Conservatismequalitylatest – Part 5 – David Cameron

Russell Haggar

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Conservatism, Ideology, Economic Inequality and Poverty

Part One: - Click Here

Introduction

Conservatives, Economic Equality/Inequality and Poverty: General Arguments

Part Two: - Click Here

One Nation Conservatism:

One Nation Conservatism: Economic Equality/Inequality and Poverty

Part Three: - Click Here

Thatcherite Conservatism:

Thatcherite Conservatism: Economic Equality/Inequality and Poverty

Part Four: - Click Here

Post-Thatcherism

Economic Equality/Inequality and Poverty in the Post Thatcherite Era. Post-Thatcherism and One Nation Conservatism 1990-2017

Part Five:

David Cameron

David Cameron and Ideology: General

Economic Equality/Inequality and Poverty and The Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition

David Cameron and the Conservative Government 2015-16

Part Six: - Click Here

Theresa May

Prime Minister Theresa May

Part Seven: - Click Here

Summary

Appendix Phillip Blond

Appendix: Iain Duncan Smith and Welfare

 

Part Five:

David Cameron

David Cameron's Conservatives and Ideology: General.

 

Click here for an article on One Nation Conservatism by Professor Tim Bale. **He describes One Nation as" one of the most used and abused terms in the Tory lexicon."

Click here for short article on David Cameron: One Nation Conservative or Thatcherite**

Guardian article on David Cameron as a One Nation Conservative [Martin Kettle]**

Click here for "Whatever Happened to Compassionate Conservatism?" { Professor Hugh Bochel] **

*Spectator article on One Nation Conservatism**

Click here for "Cameron Uncovered" [ Dispatches video]

Click here  for Guardian article  "Toryism has found its heart...." [Matthew D'Ancona Guardian] **

Click here for Guardian article by Anne McElvoy in which she argues that to some extent David Cameron should be seen as a One Nation Conservative**

Click here for an article on the demise of  One Nation Conservatism by Richard Hayton**

Political Studies Association article ..Radicalism or Retreat?  The Ccnservatives under David Cameron**

Conservative Manifesto Summary 2010  and 2015 [from BBC

In 2005 the Conservative Party went down to its 3rd consecutive General Election defeat albeit a narrower defeat than in 1997 and 2001. However in 2005 the Conservative Party was still perceived widely as the party of the privileged few rather than the many; as out of touch with ordinary people; as more preoccupied  with the interests of big business than with the interests of society as a whole; as unlikely to spend sufficient government money to defend public sector services and as generally critical of public sector workers; and as overly preoccupied with issues around law and order, taxation, the EU, immigration and asylum seekers; as outdated in its attitudes toward marriage and the family; and as unwilling to address sympathetically serious issues around national and international poverty , environment and development. With this catalogue of disadvantages it would be no simple matter to achieve victory in the next General Election but David Cameron would seek to do so by adopting and adapting policies both from the Thatcherite and the Blairite political agendas while differentiating the Conservative Party under his leadership from both Thatcherism and Blairism.

In recent years political analysts have often utilised the concept of political triangulation to analyse both broad party political strategies and specific party policies. Thus on many issues Tony Blair sought  to differentiate his own policy positions both from the more Right Wing policies associated with the Conservative Party and from more Left Wing policies associated with "old Labour" all of which enabled Blair to claim that his own policies reflected the influence of modernised,, moderate social democracy and ,at least as importantly, that they would correspond closely with the views of the median voter [as discovered via focus groups] with obvious electoral advantage to Labour in 1997, 2001 and 2005. It can similarly be argued that David Cameron's political strategy relied heavily on this idea of political triangulation in that he sought to differentiate the Conservative Party both from the the politics of Thatcherism and from the politics of Blairism  and subsequently of Brownism.

It has been argued also that David Cameron and his close advisers adopted an essentially two stage  strategy to restore the electoral prospects of the Conservative Party. Firstly he would aim  to address the negative image of the Conservative Party which was widely seen as so "nasty" or "toxic" that many voters had simply written off the party as a credible alternative government and in many cases had ceased to listen to the Conservatives even if and when they articulated plausible policies. In this respect much has been made of the findings that respondents  might initially support particular policies but would reject the same policies if they were first told that they were actually Conservative policies. Secondly once the overall image of the Party had improved it was hoped that Cameron might return to some extent to more traditional conservative themes in the hope that these might now receive a more sympathetic hearing from the electorate.

Cameron would adopt  a variety of measures to improve the overall image of the party including greater emphasis on more salient electoral issues such as Health and Education and a de-emphasis of less salient issues such Europe , Taxation and Immigration which had been prioritised in the failed General Election campaigns of 2001 and 2005  but   David Cameron and his supporters believed also that once they had "detoxified" the Conservative Party and "rebranded" it  as a more centrist, caring, compassionate, environmentally friendly and liberal party they would  then be able re-emphasise traditional Conservative themes of immigration, asylum, law and order, taxation and Europe  but using language and tone which would not antagonise more centrist voters as had occurred in 2001 and 2005.

It had come to be recognised that many voters combine slightly left of centre views on the economy and public services  with rather authoritarian views on law and order and immigration and asylum and that  immigration and asylum and, perhaps to a lesser extent law and order, were increasingly salient issues in the 2005 and 2010 General Election. Thus the Conservative Party would practise the so-called "Politics of AND"::  Cameron's Conservative Party would be the Party of the NHS and  of law and order; the Party of State Education  and of stricter immigration controls  and in order to implement this strategy David Cameron did ,for example , make rather more authoritarian statements on immigration and crime in 2009 and 2010 than in the earlier years of his leadership. His response to the urban riots of 2011 embodied   a traditionally tough Conservative approach to law and order and a the introduction of the Troubled Families initiative which many analysts have subsequently claimed was misguided and ineffective.

David Cameron : Urban Riots and The Troubled Families Initiative

Click here and here and here and here for David Cameron's response to the Urban riots of 2011

Click here  for David Cameron's full Parliamentary Statement in which he does refer to "Britain's Broken Society

Click here and here and here and here for the Troubled Families Initiative

 

 

There are certainly significant disputes surrounding the ideological beliefs of  David Cameron although it may be that these disputes may be at least partially resolved if we distinguish between  David Cameron's objectives and the policies designed to achieve them. Thus bearing in mind that from Disraeli onwards One Nation Conservatives always believed that any social and economic reforms which were introduced would operate in the context of a private enterprise economy which depended for its effectiveness on the economic incentives provided by a measure of economic inequality we might argue that from the 1990s onwards modern One Nation Conservatives increasingly came to believe that  One Nation objectives could be achieved via some considerable reliance on Thatcherite economic liberalism combined with other measures designed to safeguard the interests of the disadvantaged.

As Leader of the Opposition David Cameron appeared keen to distance himself from the legacy of Thatcherism and in several respects to shift the Conservative Party towards the “centre ground” in a manner which he hoped nevertheless would not overly antagonise Thatcherites within the Party . Thus  while claiming that he is “not a particularly ideological politician” he has also identified himself as both an economic liberal and a social liberal supporting what he believes to be the economic benefits of Thatcherite neo-liberal economic policies while also distancing himself from Thatcherite neo-conservatism on issues such as family policy including Single Sex Marriage and law and order.  Thus, for example,  under David Cameron's leadership The Marriage [Same Sex Couples] Bill passed through the House of Commons in 2013  with a comfortable majority but whereas both Labour and Liberal Democrat parties were strongly in support of the Bill the Conservatives were deeply divided with more Conservative MPS voting against the Bill than in favour.

He has  identified too himself with a Macmillanite version of One nation Conservatism and  although he continued to praise Thatcherite economic reforms he noted also that by 2010 there would be many new voters who knew little of Thatcherism; he stated that the Conservatives must challenge Labour in the key areas of health and education policy; he praised the work of public sector professionals ; he has emphasised the increased importance of environmental protection  and the continuing importance of foreign aid; and he signalled a significant shift in Conservative social policy by recognising the significance of both absolute and relative poverty. Also in a telling phrase that “There is such a thing as society but it is not the same thing as the state” he sought to distance himself both from Thatcherite individualism and from the excessively bureaucratised statism which he claimed was typical of New Labour policies. Instead he promised the development of “The Big Society”[see later]  in which Third Sector charitable institutions and greater societal participation would help to alleviate the social problems which in his view had not been amenable to solution by the over-centralised Blair- Brown State.

 

On David Cameron and Harold Macmillan

Click here and here and here for David Cameron and Harold Macmillan

 

While some political analysts have tended to accept David Cameron’s self-definitions as a “ modern”, ”compassionate, “One Nation” Conservative  and to argue that he would indeed have introduced more recognisably One Nation policies if economic circumstances had been more favourable others have denied that he has repositioned the Conservatives on the "centre ground." They claim that  in all essentials Cameron has accepted Thatcherite neo-liberal economic policies; that one should also not overstate his divergence from Thatcherism on law and order questions; that his commitments to environmentally friendly policies have not been sustained in government; and that his plans for increased civic engagement have been met with generalised cynicism and have achieved little.

 

David Cameron and Environmental Policy

Controversy arose in 2013 as to whether David Cameron did initiate a redirection of environmental policy away from actual environmental protection towards the minimisation of costs in order to promote economic competitiveness. Indeed it was  alleged that he had used somewhat intemperate language to suggest that it was time to "get rid of all the green crap" while George Osborne stated in a Conservative Party Conference Speech that. Later in 2016 a Guardian assessment overall Coalition policies between 2010 and 2015 had not been especially successful suggesting perhaps that the neoliberal support for free markets had more influence over policy than Green ideas.

However the technicalities of energy policy are highly complex and the share of total UK energy produced from renewable sources has increased in recent years, See here and here  but also here  January 2019

Click here for Guardian article on Cameron's 2013 alleged statement

Click here for George Osborne's 2013 statement on climate change and energy bills

Click here for Guardian assessment of Coalition environmental policies

Click here for a detailed article on Coalition environmental policies

Click here for a recent [January 2018] BBC article on the Conservatives and the environment.

Steve Richards'  3 part Radio 4 series on the Cameron Years Conservative environmental policies are discussed toward the end of part two of this series.

 

 

Meanwhile, however on the Right of the Conservative Party Cameron’s apparent One Nation Conservatism, his links with the Liberal Democrats and his [and, according to the Right] insufficient Euroscepticism have been seen as all too real and a cause for alarm rather than celebration. Finally because he is perceived by some as Thatcherite and by others as One Nation Conservative this has led some to argue that in reality he is the ultimate ideologically rootless, pragmatic politician .

Disputes as to the real nature of David Cameron's beliefs is ongoing. Writing in the IPPR journal Sunder Katwala has argued that David Cameron provides a master class in political ambiguity ;  the eminent political theorist Vernon Bogdanor [see here] accepts that Cameron should be seen as a Macmillanite and unideological [really??]   Conservative [ a view endorsed among other by Professor Philip Norton and journalists Martin Kettle and Matthew D'Ancona].

See especially with Martin Kettle's Guardian article on David Cameron's speech at the 2013 Conservative party Conference. "For this was emphatically not the speech of  a Tory leader whose primary aim was to move his party to the right. On the contrary this was a speech of what Cameron is and has always been : a One Nation Conservative who is still seeking in the words of Matthew D'Ancona's important book about the Coalition to solve the political theorem  which dominates post-Thatcherite Britain:  that of combining the vigour of market economics with social justice and social responsibility"

Guardian article on David Cameron as a One Nation Conservative [Martin Kettle]

Spectator article on One Nation Conservatism

Click here  for Guardian article  "Toryism has found its heart...." [Matthew D'Ancona Guardian]

Further short comments either endorsing or rejecting the perception of Cameron as One Nation Conservative may be found in this recent Observer article .

However the  journalist Steve Richards [see here and here]  disputes these views and is supported in academic studies by Matt Beech and Simon Lee, by Richard Hayton and by various academics writing for the LSE Political Blog.

David Cameron and Austerity [Dan Bailey: LSE Politics and Policy Blog]**

David Cameron and Welfare [Libby McEnhill LSE Politics and Policy Blog] **

For example in an article entitled Ideology and Values [in David Cameron and Conservative Renewal : The Limits of Modernisation Gillian Peele and John Francis Editors 2017" ] Richard Hayton claims that "despite some rhetorical distancing from the Thatcher era  Cameron largely failed to alter the trajectory of contemporary conservatism which remains essentially Thatcherite " while in  "The Demise of the One Nation Tradition" [2014] he states , "It is consequently very difficult to foresee a renewal of the One Nation tradition in the contemporary Conservative Party. While future generations of Conservative politicians will no doubt exploit the beguiling rhetoric of One Nation , as an ideological tradition it has been relegated to the very margins of the party's politics."

Click here for an article on the demise of  One Nation Conservatism by Richard Hayton

[Another manifestation of the  debate around David Cameron and One Nation Conservatism was seen in the setting up of The Good Right Project by Tim Montgomerie and Stephan Shakespeare in 2015 In the following videos of an event launching the project Michael Gove lectures on Compassionate Conservatism  and Michael Gove, Iain Duncan Smith,  Sajid Javid  and Ruth Davidson discuss the New One Nation Conservatism . There is interesting material here but we must also note that Tim Montgomerie subsequently resigned from the Conservative Party in March 2016 due to David Cameron's qualified support for the UK's support for the UK's continued membership of the EU. It may be fair to say that little has been heard of The Good Right Project since then.

Click here for Whatever happened to compassionate conservatism?

Click here for The New One Nation Conservatism ]

 

Of course part of the problem involved in determining whether or not David Cameron should or should not be defined as a One Nation Conservative derives from the existence of competing opinions  which have been outlined above as to the nature of One Nation Conservatism itself.

 

Economic Equality, Inequality and Poverty and the  Conservative=Liberal Democrat Coalition.

The themes of inequality, poverty  and social mobility were to be given increased  by David Cameron  who quickly set up six policy development groups [Economic Competitiveness, National and International Security, Overseas Aid, Globalisation and Global Poverty, Public Service Reform, Quality of Life and Social Justice  ]

Prior to the 2010 General Election  both David Cameron and George Osborne were keen to criticise New Labour’s record on income inequality, poverty and social mobility. Thus they pointed out that by 2010 income inequality as measured by Gini Coefficient data was higher than when Labour took office in 1997; that there was evidence that although overall relative poverty had declined the extent of severe poverty had actually increased and that a widely reported study by S. Machin and J. Blanden indicated that rates of social mobility were actually declining.

However of course critics argued that the Osborne/ Cameron interpretations were flawed and pointed out that the most significant increases in income inequality had occurred in the Thatcher-Major years and that although Labour had failed to reverse the trend to greater income inequality they had at least mitigated it; that data on the extent of severe poverty are considered by many experts to be unreliable ; and that since  the Machin –Blanden study actually compared the mobility rates of children born in 1958 and 1970  the 1970 data actually referred to individuals who would have been educated in the Thatcher era. Notwithstanding these criticisms David Cameron stated that when elected  is Conservative Government would safeguard the interests of the disadvantaged far more effectively than previous Labour Governments had done.

In overall terms statistical data do indicate that overall income inequality as measured by the Gini Coefficient did increase slightly under Labour Governments [1997-2010] and that according to ONS data income inequality did fall slightly under the Coalition Government but it is fair to say that in both cases the changes in income inequality were very slight such that there was very little overall change in income inequality since the Thatcher era during which time income inequality had increased very substantially. [ Also the accuracy of the ONS data has recently been called into question as is indicated in this recent Guardian article by Larry Elliot This issue is considered in a little more detail below.]

With regard to the issue of poverty it has already been mentioned that  Conservative Governments of 1979-1997 had been influenced by a version of "Underclass theory" which was associated primarily with the American political scientist Charles Murray and it is arguable that to a considerable extent Murray's indirect influence over Conservative welfare policy continued under the leadership of David Cameron notably via the role of Iain Duncan Smith in the development of welfare policy . Iain Duncan Smith had himself been leader of the Conservative  Opposition between 2001 and 2003 and made some attempt to promote so-called Compassionate Conservatism which emphasised Conservative concerns to alleviate poverty, inequality and social deprivation but having been replaced as leader by Michael Howard, moved on to found the Centre for Social Justice  in 2004 . David Cameron  appointed Iain Duncan Smith as chairman of the Social Justice Policy group which published reports entitled Breakdown Britain and Breakthrough Britain in 2006 and 2007. Iain Duncan Smith was appointed  Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. in the Coalition Government in 2010 .

The overall analysis in the CSJ reports  did appear to reflect an essentially New Right approach to the causes of and remedies for poverty.

[Click here and here and here for IDS at the BBC 2006 discussing Breakdown Britain. Notice also that Iain Duncan Smith again focussed on the development of  a UK  underclass in his responses to the UK urban riots of 2011.]

Thus the reports reiterated theories that an Underclass was indeed developing in the UK and that this was related to problems of family breakdown, drug and alcohol abuse, the growth of debt, a failing education system, worklessness and dependency and that possible remedies included strengthening marriage, action to reduce drug and alcohol abuse, improvements to the education system , reform of the benefits system to make work pay and  increase the obligations on the unemployed to seek work and increased reliance upon the voluntary sector to improve community cohesion.

[Ian Duncan Smith has also focused to a great extent  on the existence of a poverty trap whereby the existence of a variety of complex means tested benefits means that there may be little financial incentive to work because for every £ earned from employment perhaps 70 pence may be lost as a result of the withdrawal of means tested benefits. As Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan  Duncan Smith would aim to develop policies to alleviate the poverty trap but disputes with George Osborne and David Cameron over welfare benefits policy would eventually lead Iain Duncan Smith to resign from Cabinet in March 2016 .

[It is very important to note, however, that many social policy analysts have argued that both the analysis of the causes of poverty and the methods proposed for its alleviation by the CSJ and supported by Iain Duncan Smith are seriously misguided and I have included some further information on theories of poverty in an Appendix which appears at the end of this document. Click Here to go to Appendix] Meanwhile Click here for  a rather critical assessment of the Conservatives' approach  to the eradication of poverty. Of course Conservatives would reject such criticisms.

On the basis  the Centre for Social Justice  reports David Cameron stressed that it would be necessary for the Conservatives to fix our" Broken Society" but that this would not be achieved solely via increased intervention from the central state. Instead although the state would provide some  guidance our Broken Society" was to be fixed primarily via the development of "The Big Society."

Much of this strategy  appeared to be encapsulated in the now well known phrase  that "There is such a thing as society but it is just not the same thing as the state." In this single phrase  Cameron could signal that he wished to distance the Conservative Party from what centrist voters might see as the excessive individualism associated with Thatcherism as exemplified in her statement that "There is no such thing as society", a statement which has, however been subject to much misinterpretation, and to distance the Conservative Party also from what he saw as the excessive top- down centralism and bureaucratic regulation associated with the New Labour State. In Cameron's view in the new post-bureaucratic era  excessive state power could be reined in and replaced by the development of the Big Society.

Cameron's espousal of "The Big Society was influenced to a considerable extent by the theoretical ideas of David Willets and subsequently Phillip Blond. Thus from the early 1990s onwards Willetts developed the concept of Civic Conservatism whereby he argued that although the market based private system was crucial to economic progress and that it also strengthened local communities to some extent  Conservatives should do more promote stronger local communities which should take on some of the functions currently performed by the centralised, remote and overly bureaucratic state  .Phillip Blond also developed similar ideas in a series of speeches and articles  and in more detail in his study entitled "Red Tory" [2010]. Essentially Blond argued that UK society had been undermined successively by excessively  bureaucratic and centralised social democracy, by the excessive individualised liberal liberalism of the "permissive society" and by the excessive economic inequality associated with Thatcherite neo-liberalism . By 20190 he was optimistic  that what he saw as Cameron's new brand of One Nation Conservatism would begin to deal with all of these problems  . Thus "Cameron has called for a recovery of society  and the refashioning of the state  to facilitate human relationships  and the building of real communities and a new capitalism that works for society rather than against it".  Click here to go to Appendix for further information on Phillip Blond

Essentially the notion of  the Big Society suggested that the inefficiencies of excessive state control could be overcome via the reform of the public sector involving the growth of so-called quasi -markets within the public sector which would increase competition and consumer choice , the increased devolution of decision-making from Central to Local Government, the increased reliance on the Third Sector for the provision of services and the increased involvement of individual citizens .

However critics of the Big Society  have claimed that it underestimates the crucial role of the central state in the provision of public services and amounts only to a fig leaf designed to hide Cameron's true aim which is to shrink the central state and promote the expansion of the private sector for ideological reasons and that it would be impossible to begin to generate "real communities unless a Cameron administration addressed directly the fundamental economic and social inequalities which scarred UK society. These claims were of course denied by David Cameron and his supporters deny. However in any case  one significant problem which David Cameron did face was that although The Big Society was much emphasised in the 2010 Conservative Manifesto it was not an idea that canvassers found helpful on the doorsteps as many potential voters apparently found the concept quite difficult to grasp and were unenthused by it.] Steve Hilton, one of Cameron's key strategic advisers who was  a key supporter of The Big Society initiative soon took unpaid leave from Downing Street  and by 2012 Phillip Blond's optimism about the prospects of reform under David Cameron had declined significantly although he would subsequently hope for more progress from Theresa  May's administration..

  • Some Further Information on Civic Conservatism, Red Toryism and The Big Society

 

1.     Click here and here for articles by Phillip Blond [2012 and 2017]

2.     Click here for an article on Steve Hilton's departure from Downing Street

3.     Click here for a Parliamentary Research Briefing on The Big Society

4.     Click here for the website of Andrew Heywood. Then scroll down Mr  Heywood's list of articles for an article on The Big Society which references E. Burke, D. Willetts and P.Blond

5.     Click here for article on Conservative Modernisation

6.     Click here for Whatever happened tp Compassionate Conservatism?

7.     Click here for article on Phillip Blond and here for a New Statesman article and here for a fine critical review of Red Tory

8.    For BBC Radio 4 items on the Big Society click here and here

 

 

Following the 2010 General Election the Conservatives were returned to government in coalition with the Liberal Democrats > Coalition proved possible to negotiate because Cameron's Conservatives had apparently adopted  a more progressive stance in relation to social mobility, poverty and welfare, gay rights, foreign aid and the environment while the Liberal Democrats , especially those influenced by so-called Orange Book Liberalism, have similarly accepted much of the neo-liberal policy programme which the Conservatives themselves still supported. Although the Conservatives in 2007 had stated that they would support current Labour plans for government spending they changed their macroeconomic approach fundamentally in response to the credit crunch and subsequent economic recession. The Coalition government was certainly faced with a difficult economic legacy which both Coalition partners  took every opportunity to blame upon the economic mismanagement of the previous Labour Government  while critics of the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats focussed upon the role of the international financial crisis rather than high Labour spending as the major cause of recession and subsequent increase in the budget deficit. Whatever the causes of the deficit any government elected in 2010 would have aimed to reduce it and subsequent party political disputes revolved around the speed at which the deficit should be reduced,   the relative importance of government spending reductions and taxation increases in the deficit reduction process and the impact of the chosen debt reduction policies on trends in income inequality and poverty.

Conservative Chancellor George Osborne stated that the Coalition would reduce the budget deficit more quickly than would Labour and that they would do so primarily via government expenditure cuts rather than taxation increases  . They stated also that Health, Education and Foreign Aid budget would be protected but that other departments should expect substantial expenditure cuts and that in particular there would eventually be significant reductions in the Social Security budget as real benefits were cut and more stringent conditions were attached to the receipt of benefits via schemes such as the Employment Support Allowance [ESA] eligibility for which would be determined by a Work Capability Assessment [WCA]. In the 2012 Budget George Osborne announced that the highest rate of income tax would be reduced from 50p to 45p which led to criticisms that the Conservatives were protecting the interests of the rich at the expense of the poor . However George Osborne claimed that the actual loss of taxation revenue would be small and that aspiration and incentives would be increased as a result of the lower tax rate.

Conservative rhetoric around the deficit reduction plans between 2010-2015 was in some respects ambivalent. On the one hand although George Osborne took every opportunity to claim in relation to the sharing of the burden of deficit reduction that "We are all in this together" he also opened up distinctions between "workers and shirkers" or "strivers and skivers" as he tried to build political support for significant reductions in the social security budget as indicated in the following link. Click here for Strivers versus shirkers : the language of the welfare debate and here and here for similar articles. Meanwhile David Cameron informed us in his 2011 Conservative Party Conference Speech that "Yes: this is a One Nation deficit reduction plan from a One Nation Party." However perhaps not a phrase that one could immediately associate with Harold MacMillan

Click here for detailed data from the National Centre for Social Research on attitudes to Welfare

The actual measurement of income inequality and poverty involves some technicalities . Essentially income inequality is often measured by means of statistical concept known as the Gini Coefficient  which potentially varies between 0% [total income equality ] and 100%  [total income inequality] or between0 and1 in. decimal terms  Thus the higher the Gini Coefficient the greater the degree of income inequality. Poverty may be measured in absolute and relative terms and before and after housing costs.

It must however be noted that there are discrepancies in the measurement of the Gini Coefficient trends as between the ONS and DWP sources of data as indicated in  this recent Guardian article  by Larry Elliot . If you scroll down the article a little you will come to   a diagram showing 3 measures of Gini Coefficient trends indicating that in the ONSETB [ETB refers to the ONS publication on Effects of Taxes and Benefits on Household Income] data the Gini Coefficient is at its lowest for 30 years but that this is not the case in the other two measurement trends based upon DWP data . It is the ONSETB data which  are regularly quoted by Conservative spokespersons in order to defend their record on income inequality but the Governments claims are not supported by the DWP data and researchers from the Resolution Foundation argue that  further reanalysis of the data may well lead to the conclusion that income inequality has increased significantly between 2010 and 2015.[ONS ETB refers to the annual ONS publication on Effects of Taxes and Benefits on Household Income]

Click here for the most recent edition of Households Below average income and here for longer term trends in Gini Coefficient and click here for latest long term income inequality trend statistics[1979-2016]  from ONS.  Click here for the recent Guardian article  referred to above and click here for the Resolution Foundation research paper to which Larry Elliot refers. Pages 8 and 9 contain diagrams of different measures of Gini Coefficient trends

We could conclude that on the basis of ONSETB DWP data income inequality increased significantly in the Thatcher era  and also increased , but slowly in the Blair -Brown era. and that  income inequality did decline slightly between 2010 and 2015. However  there are discrepancies between the ONSETB data and the DWP data and  the true situation is that income inequality may actually have increased. between 2010 and 2015. [Obviously these sources are quite technical but I have included them because disputes as to income inequality trends are likely to figure large in future political debates.]

We could also conclude that in any case that   it does seem questionable whether we can expect significant reductions in income inequality under future Conservative governments given the Conservatives' belief that income inequality promotes economic growth and rising living standards for all . Also in one of their most recent publications the IFS actually predict increasing income inequality and increasing relative poverty. They do predict that levels of absolute poverty will remain static but that levels of absolute poverty among children will actually increase. Click here for  a more recent [November 2017] IFS Publication on Living Standards, Poverty and Inequality in the UK  2017/18- 2021/22 and click here and here for  related articles.

As has been mentioned although Conservatives tend to support a substantial measure of economic inequality they are also supporters of increased social mobility and meritocracy. Thus the erstwhile Secretary of State Michael Gove regularly claimed that his new educational policies which included reform of school curricula , rapid expansion of the academisation programme, the introduction of free schools and the Pupil Premium [a policy supported especially by the Liberal Democrats] were all designed to improve the social mobility prospects of poorer students. The Conservatives, he claimed as the 2015 General Election  approached must be "warriors for social justice."  His successor Nicky Morgan aimed to continue with the general direction of Govian education policies albeit with a more conciliatory tome than had sometimes been adopted by Michael Gove in his dealings with the teaching profession and critical policy academics who at one point were labelled "enemies of promise".

However under the Coalition Government some Sure Start Centres were closed ; the Education Maintenance Allowance for 16-18 year-olds was discontinued ; and Higher Education tuition fees were tripled. The Coalition answered criticisms of these policies by claiming that the aim was to amalgamate Sure Start Centres; that alternative financial support schemes for 156-18 year olds had replaced the EMA; and that increasing numbers of students [including students from disadvantaged backgrounds ] were  enrolling on HE courses.

It is currently impossible to assess the likely effects of Mr. Gove's and subsequently Mrs Morgan's educational reforms on the educational prospects of disadvantaged pupils but the continued existence of wide disparities in educational attainment between pupils eligible and ineligible for free school meals should be noted. It should be noted also that many , perhaps most,  experts on social mobility argue that higher rates of social mobility are most likely to be achieved in relative equal societies which encourages the government's critics to claim that its hopes for social mobility are unlikely to be realised unless there is a fundamental increase in economic equality. Furthermore it is also often argued that the growing emphasis upon the desirability of greater social mobility might be seen as a [not especially effective] smokescreen to hide the facts that the actual distributions of wealth , income and power remain decidedly unequal and that since it is impossible for all pupils to be upwardly mobile much more consideration should be given to those who are less successful in education.

  • The Conservative Government May 2015-June 2016

Following the Conservatives' outright victory in the May 2015 General Election the Conservatives quickly attempted to reiterate their One Nation or "Blue Collar" Conservative credentials and this reiterated  self-definition again found its supporters and detractors among both academics and journalists. In the July 2015 Budget Mr Osborne sought once again to re-establish the Conservative Party's One Nation credentials via the introduction of a new "living wage", the removal of non-dom tax status  and an increase in the personal tax allowance. However his critics were quick to point out that the "living wage" was set a low level; that increases in personal tax allowances from [x to Y] do nothing to help those on below incomes of  £ 11,000 ;  reductions in tax credits for many of those in work would  be likely to offset of increased wage rates for the foreseeable future; and that the increase in the inheritance tax threshold would clearly benefit the comfortably off rather than the poor.

Yet again the theme of One Nation Conservatism was reiterated at the Conservative Party Conference of October 2015 and once many Conservative supporters endorsed the view that the Conservatives under David Cameron are now a One Nation Conservative Party and once again Conservative critics denied that this was the case. Discussion of The Conservatives' attempts to re-establish their One Nation credentials is provided via the following links.

 

The  Budget July 2015, the Trade Unions,the Conservative Party Conference October 2015 and the Resignation of Iain Duncan Smith March 2016: Some Useful Links

The Budget July 2015

1.     Observer coverage of July Budget

2.     Guardian coverage of Inheritance rate tax cut 

3.     Click here for information on tax credit cuts

4.     Click here for BBC coverage of Inheritance rate cut

The Trade Unions 2015-16

1.     Click here for The Trade Unions Bill July 2015

2.     Click here for The Trade Unions Bill October 2015

3.     Click here for The Trade Unions Bill April 2016

4.     Click here for the Trade Unions Bill April 2016

The Conservative Party Conference October 2015

1.     David Cameron Conference Speech

2.     David Cameron [Lord Heseltine Observer

3.     David Cameron [Seamus Milne : Guardian

4.     David Cameron [Polly Toynbee : Guardian

5.     Financial Times on David Cameron

6.     Guardian writers on David Cameron's speech

7.     Click here for The Conservatives have become the party of equality [David Cameron: Guardian

8.     Click here  for Toryism has found its heart.... [Matthew D'Ancona Guardian]

9.      David Cameron and Poverty {The Independent]

The Resignation of Iain Duncan Smith

1.     IDS Resignation : BBC Newsnight

2.     IDS Resignation [Robert Peston

3.      IDS Resignation {Andrew Marr

4.     BBC Newsnight : Nicky Morgan and tax/benefit changes

5.     IDS Resignation Articles : here   and here and see below.

Following his resignation from Cabinet in March 2016 Iain Duncan Smith gave a long interview to Andrew Marr. In relation to the Conservative Government he said that "We were in danger of losing the narrative that the Conservative Party is a One Nation Party.....caring for the disadvantaged." and "I want the team to succeed as a One Nation team"

 

 

By March 2016 it was becoming increasingly clear that there were serious divisions within the Conservative Cabinet over the forthcoming EU Referendum  while the 2016 March Budget also provoked great dissension within Conservative ranks which would lead to the resignation of Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith.[Ian Duncan Smith had  focused to a great extent  on the existence of a poverty trap whereby the existence of a variety of complex means tested benefits means that there may be little financial incentive to work because for every £ earned from employment perhaps 70 pence may be lost as a result of the withdrawal of means tested benefits. As Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan  Duncan Smith would aim to develop policies to alleviate the poverty trap .

However  George Osborne's plans to make public expenditure savings of £4.4 Billion by reducing spending on personal Independence Payments while at the same time increasing the threshold for higher rate income tax payers and reducing capital gains tax brought to the fore the disputes between George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith which had apparently been simmering for many years and led Iain Duncan Smith to resign from his  Cabinet post on the grounds that this combination of policies was inconsistent with the claim that "We are all in this together" [clearly a barbed swipe against the Chancellor since this was a phrase which he had regularly used and inconsistent also with the Conservative's claim to be a "One Nation Conservative Government".

Given Iain Duncan Smith's overall approach to welfare policy not everyone would have associated him with One Nation Conservatism although he had briefly tried to pioneer "Compassionate Conservatism" as leader in 2001-3 and so perhaps his claim to be a One Nation Conservative was reasonable although it may also point to the inherent flexibility of the term. Meanwhile while Iain Duncan Smith now presented presented himself as the champion of the disabled others pointed out that he had introduced the Benefit Cap, the Bedroom Tax [or the Spare Room Subsidy and stringent Work Capability Assessments  which meant many were declared fit for work when clearly they were not. Consequently many claimed Iain Duncan Smith's main aim was to embarrass Cameron and Osborne in the run up to the EU Referendum.

Also following the March 2016 Budget Nicky Morgan gave an interview on Newsnight which appeared to show her lack of detailed knowledge of taxation and welfare benefit trends and also that , irrespective of Ms. Morgan's knowledge that IFS Data illustrated that in the next five years the rich would gain much more than the poor as a result of future Conservative tax and welfare benefit changes This , more than any statements from Iain Duncan Smith surely called into question any claims that the Conservatives could be regarded seriously as a One Nation Government, or as David Cameron put it as "the Party of Equality"

Click here for The Conservatives have become the party of equality] although he was referring here to plans to improve the interview prospects of ethnic minority members with foreign- sounding names  rather than to address what , according to the Left at least , are the structural inequalities which disfigure UK society.

David Cameron, Inequality and Poverty: Summary

David Cameron and Inequality [The independent   July 2016

Bank Bonuses 2017 Guardian  February 2017  This link relates also to PM Theresa May

It has already been noted that the are competing interpretations of the nature of One Nation Conservatism . David Cameron has claimed to be a One Nation Conservative  but that this has meant that he intended to combine a  primarily neo-liberal economic agenda with a series of policies  such as the increase in the income tax threshold, educational reforms and policies associated with the "Big Society" in order to protect the living standards and increase the life chances of the more disadvantaged sections of British Society and with more socially liberal measures such as support for single sex marriage..

Official income distribution data do suggest that income equality did increase marginally between 2010 and 2015  and poverty declined on some but not all measures . Nevertheless we should note  that these increases in income equality are limited and that as  in the era of Coalition Government the UK has remained a deeply unequal society. It can perhaps be argued that the Coalition Government has had to govern in particularly difficult economic circumstances and that had it not been for the economic recession income inequality and poverty may have been reduced more substantially. However the facts suggests that whether or not David Cameron may justifiably be characterised as a One nation Conservative the Coalition Government has done little to increase income equality and equality of opportunity nor to reduce poverty.

 For Part Six: - Theresa May  Click Here