Ready to return to active government intervention

3 May 2013

The poor have never been popular with those who believe that the poor  have made themselves poor by their own choice of lifestyle and outlook on life.

Opinion polls that show many with little sympathy for collective intervention to address poverty are well-known to Left-of-Centre progressives who believe that poverty is perpetuated by inequalities that require government action.

Tory Governments’ social and economic policies always push poverty up the political agenda and this current one’s unrestrained  welfare “reforms” are no different

My friends and colleagues Councillors Lesley Brennan (link) and Laurie Bidwell  ( link ) have already drawn attention to  TUC polling showing the wide disparity between some public perception of benefit payments and real figures thanks to barefaced political deception.

However a study in the “Guardian” last month showed more benevolent attitudes emerging towards poverty-related issues when they are framed in a different way. 

“Big-state Britain “ found in polling  that the majority of voters felt the impact of Coalition cuts on their lives.

By huge margins , they upheld the role  of the activist state in :

“Ensuring that rich and poor children have the same chances to get ahead”.

“Making sure that every family has a decent basic minimum income”

“Redistributing from the better-off to the less-well off right across the income range”

In addition, there was a 35 per majority in favour of  “an increase in the funding of government programmes for helping the poor and the unemployed with education, training, employment, and social services, even if this might raise your taxes”.

This is just one poll, but it may be a sign of  a start in a shift in attitudes - a change away from individualism’s “Looking after No.1” back to the collective principles that are at the heart of the welfare state.

The psychologist and writer Oliver James links relative deprivation theory to political activism .

The 4 stages or preconditions of relative deprivation theory are ;

A person does not have X ( where X may be a better standard of living )

That person knows of other people who have X

That person wants to have X

That person believes that getting X is achievable.

James says that if people move through these stages and past the final stage  “with the absence of a sense that it's your fault that you do not yet have it” then things can change.

He says,

“Instead of being duped by the Tories' claptrap about the debt being caused by public spending, we are in favour of redistributing wealth and work, and a lot of state intervention. Instead of blaming ourselves for low pay and long hours, we may be realising that economic meltdown (combined with climate change) heralds a much more sustainable low-growth future – vastly preferable in every way, with "shop till you drop", credit-fuelled consumer junkies a thing of the past.”

The survey sends out optimistic signals,  and it does provide a spur to re-connect many poor people who are disconnected from politics and who do not vote.

They are not the cause of their own misery or anyone else’s.

 


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