In UK a house without an indoor toilet/bathrooom is viewed as not fit for human habitation, in other parts of the world a brick house with a roof is a luxury.

Thorn in one typing finger affecting my post:

targeted not argeted
priced not proced

I am getting a little sick of David Cameron thinking that most of what the Conservative Party did prior to him becoming leader was wrong. If he knew anything he would know that the Conservative Party has always championed the less well off in society. Whether it was with the factory Acts, Universal Suffrage, abolishing slavery or allowing council tenants for the first time ever to buy their own homes.

As so many other people have said there will always be relative poverty and no government will ever get rid of it.

The welfare state has spawned a generation of people who actually live from the cradle to the grave fully funded by the state. We should be looking at changing this not making it worse.

I have just got my pay slip and I have just seen how much tax I pay. With Council Tax, a future mortgage and wedding to pay for plus the paying back of a student loan I really cannot afford to pay a single penny more in tax and that is not me being selfish. Yet it seems that Dave and his friends are going to have me paying a whole raft of green taxes and other taxes to fund yet another generation of feckless people who have no desire to work and who never will work.

I wonder why I continue to live in this country. Who is out there standing up for the over taxed, over worked, law abiding minority? It certainly isn't David Cameron!

>>I wouldn't believe everything you hear about Oxbridge drinking societies. There is a tendency for embellishment as stories get told and retold.<<

No doubt, but the fact that 17 members of the Bullingdon Club spent the night in the cells after smashing up a pub is a well-documented fact, plastered all over the papers at the time.

Whether Old Bullingdonian Cameron was among them, I know not, but he is clearly linked to the ethic.

As indeed. by belonging to Whites Club, he is now signed up to the "men only" rule. Obviously he joined before he decided to put on his "caring" hat, but it is probably just as well he did. I have it on very good authority that he would be blackballed if he were applying today.

Ted, I think we have a very good idea who's poor and who's not in this country.

Obviously Third World standards do not apply. Someone with only an outside WC is poor and deprived.

However the votes of the really poor - even if he could get them - are unlikely to make a difference to Cameron's chances, so he's fishing for a new tranche of votes among economic malcontents.

JO's Sausage : What's wrong with "men only" associating for drinks and discussion, or for that matter "women only"?

S.E.L. - "Suppose we win the next general election, how hard would it be for specific policies that address the above issues to be rather more traditionally conservative?"

This is not about specific policies, it's about an ideological capitulation.

Denis: That's just it, warm words is hardly a capitulation. There's barely any meaning behind them; it's all waffle and feel-good phrases. We get worked up, and everyone else thinks the party has become nice (i.e. electable). But Cameron hasn't really committed to anything remotely left wing, leaving room for eventual policies that we wouldn't object to.

Of course it's an ideological capitulation, that's the whole point. From now on, anybody can say "I haven't got what others have got, and what's the government going to do about it?" and there'll be nobody saying "You shouldn't necessarily expect what others have got. Have you worked as hard as they did to get what they've got? Has your work been as valuable as theirs? Have you made the best use of your opportunities in the past? And in any case why do you assume that it's the government's responsibility to ensure that you have got what other people have got, rather than your own responsibility?"


Have you ever been a member of or attended at an Oxford drinking/dining society?

To keep it brief (but without profanities!) I share the views of 90% of the above, despite DC's appearance on BBC Breakfast where he made it all seem very plausible (that man has a way with words).

Denis: "I haven't got what others have got, and what's the government going to do about it?" Despite all the warm words, Cameron hasn't ruled out "We'll help you get a job", or "We'll make bursaries/loans/studentships available so you can get some training/education". Who would say this is not "social justice"?

esbonio: I'm at "the other place", and have attended some rather tame events.

Will the last conservative out please turn off the lights.

SEL - and what happens if the unemployed individual says "no thanks, I don't want a job, but I am relatively poor and I don't have access to all the latest mod cons"?

Are we going to enforce work, training education? State sponsored training is more often than not misdirected.

Jonathan: No need to force anything. If they don't want the help offered, then they can remain poor.

The point of my ramblings above was that warm words + no policy = room to manoeuvre

Maybe Cameron is a bit more crafty than we give him credit for?

I too listened to DC on Radio 4 this morning and must admit to have been totally lost for words after his interview. It is not easy,to appreciate what it is to be poor,coming from a privileged background such as that of DC.It is also a total disgrace for anyone who purports to be a Tory to distance themselves from Churchill and Margaret Thatcher and their policies. One, to whom all in this nation owes a deep and lasting gratitude and the other,the First Lady Prime Minister who led this country well until being deposed by people who quite frankly,couldn't lace her boots! This is a time to look forward to the future but what Party in their right senses seeks to attempt to airbrush out our history.We have an astonishing record as a Party and something of which we should all be proud.However,I am afraid that this sort of nonesense will mean that there will be a lot more of us not only failing to renew our memberships but also to stay at home on polling day. I could not bring myself to vote for any other Party so there is only one other option and that is not to vote. Do these people who are taking us in this direction not see what they are doing to this Party. If this goes on,it will implode and the only way to stop this is for the Shadow Cabinet to have some form of mass resignations.That of course is hardly likely as their self interest will ensure that they keep their mouths shut.Where are those principled MP's who are not frightened to speak up.

Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the Party!

No one is taking us seriously at the moment and it has to stop and stop now. DC's 'Hug a Hoodie' is his equivalent to Wm Hague's 'Baseball Cap'. and that will ensure that at least he is known for that comment. I hardly think that he will have a place in the history books other than it might be that he was the leader who refused to build on the principles of the Tory Party.

S.E.L. - As I pointed out a few days ago, once you start to talk about "social justice" you're on a slippery slope. The fact that person A has a higher income or greater accumulated wealth than person B doesn't mean that there's any lack of justice: they may both have their just desserts. Similarly the fact that person A has something which person B lacks doesn't mean that there is any wrong which the government should seek to right. There's the question of "social cohesion", there's a crucial distinction to be made between children and adults, and linked to the second there's the importance of making the best use of available talent. But Cameron has gone beyond those pragmatic considerations to an unprecedented and irreversible ideological surrender. Now we have all three main political parties wedded to the politics of envy, a sure recipe for long term decline.

Unaccustomed as I am to leaping to the defence of the leader of the Tory Party (who is undoubtedly a left-leaning Tory Patrician wet), on this one, I agree with Ted and Malcolm (don't fall off your chair, Malcolm!). The words mean nothing: for generations, the centre-right has defined poverty in terms that were less than absolute. And quite right to, says he, coming from a family in which my father and grandfather experienced extreme poverty in the first half of the 20th century.

The key is what you do about it. Mad Pol's solution is clear. Sitting in her Clapham Mansion, this demented descendant of the 9th Earl of Carlisle prescribes ever more taxation, ever more levelling-down, ever more finger-wagging state intervention in people's lives. She is the ultimate aristocrat-turned-inverted Puritan. Compared to her Cromwell resembles Mick Jagger.

Does Cameron have the cojones to depart from this autocratic egalitarian approach which the left will defend ferociously despite the fact it has failed so many people? On that question, I am much less optimistic: for decades, Tory Patrician wets have too often done the bidding of the left.

SEL - but leaving people comparatively poor cannot be squared with the concept of relative poverty.

So if you are saying the route out is work, then their must be coercion to enforce it. Otherwise those defined as being in poverty have the right to say no thanks to a job, but still have their incomes and lifestyle raise to meet a state defined average.

I always thought that was socialism at best but is most probably communism. Surely you are not advocating that, or are you?

My objection to this approach is this; the only way you can reduce relative poverty is by equalising incomes. The only way to equalise incomes is by increasing levels of taxation on the better off, and redistributing that income to the worse off. That is what Polly Toynbee advocates, and it follows logically enough from her basic assumptions.

My own view is that the welfare state *ought* to be only a safety net. Not a way of life.

Jonathan & Denis: I don't agree with the idea of relative poverty. But imagine this scenario: We win the next general election, Cameron proposes some ideas to address poverty, and redefines relative poverty from 60% of median income to say 35% median income. Labour would jeer. Cameron would reaffirm that it is relative poverty he is dealing (thereby not going back on promises) but that 60% was not realistic number because these people were in fact fairly well off (statistics cited that most have a mobile phone, TV, etc.). So dealing with people at 35% or below median income might in fact be absolute poverty, which in practise means that this is what he would be dealing with even though he's calling it relative poverty. Maybe I'm just too cynical about it all.

"I always thought that was socialism at best but is most probably communism."

No, the hard-hearted and hard-headed communists said that if you don't work, you don't eat. This is both soft-hearted and soft-headed.

I haven't yet had time to read this entire thread, but I join with others who voted for Cameron for the leadership and who have generally supported his approach since (if not in every detail) in being very dismayed at this endorsement of tackling relative poverty (inequality of outcome by any other name) rather than absolute poverty.

For the Eton/Oxford obsessives, I am even prepared to out myself at this point as an Old Etonian Cambridge graduate. Whilst social concern may well sometimes be a product of having a good start in life oneself (and if that is the complaint against Cameron, he should plead guilty - it is a highly traditional Conservative trait to have social concern); accepting leftist definitions and ways of thinking certainly is not, and very few Old Etonians of my acquaintance espouse them.

The question is: has Cameron really swallowed this or is it misguided PR positioning? The most pernicious aspect of the prevailing definitions of relative poverty is where they are based around mechanistic variations from the mean, or median. But if he merely means that our definition of relative poverty (i.e. the things (or the money to buy them) that we think everyone in our country should be provided with if they cannot provide it for themselves), alters over time, then it becomes a matter of detail as to what you mean. For example, 30 years ago one would probably consider that every household should have the means to access black & white TV, now it would be colour TV and in a few years' time it will be (free to view) digital TV. I would not presently put a mobile phone on the list but I might consider that private access to some sort of phone (land line at home or mobile) might be, whereas it would not have been 40 years ago.

So I think Cameron has definitely made a major mistake in trailering this "relative poverty" point without the details. It is also totally wrong to trash the legacy of the 1980s, let alone Churchill - of course the 80s were not perfect, but for much of my generation (say now aged 45 to 60), it was the golden age on which any success the country has had since was founded.

When we read the full speech later today, either we Conservatives may be reassured that Cameron didn't mean relative poverty by all the usual mechanistic definitions (in which case why upset his supporters so much by what has been said so far, because the left media etc will soon be on to that and any credit gained there will be rapidly lost) or we will find he has accepted the objectives and intellectual framework of the left on the definition of poverty, which will be very worrying. However, ultimately the more cataclysmic mistake would be to accept the policies that have usually flowed from that analysis, and he may well not do that. But as Thatcher showed with her grounding in Hayek, Friedman etc, it is rather a good starting point to get your intellectual framework right and what this casts doubt on is whether instead the PR tail is wagging the philosophical dog. Mrs Thatcher never made that mistake. If we find the speech is as concerning as we fear, I still prefer to think that this is what the mistake is, rather than that Cameron made the even bigger mistake of joining the wrong political party.

S.E.L. - Labour would do more than jeer, they would quote the United Nations, and it would be difficult for Cameron to answer that now that he's accepted their definition of poverty. See eg: http://www.unicef.org/brazil/repcard6e.pdf

From Question Time last night it was apparent that this is a debate that the general public isn't really very interested in. It was nice to see Polly Toynbee being embarrassed by the report though!

As this is really an internal debate on that basis, I think it is important to decide whether it is an abominable intellectual surrender of all that we hold dear or just the adoption of an image to identify real problems.

As remarked already, even the concept of absolute poverty in practice is a relative concept- what would be absolute poverty in sub-Saharan Africa and the UK are quite different things. What would be absolute poverty in Mayfair is quite different to what would be absolute poverty in Slough. The question to me is whether we should be concerned that the people at the bottom are getting so far away from the norm that they cease to engage in the world according to the same rules and incentives. If that is a real concern, the policy end is where we can see whether DC is a socialist or a conservative.

If the policies to remedy that leaving behind of a segment of society (which then go on to behave against the interests of the norm) are purely to hand out all the goods otherwise received through hard work and application, then this would be disastrous Toynbeeism. If the policies are such as to put in market led incentives to remove any excuse for being poor (ie to make those who are poor by definition undeserving and therefore only to be supported at a level so that their conditions are not a moral affront to the wider population) then this can be conservative.

The key to that calculus is determining the levels of what should be the norm and what should be taken as the measure for being deserving of assistance. Perhaps in conjunction with the "inner tosser" campaign there is a sign that the proposals are not about giving the indolent all the bling they think they need but to make sure that they have the basics of modern life so that they can participate and take advantage of the opportunities available.

However, it may be that this is just something that cannot be delivered without state intervention. If that is the case, then we are right to fear the shift in debate. But I think that this would be to have too thin a view of what conservative principles and policies can do.

On a separate point- as a non-Etonian, can we stop wittering on about the OEs? George Orwell was an OE and pretty good at understanding poverty so attending Eton is no bar to being able to have an opinion on society.


I think discussing Cameron's provenance and is highly relevant to any discussion of absolute or relative poverty. Of course I do not think that being an Etonian or even ex-Oxbridge should preclude you from being leader or PM. The problem is however Cameron appears to have chosen to surround himself with a narrow clique of similar supporters whilst undertaking a cultural and political revolution which not only flies in the face of what traditional Tories support but also what he claimed to support beforehand.

So it aint wittering.

And Cameron does not appear to be a friend of grammar schools. I wonder where he and his friends will send their kids to be educated.


Perhaps times have changed or Cambridge has always been tame. I was at Oxford in the 80s and things could be quite wild to say the least. My experience of the societies I attended was that they were nauseatingly snobbish. A bit like a lot of Oxford I am afraid to say. I think it may have changed a bit since then based on the undergraduates i have met.

Richard Weatherill:
"There was, at one time, a concept of "the deserving poor", as opposed to the feckless who were in poverty as a result of their own (in)actions."

This distinction isn't totally vital from an economic standpoint - if you provide an economic incentive for people to rise out of poverty, most will tend to do so, whether they were deserving or undeserving to begin with. OTOH the deserving vs feckless distinction is a vital one to people who have themselves struggled with poverty, the low paid workers, the C2s and Ds, the backbone of Thatcher's support and the very people we should be trying to attract. If you have risen out of crushing poverty by your own efforts, or are still struggling to do so, you tend to have limited sympathy with those happy to sponge off the State.

"the very people we should be trying to attract" - For all the Tories who look to America for lessons, few seem to notice that the bedrock of Republican support and the reason why the GOP has tended to be electorally dominant is that they enjoy the support of the majority of blue-collar working families. In the UK these are the people Thatcher helped with right-to-buy. They are people New Labour seem to despise and have greatly harmed through regressive taxation, tax credits et al, which surely gives the Conservatives a golden opportunity.


I entirely agree with your last two posts.

"On a separate point- as a non-Etonian, can we stop wittering on about the OEs?"

FWIW, my own background is that I consider myself middle-class, I went to grammar school in Belfast & then to Oxford, but my mother grew up in extreme poverty in Londonderry; I have what my American wife calls 'white trash roots'. :)
I think there is a tendency towards paternalism from the comfortable upper-middle and upper classes who largely dominate modern politics, this approach tends to see less fortunate people as passive victims of their circumstances. The risk is that this attitude can inculcate the very passivity that makes poverty ineradicable.

Londoner at 12.06

Well said (except I did not make the error of voting for Cameron).

You're fortunate then esbonio. The rest of us have no such comfort blanket.

Forgive me, I knew not what I was doing.

Esbonio, thanks for your post at 15:40. But taking you up further on one of your points at 14:21, can you corroborate your assertion that Cameron has surrounded himself with a "narrow clique of similar supporters"?

It depends what you mean by similar of course, but if you are talking about the specific point of Old Etonians I have challenged others on here to back it up. I think it was established that there are 18 OE frontbenchers out of some 150, across both Lords and Commons, but there are only six OE frontbenchers in the Commons (Cameron, 2 other Shadow Cabinet and 3 junior spokesmen), which compares with nearly half the Cabinet at one stage during Ted Heath's premiership.

If you are talking about Oxbridge, then surely, if there are institutions which try to pick the most intellectually able on meritocratic criteria at the age of 18, it would be surprising if they were not disproportionally to be found later in life in positions of influence, on the same meritocratic grounds, wouldn't it? Granted, intellect isn't everything, but it's not a bad start.

In fact one could almost go so far as to complain that recent Labour cabinets have had too few Oxbridge graduates in them for their own good.


And there I was beginning to like you (ok I still do).

You are right to note I chose my words carefully. Similar does not mean the same. We can if you like debate that part later. I was however windy about Cameron and the Notting Hill set long before he became leader.

For the time being you appear to be touchy about being an OE. Maybe that is justified, maybe it is not.

Despite going to a comprehensive I do not own an anorak and so cannot tell you whether Etonians were over represented in the cabinet under the egregious Heath (whom Cameron seems to be trying to outdo) or are under-represented with only two people in the shadow cabinet at the momemnt. I am sure you can enlighten me. However as far as I am aware the school I went to (only a few decades younger than Eton) has never had an MP in the cabinet shadow or otherwise.

As for Oxbridge, I went to Oxford. I forget the exact figures but something like 60/70% public school intake at my time with 6/7% attending public schools.

Some of you guys seem to react to some commentators embellishment of what DC has said, then go on to exaggerate it and finally end up arguing about something he never said. This seems to be the std routine on some of the threads.


I don't care whatever tangent this thread has gone off on, Eton, Oxford blah blah blah. I don't care where a leader comes from as long as his/her ideology is right.

This latest piece of anti-Conservatism spouted by the 'Leader of the Conservative Party' and his cabal of strident left-wingers seems to have provoked perhaps the strongest anti-Cameron backlash I have ever known on ConservativeHome.

How many Tory Members of the House of Commons are shitting themselves with fear now, do we reckon?

Because having read the entries on this site, I think many Party Members are, including myself.

Many posters stirring trouble are quite probably not conservatives, even after the gallant attempts of the editors to seek them out and ban anyone acting as agents provocateur.

If you want to be honest to yourself then vote for something you believe in and if that's not the conservative party so what? You're not tied to the party with a ball and chain you know.

Perhaps many people have invested blood, sweat, tears and hope in the party and don't want to see it wrecked?

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