“We can make British poverty history, and we will make British poverty history,” said David Cameron back in 2007 – and he’s done it, just like that. Wave a magic wand, he and Iain Duncan Smith are abolishing child poverty as we know it. As an issue, poverty is to vanish, no longer a target or a word in the Conservative lexicon.
Other things will be targeted instead – worklessness, family breakdown, addictions, debt and educational success. In doublespeak, the very meaning of the word poverty disappears when to be poor no longer means to lack money. To be poor will from now on mean to fail, to be poor apologies for human beings, people in error, in need of correction not cash. That means 64% of children formerly known as poor will now vanish from the government’s reckoning because their families are not failing, but “hardworking” – just earning too little to keep afloat. Morally they are just fine, so they are no longer poor even if they queue at food banks at the end of the week.
No surprise at Duncan Smith deploying Jesuitical corkscrew arguments to duck the international measure of poverty. He and Cameron have spent the week softening up opinion for huge benefit cuts in next week’s budget, due to focus on tax credits, largely paid to in-work, ”hardworking” families, victims of Britain’s swelling ranks of the under-paid.