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Coffee House

The war on poverty opens a second front

5 June 2010

10:54 AM

5 June 2010

10:54 AM

I detest the use of the word ‘Czar’. Everything has a Czar – potato
regulation, multi-story car parks and Twitter being my favourite three. But the war on poverty needs to be fought by free-thinking absolutists. The appointment of Frank Field to conduct an
independent review into poverty and life chances confirms David Cameron’s, and the coalition’s, non-partisan commitment to social mobility and betterment.
 
Field presents his analysis in a succinct piece in the Telegraph.  He writes:

‘Over recent decades, the Left and centre-Left’s answer to poverty and inequality has been to spend more money, to redistribute from richer to poorer. Yet this central social
democratic ideal is being tested to the point of destruction. Over the past 13 years, the government doubled all its key budgets; in real terms, overall public expenditure rose by more than 50
per cent. Few people would argue that the solution to the complex social and economic problems Britain faces is even higher spending.

This is why we need to change the terms of debate – and why, as a Labour MP, I have agreed to lead the Independent Review on Poverty and Life Chances announced by the Prime Minister
yesterday. Labour, just as much as the Coalition, needs to rethink its position. The aim is to ensure that a debate that has been largely obsessed with how much money is being spent, gives way to
one that concentrates on the consequences of each tranche of taxpayers’ investment?’

A radical re-definition of both the responses to and understanding of poverty is a driving principle that Field shares with IDS, one that escapes the tyranny of targets and delivers workable solutions to specific problems.

There is a faint but perceptible sense of optimism across the media this morning. With IDS on the frontline at the DWP and Field directing the insurgency, the monumental task of winning the battle
of ideas with the centre-left and breaking the benefits trap has begun.

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