Archiv für Januar 2010

Progressive Conservatism

Dienstag, 26. Januar 2010

Antonia Kaplan has found an interesting article by Ross Clark in The Spectator of 16 January, 2010. This suggests that David Cameron prefers to help the rich and his ”romantic” poor but do little for those of the middle class who have already bettered themselves. The new thinking in the draft Conservative manifesto on health is described by Andrew Lansley, the shadow health minister, as ”progressive conservatism” and proposes weighting of public health funding ”so that extra resources go to the poorest areas with the worst health outcomes through a health premium”. This follows an earlier announcement to fund new independent state schools partly by means of a ”pupil premium” i.e. by extra funding for schools taking on more poor children.
Ross Clark sees a future Cameron government for the rich and for the poor but with not much for those in between, if the rich are also offered tax cuts e.g. on inheritance tax and stamp duty on share transactions. David Cameron he considers as having little affinity for the self-made, middle class who were the backbone of the Party during the Thatcher years and harbouring a romantic notion of the poor, not uncommon to those from a comfortable background but alien to self-made individuals from council estates.
He writes that low educational attainment cannot be put right by higher spending on poor pupils; it is a result of low aspiration and a lack of value in education. It is better to reward self-help and not intensify the benefits trap. Meanwhile the wealthy will continue to pay for highly selective private schools but bright pupils in the middle will be left deprived of the leg-up once provided by grammar schools.
Is the Conservative party really turning its back on the middle class, its core vote for the past 30 years, as suggested by Ross Clark? It”s perhaps no surprise that Gordon Brown is now chasing the middle class vote.

Social Mobility & Aspiration.

Montag, 18. Januar 2010

Last week David Cameron praised social mobility without seemingly aiming to close the income gap between rich and poor. The Labour policy to create a fairer society has also not been successful with such inequality having widened somewhat during their term of government. Social mobility in Britain remains amongst the worst in Europe.
Alan Milburn”s report on social mobility described how the Country was becoming split between those with support networks and social skills and those without. Even the ordinary middle-classes were losing out to those in the upper middle level with ”connections” and suggesting also structural privilege with e.g. Law and Medicine still dominated by the upper levels.
It is within this context , therefore, that Gordan Brown”s weekend speech to the socialist Fabian Society posited Labour as the party for middle income Britain, sharing its middle-class values and aspirations and asserting that the Conservatives want to take away middle-class guarantees, with also no account of their future middle-class jobs.
The difficulties of moving between the different levels of what remains a highly stratified society in Britain used to be clearly understood e.g. with the Grammar Schools created to encourage the social mobility of the more academically clever children. There is still a need today for a pragmatic policy to improve social mobility without which the associated aspiration remains questionable. This could include for example a programme to encourage the top performing schools to share their know-how with the more disfunctional state ones, on how they develop their pupils” broader social skills and connections to maximise their prospects as they progress in the outside world.The right teaching environment can play a transforming role in developing aspiration and social mobility with advice and encouragement extending beyond the pure academic requirement. More investment in state-financed nurseries (perhaps as an alternative to marriage tax breaks) could also reduce exclusion and poverty at the ”broken society” level by allowing the mother to work and giving the children the chance of participating at the earliest education stage.

Marriage Tax Breaks

Samstag, 9. Januar 2010

David Cameron was attacked last week as lacking conviction and equivocating on whether the Conservatives if elected would still be committed to tax breaks for married couples, perhaps given the poor state of the public finances. Certainly the UK seems to be quite unique in Europe in not recognising the civil status of marriage within the tax code. It is recognised within the French tax system and in Germany the Constitution also protects the rights of the family.
The arguments in the UK against a tax favouring married couples include:
– It would discriminate against the poorest 10% of society, where the marriage rate is disproportionately much lower (i.e. Ian Duncan Smith”s ”Broken Society”) and favour the better-off (e.g. a net benefit saving of £30 for the former versus £300 for the latter).
– It is not the government”s role in a modern, multi-cultural society to try and coerce the population into marriage via the tax system; it should be a matter for individual choice.
The right to individual choice is of course a basic Conservative tenet as well as a respect for tradition including the institution of marriage in support of the stable family unit for nurturing future generations.
The Labour Party views David Cameron as the modern Conservative Party”s major asset certainly when compared with Gordon Brown and, therefore, will try to paint him as shallow, lacking both depth and conviction at every opportunity in front of the electorate. However, to take a stand on this issue is good for the rank and file but not likely to be a real vote winner for attracting new Conservative voters from the centre ground in the key marginal constituencies.