The Egalitarian Coalition

John Rentoul

rich 300x225 The Egalitarian CoalitionI have a column in The Independent today with which some people do not agree. Which is interesting, because it is mostly factual, reporting two sets of figures that were published in June and July this year.

They suggest that the gap between rich and poor has, if anything, narrowed under the Coalition Government.

The links to the original data are in the article, but I repeat them here for those who want to pursue the findings, which are, I admit, hard to believe.

Living Standards, Poverty and Inequality in the UK 2012, The Institute for Fiscal Studies, has the data for the distribution of post-tax incomes for 2010-11, showing that it became more equal that year than under the Labour government.

Wealth and Assets Survey 2008-10, Office for National Statistics, Chapter 2, has the figures for the distribution of wealth, comparing 2006-08 and 2008-10, and showing that the distribution became more equal.

These do not say anything about the Coalition’s record, of course, but they are important because they are the first official figures since the old Inland Revenue figures, based on inheritance tax returns, were discontinued after 2003, because they were “clearly anomalous”.

What they do show is that the distribution of wealth appears to be stable, which is consistent with the old data, which showed an increase in inequality in the 1980s, followed by a period of no significant change. And, as I say in the article, we would not expect the trend to change, as there have not been dramatic changes in the economy or the tax system.

I have discussed both sets of statistics on this blog before: the incomes data here; the wealth data here; the general mythology here; the misreporting of OECD data here; and the Treasury’s inability to back up claims by the Prime Minister and the Chancellor here.

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  • creggancowboy

    Food Banks are a myth Giovanni. There are very few eagles in the coalition too.

  • StrokeVictim

    Mr Rentoul – give it up. Lies, damned lies and statistics……

  • Newsbot9

    Yes, well done, you’ve made the 99% far poorer, so there’s less of a gap between the middle class and the poor. Only the Coalition and their cheerleaders think this is “progress”

  • David Jamesson

    I read the article concerned in this morning’s i.

    Whilst not doubting the statistics quoted, I have to agree with StrokeVictim’s comments because it’s what John Rentoul didn’t say that undermines the argument he’s trying to make.

    There have been many surveys here and abroad that concluded relative poverty is as important as absolute poverty in determining the fairness of a society.

    The Tories have often dismissed this argument and claimed that absolute levels of wellbeing or poverty are what counts.

    The world isn’t as simple as that of course but then again you cannot ignore absolute levels of poverty completely, which is my understanding of what John Rentoul has done in this instance.

    The rich and better off might be bearing more of the burden of extra taxation and cuts and that might bring them a little closer in percentage terms to the rest of us but here in rural Suffolk where we’ve just played Christmas host to many wealthy week-enders and second home owners I have to confess I’ve not spotted many of them at local soup kitchens or Christmas hostels.

    The fact is that for those near the bottom of the heap any reduction in wealth is going to tip many into the sort of poverty that brings homelessness, hunger and ill health.

    For the wealthy, the sacrifice is much more likely to be of the order having to settle for a £50K car rather than a £100k model or having to cope with fewer domestic staff.

    I think a few trips outside the metropolitan bubble into the real world might be in order for 2013.

  • andagain

    the findings, which are, I admit, hard to believe.

    I find them very easy to believe. I would find it harder to believe that anyone whose wealth was mostly in the form of, say, RBS stock, had become wealthier over the last five years.

  • andagain

    I have a column in The Independent today with which some people do not agree. Which is interesting, because it is mostly factual, reporting two sets of figures that were published in June and July this year.

    In the words of Messers Simon and Garfunkel “a man hears what he wants to hear

    And disregards the rest.”

  • Philip Duval

    Interestingly Cameron gave a lot of praise to the ‘Spirit Level: Why more equal societies are better for everyone’ before the election and then… it was all forgotten. Bit like ”the NHS is safe in our hands” or the 2007 promise to INCREASE public spending.

    The Resolution Foundation has concluded that the bottom 50% will see its income DECLINE upto 2020 and that is WITH growth of 2% a year. Highly unlikely in the lost decade bequeathed to us by the City crooks.

    One factor in support of the notion that inequality has lessened a bit this year is that the devaluation of sterling has meant our super-rich are not feeling quite so flush. Poor them.

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