Labour used to be renowned as the champions of the working class. A narrowing of job diversity and a mixture of increasing disposable income, cheap credit and even cheaper goods from China, has led to a growing, consumerism-based middle class and reduction in Labour’s traditional support base. But there is a new issue at the heart of Labour support – child poverty.
According to a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Labour significantly reduced both child and pensioner poverty between 1997 and 2010.
Despite this massive improvement, child poverty remains a big issue in the UK and interestingly, but not surprisingly, it is a regional, unequal problem across the country.
The Campaign to End Child Poverty periodically releases a map of child poverty that gives the percentage of children in poverty within each parliamentary constituency. Here I’ll be using the data tables easily obtainable from the Guardian website.
At the bright end of the spectrum, Nick Clegg’s Sheffield Hallam has less than 5 % child poverty. At the worst end there is Manchester Central with 47% child poverty.
Merging this table with the UK general election 2010 results (also available from the Guardian) we can quickly see a pattern – the constituencies with the lowest child poverty are Coalition seats and those with highest child poverty are Labour seats.
Looking at the figures for the 3 main parties (Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem), a quick ANOVA test shows that child poverty (%) is significantly different between their constituencies (P<2e-16) and subsequent Tukey post-hoc pairwise comparison shows that Labour seats have significantly higher percentage of child poverty than either Coalition member (P~0.00) – interestingly, Lib Dems are not significantly different from Conservatives (P~0.20).
Pairwise comparison of child poverty (%) per constituency, grouped by political partyThis Tukey post hoc comparison was completed using the R function TukeyHSD. Significant differences are noted in the column 'Adjusted P', with the symbol **
|Party Comparison||Lower bound||Upper bound||P||Adjusted P|
While child poverty is still a massive problem in the UK, Liberal Democrats claim that the Conservatives plan to bring £8 billion more cuts to welfare including child tax credits and child benefits. Labour have also been quick to accuse Cameron of planned cuts to child benefit.
According to that IFS study, child benefits and tax credits were Labour’s primary means of reducing child poverty (although don’t forget the minimum wage too). Coalition cuts have resulted in increased child poverty during this recession and further ideological cuts to these programs would be expected to increase child poverty across the country ( as has been predicted by e.g. Joseph Rowntree Foundation )
Cameron has, of course, denied any cuts to child benefits, but programs like the bedroom tax and the benefits cap as well as other cuts to services have predominantly hit people with children and they will not be likely to trust him at his word.
Coalition supporters do not see as much child poverty in their parts of the country – they may well support a Tory policy to cut child support further, giving him a mandate to do so in a new term.
Labour supporters can see child poverty on their doorstep and it seems likely that they’ll be voting for a party that promises to end it and has a track record of doing so.