“Before you came into office,” Andrew Marr thundered, “you said child poverty was not just an economic waste but a moral disgrace. Now 900,000 more people will, after a further 5 years of your austerity programme, be in child poverty”.
Andrew Marr started his New Year on fighting form. David Cameron started his on the defensive. That, of course, is the Conservative Party’s default position – one that only Margaret Thatcher really managed to overcome.
To be a Conservative is to suffer a disadvantage when it comes to public opinion, given the prime task of a Conservative is to defend our common assets not to destroy them as is so beloved of the Left.
Defending and explaining are however quite different to being on the defensive – unless you have already bought into the socialist equality agenda and its untruths. Unfortunately, that is exactly what Mr Cameron and his team did – before they even took office – to be seen as modern and ‘acceptable’.
What easier for Andrew Marr than to rise to the attack on that hardy perennial – the topic of poverty – so cleverly redefined and packaged by Gordon Brown as that even greater iniquity, child poverty?
So there Marr was on Sunday morning astride the moral high ground and with the rhetorical advantage of injustice on his side attacking the Government’s (non) austerity programme. As ever the hapless Conservative – in this case David Cameron – found himself on the back foot. For all his attempts to be modern and compassionate he still was – Mr Nasty Party, unfeeling of starving children and being hoist on his own petard.
Had he spent his Christmas break as I did, reading How To Be a Conservative by Roger Scruton, (a must read for anyone purporting to be a conservative) he could have leapt at the opportunity this interview gave him to start the year on a whole new – conservative – footing.
It would have a required a mea culpa first – for falling for all those socialist untruths in the past, for what Roger Scruton has termed socialism’s totalitarian temptation. He could then have renounced all that top down, heavy-handed imposition of equality from above that he, in the name of early intervention in the family, has unthinkingly continued with from his predecessors.
He could have begun to explain how perverse he now, having seen the light, realises is the concept of social justice behind it – which, far from being just, has enabled egalitarian ideologues “to present their malice towards the successful as a kind of compassion towards the rest”. And not very compassionate at that.
At the very least, he could have pointed up the false equation that pervades current political thinking – between injustice and inequality: “the emergence in modern politics of a wholly novel idea of justice – that has nothing to do with right, desert, reward or retribution, and which is effectively detatched from the actions and responsibilities of individuals,” as Scruton puts it. One that even Michael Gove has fallen foul of in believing that schools are there to equalise opportunity rather than to educate. Social engineering has, after all, continued to govern educational reform under his aegis.
It has too continued to define ‘poverty’, creating the political poverty trap that Iain Duncan Smith finds himself still ensnared in and which he is trying (against the current odds) to extricate us all from.
Only IDS has dared at least challenge the measurement of relative poverty – daft and perverse as the notion is – defined as the condition of someone who received less than 60 per cent of the median income.
This is the convenient basis on which poverty will never go away, however much the standard of living is raised unless our incomes are all equalised, keeping government for ever in business.
Such is the case with that clone of relative poverty, child poverty, measured in exactly the same way.
“These are IFS figures, so there can be no argument,” Marr said.
And if there were any remnant of doubt he went on to remind Mr. Cameron (who claimed that child poverty had gone down under his government) that it had not – not after after the first two years : “Your own Minister Esther McVey told the House of Commons that the uprating of in work tax credits has already put 200,000 children into child poverty”.
Mr Cameron could have thanked Mr Marr for pointing out the sheer oppressiveness of the Gordon Brown tax credit policy. He might have said we are now rethinking it. After all it must be flawed, didn’t Mr Marr think, given that the £171 billion spent in tax credits (benefits) between 2003 and 2010 and the further £100 billion odd spent since then, has still ended up with claims of 2.3 million children still in poverty?
It is, his government has concluded, a £300 billion pound socialist experiment that has patently failed.
He could have turned the tables on Mr Marr. How much more would he propose the State keep spending this way of taxpayers’ money?
Has it occurred to Mr Marr that perhaps poverty is not a function of the rich being rich but an outcome of the central role occupied by the State in the lives of its clients?
Had Mr Marr read Roger Scruton on what the current political system has descended to and what is wrong with it?
“When your budget is provided by the State then you will vote for the politician who promises to augment it” (which is how the Labour Party has built up reliable block votes and its client state) by “paying for these votes with the taxes of those who vote the other way”.
It is in my dreams, of course, that David Cameron would have said and done all this.
However, the truth still is that until the wrongs of socialist egalitarianism and the over- authoritarian State created in its name are confronted head on, the sanctimonious Mr Marr will, with such statistical sleights of hand as the child poverty targets are based upon, continue to berate the ‘Conservative’ Party on behalf of the poor.
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