I listened to an item on BBC Radio 4 “Today” this morning just before 7am concerning how government is allegedly failing those MILLIONS of British children are living “in poverty” All the cliches were trotted out and for good effect the couple that the BBC interviewed – Elvis and Alex – even had one partner working but alas Elvis was on minimum wage. At no point did the BBC explain that what is measured these days is “relative poverty” – a leftist invention in recent years to allow them to beg for even more lavish public funds to alleviate a non-existent problem. A figure of an extra 2.7bn was bandied about as if it were nothing during this item. You can understand why the Poverty Industry is attracted to the BBC to pump out its propaganda – undiscerning transmission of faux statistics is the name of the poverty game and Auntie plays along.

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  1. backwoodsman says:

    Not my area of expertise ,but have to agree that warning bells go off in my head the moment I recognise a beeboid ‘policy’ being pushed, and boy, this smacks of one !
    Nothing to do with 30 years of left wing teachers producing generations of undisciplined , benefit addicted ,socially maladjused chavs ! (And a bbc that presents their way of life as acceptable).


  2. Cockney says:

    Yep, agree re: the ‘relative poverty’ scam. Poverty = a measure of income vs cost of living. The impact of high earners on inflation obviously forms part of that which is why income discrepency can’t be entirely discounted but average income is irrelevent.

    Child poverty shouldn’t be discounted as an issue though. I’ve lived in enough unpleasant places to know that a child with one parent on the minimum wage and the other without a job is in big trouble – probably permanently. That’s not some Guardian invention to make us feel guilty, it’s fact.


  3. Chuffer says:

    Luckily, over on Radio 2 at 7 am, the newsroom ‘has learnt’ a couple of glowing Traktor Produktion stories to show how splendid the Labour Party is.


  4. John Tomlinson says:


    Sorry but my parents were both brought up in the real poverty of the 1920’s and 1930’s with several occasions where the cupboard literally was bare and they didn’t lead a life of reckless immorality and semi-institutional delinquency. There is no absolute link between poverty and criminality – only an excuse.


  5. Greencoat says:

    ‘I’ve lived in enough unpleasant places to know that a child with one parent on the minimum wage and the other without a job is in big trouble – probably permanently.’

    Good point, Cockney. But this has more to do with the pernicious societal influences that the Left has fostered than it has to with lack of cash.

    There are plenty of free or low-cost opportunities and facilities around if people have the desire and the drive to use them.


  6. Terry Johnson says:

    Al-BBc fail to point out how many of these kids are from immigrant households with more than five kids in a family. People arriving from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Somalia etc with nothing but a burning desire to take advantage of our welfare sysem are bound to push up the numbers of those “in poverty”.


  7. Jack Hughes says:

    Relative poverty is nearly as good as perpetual motion.

    You can never fix it. I don’t like New Labour or many of their policies, but I believe they have genuinely tried to fix “child poverty”. Of course their efforts have not worked because the task itself is impossible.

    Its just impossible.

    Hand-wringing don’t work.
    Tough love don’t work.
    Polly-Toynbee stuff don’t work.


  8. GCooper says:

    There may be a nakedly political element here. ‘Child poverty’ (sic) is one of McBean’s favourite areas, so the BBC’s komissars are possibly trying to shift the current topic from his manifest failures to one where they think he will appear more comfortable.


  9. Cockney says:

    I wasn’t clear whether David meant that “relative” child poverty is a “non-existent problem” on the basis that the term is an absurdity that means nothing (agreed), or if he was extrapolating this to mean that child poverty itself is a “non-existent problem”.

    If the latter I’d disagree strongly. The solution is a good argument waiting to happen though.

    Perhaps the Beeb should run an expose on the horrors of those living in relative poverty in Liechtenstein?


  10. GCooper says:

    Re my comment about shifting the debate. Having just read the front page of The Times, if that is the strategy it’s failed miserably.

    Has Murdoch let the dogs loose?


  11. BaggieJonathan says:

    Relative Child Poverty is absurd and does not exist.

    Child Poverty is unfortunately all too real, however I suggest the numbers are much lower in the UK then in most countries in the world for this, indeed many countries could argue 99% of their children are more impoverished than 99% of UK children.

    Try telling a Malawian that a British child is in poverty because they haven’t got a playstation and see the reaction.


  12. adam says:

    david vance,

    100% spot on over this issue.

    (and) Newsnight were moaning over a similar issue, last night.


  13. Heron says:

    Some good reaction to this on Tim Worstall’s blog. Relative poverty is a fictional state made up by the left to keep making the rich feel guilty for being rich. The fact is simply this: the poor are getting richer less quickly than the super rich. Anyone who tries to tell you the poor are getting poorer is lying.


  14. thud says:

    The beeb can’t really get much traction with this one…everybody can see around them the so called poor..all looking rather comfortable,only restrained by personal choices.


  15. Jack Bauer says:

    Relative poverty is a fictional state made up by the left to keep making the rich feel guilty for being rich.

    Unlike “relative pissed-off.”

    The state of which aptly describes the vast majority of the British people who were never asked whether they wanted to fund a global welfare state, with its capital being London a.k.a.: the Tower Hamlets of Babel.

    Come, friendly bombs, and fall on London
    It isn’t human, and now its done.
    There is no grace, it’s time to run.
    Swarm over, Death!


  16. Chuffer says:

    Is it an urban myth that a Labour MP once spoke of his heart-felt ambition that everyone should earn an above-average wage?


  17. Arthur Dent says:

    Is it an urban myth that a Labour MP once spoke of his heart-felt ambition that everyone should earn an above-average wage

    Yes. But an old trade union leader, i think Clive Jenkins did once say that he would not be satisfied until all his members were earning more than the average wage.


  18. jimbob says:

    In 2007 about £9.4 billion in means tested benefits was not claimed by those who were entitled to it.

    £4.5 billion of working tax credit was also not claimed.

    A combined £13.9 billion is not being claimed as the forms are too hard or people can’t be bothered.

    some of this would go to families with children which would be the end of this bleating…

    source – DWP – 13.9.07

    investigate that bbc!


  19. David Vance says:


    It’s relative poverty that absolutely gets me. My grandparents brough up a family in the 1920’s in real poverty but they didn’t need state hadnouts, they just got on with it. There are many places where real poverty exists, mostly in those nations that operate as tyrannies, post-Colonialism.


  20. William Grigg says:

    Did Kim Catcheside get her definition of relative poverty wrong this morning? Jim Naughtie challenged her and she reasserted that relative poverty is defined as 60% less than median income. My understanding, and at least initially Jim Naughtie’s, is that it is 60% of median net income. Her definition would make it 40% of the median – which is of course worse. She regurgitated some numbers but I didn’t catch them. Not sure there was an hidden agenda, but it is instructive that a front-line BBC correspondent can make what seems to me to be a fairly basic error; the facts matter less than the message.


  21. PaulS says:

    Actually the ‘child poverty’ story is a stick to beat the present government with, rather than any boost for noo labore.

    Since 1997 this Labour government has increased the number of children living in serious poverty by more than half a million.

    And those they boast about having ‘lifted out of poverty’ have been only the easiest cases – those just bubbling under the poverty line.

    Three cheers for the BBC for shining a light on this issue. It’s a tale of socialist hypocrisy and NuLab failure and can only be good for David Cameron.


  22. Jason says:

    Child poverty my arse. Even the poorest these days have microwaves, color TVs, DVD players, Playstations etc. And how many of these so-called “poor” people are walking around with North Face puffa-jackets in the winter, etc? They live better than kings and queens did 200 years ago, when you take into account their life expectancy, access to medical care and technology.

    If they want to measure “relative poverty”, why don’t they measure it relative to pre-industrial days when most kids were waifs, strays, vagabonds and child prostitutes roaming the streets and would rarely if ever experience a full stomach in short lives which frequently never made it past the age of ten.

    I’ll say it again, poverty my arse.

    How many of these “poor” people are 20-a-day smokers, how many waste money on bad decisions due to laziness like buying convenience foods instead of basic ingredients, how many are “poor” but still have money for scratch cards, bingo etc…..


  23. Nearly Oxfordian says:

    Jason, you are talking through your backside. So do many of the other ignorant ranters here.
    There are plenty of genuinely poor people in this country, people with no playstations who can barely pay the rent. Perhaps you should climb down from your ivory tower and look at the real world, one you are clearly disconnected from.


  24. George Orwell says:

    “Jason, you are talking through your backside. So do many of the other ignorant ranters here.
    There are plenty of genuinely poor people in this country, people with no playstations who can barely pay the rent.”
    Possibly true but to say that we have the worst poverty in Europe seems strange when we have many immigrants coming here.
    I know people who are “poor” they live in housing I could never afford and go on long holidays back to their own country each year.


  25. GCooper says:

    PaulS writes: “Actually the ‘child poverty’ story is a stick to beat the present government with, rather than any boost for noo labore.”

    Yes, on reflection, you’re right. This is playing very badly for ZaNuLabour and McBean.

    But how like the BBC, to be attacking redistributive government from the Left!


  26. Ryan says:

    I think it is high time the Beeb did a documentary on me. I was born in “relative poverty”. Council house, no TV, no telephone, no DVD player, no car. Bit like most people at that time. Still, managed to get a post-graduate degree and now earn £75,000 a year. Should have been virtually impossible according to the Beeb.

    Of course there are people that fall through the safety net of welfare stat – but the BBC did want to pry into that too much. They know full well that the welfare state isn’t really about people that are experiencing REAL poverty. It is about creating a client electorate that is guaranteed to vote Labour, no matter what Labour gets up to. This frees Labour to play at being social revolutionaries despite the fact that most of their own supporters read the Murdoch press or the Mail. So the Beeb isn’t going to look into a system where the handouts like child benefit are given as cash instead of everyone getting vouchers that can be redeemed for things that kids would need. It wants the handouts given as cash – because it wants the votes to be bought with that cash. You can’t do that if you give the kids vouchers for new shoes – because kids don’t vote.

    Suggest to the people that every child in the country should be getting proper food, proper clothing and access to educational materials and you won’t get much argument from the people. But Labour don’t really want to guarantee the best start for our kids, and whatever Labour wants the Beeb supports. So the Beeb don’t really give a toss about poverty, because Labour don’t.


  27. Arthur Dent says:

    There are plenty of genuinely poor people in this country, people with no playstations who can barely pay the rent.

    Indeed there are, many of them old age pensioners that this government propaganda programme will not reach.

    The idea of ‘relative poverty’ is a spin doctors dream, in essence it should be called ‘relative wealth’ since that is what is being compared. The only way it could be eliminated would be to flatten the wage differentials. In practice reducing ‘relative poverty’ could be achieved by making everyone much worse off.

    Using the word poverty is highly misleading, as indeed it is designed to be.


  28. Jack Bauer says:

    I’m sure I read somewhere that poor, unmarried mothers form the highest number of prosecutions by the BBC for non-payment of the TV Extortion Tax.

    That can’t be right can it?


  29. gus says:

    Maybe the BBC could use their own standards and morally equate “poverty” in the U.K. with poverty in Muslimland. You’d think the BBC would start goat and burqa drives for the poor peeps of Islamville.
    Poverty used to have a meaning. I remember when I couldn’t afford Nike shoes, but I didn’t resort to crime or the dole.


  30. PaulS says:

    Arthur Dent | 10.06.08 – 3:32 pm

    Using the word poverty is highly misleading, as indeed it is designed to be.

    Why is it?

    Any child living in a household with an income of less than 60% of median income is living in a household with less than circa £10k a year coming in.

    Given current rates of council tax and the size of fuel bills… rent etc…
    I know I’d find it hard to feed/clothe two kids on what’s left.


  31. gus says:

    PaulS, the answer to your question is quite simple. Poverty used to have a meaning. It meant you were struggling to eat, and struggling to buy shoes. We don’t have people struggling to do those things by and large. But I’ll give you a better example of the faux problem.
    Liberals believe GIVING GOVERNMENT DOLE to people helps them. It keeps them in poverty. It doesn’t give them incentive to NOT BE in poverty.
    The term “poverty” has been bastardized by poverty pimps in order to pander to the sub-classes that don’t work or are not productive.
    Who is supposed to be at the lower economic spectrum?
    PaulS, socialism/communism doesn’t work. It’s been tried. Welfare doesn’t get you out of “poverty”, if the term “poverty” is on a sliding scale and is connected to the income of those who are PRODUCTIVE.


  32. GCooper says:

    PaulS – well a start might have been not having two children.

    Now there’s a notion you won’t hear very often on the BBC!


  33. PaulS says:

    GCooper | 10.06.08 – 4:43 pm

    Fair point – but don’t we need the kids?

    The alternative, after all, is the Eurabia route.


  34. PaulS says:

    gus | 10.06.08 – 4:42 pm

    gus you don’t have to convince me that socialism doesn’t work and that welfare-as-we-know-it isn’t the answer.

    But denying that poverty exists – or that it isn’t a real problem – isn’t the right thing for conservatives to do.

    My original comment on this made the point that NuLab have talked a lot about poverty, but have actually worsened it.

    Team Cameron, using a different approach, would do better. But only if folks wake up and smell the stench…


  35. PaulS says:

    sorry about the double negative above – I meant denying…it’s a real problem


  36. Cockney says:

    this thread was a red rag to a kneejerk bull wasn’t it… genuine child poverty does exist as everyone knows who occasionally has reason to visit these placed, and that is a national disgrace in the 21st century in a western economy. end of – who cares if they were worse off in 1820 or are in malawi?

    sure communism isn’t the answer but based on recentish experience and that of other countries nor is withdrawal of social security, free market orthodoxy and letting people get on with it (wasn’t that what they did in 1820 and in malawi – didn’t work too well did it?)

    dunno what the answer is though… although pretty much every other northern european country seems to have it sussed.


  37. zamboy says:

    Relative poverty is, indeed, defined as an income below 60% of the median income. The reporter in the Today prog said 60% below median i.e. an income of 40% of the median. Naughtie challenged her on her definition but she stuck to her guns.


  38. Arthur Dent says:

    genuine child poverty does exist

    I didn’t hear anyone denying this. The issue is not whether child poverty exists but the magnitude (and definition)of the problem. Poverty in the minds of most people is not being able to satisfy the inital Maslov criteria: food in the belly, shoes on the feet, roof over your head. Not a deficiency in the latest mobile phone, trainers or plasma television, which many families existing on benefits (and thus within the ludicrous relative poverty definition) seem able to afford.


  39. Ron Todd says:

    The answer to child poverty is not as some lefties have been proposing to take more money from the rest of us.

    We need more people doing worthwhile work.

    I would like a system where people that are so poor that they need benefits do not pay tax, and people rich enough to pay tax do not get benefits.

    I once work with somebody brought up in India pre independance he always said that there was no poverty in this country.


  40. gus says:

    PaulS, I DO challenge the notion that CHILD POVERTY exists in Britain and the U.S.
    Call me neandrethal or whatever you like.
    I’ll repeat the definition of poverty has been BASTARDIZED.
    What the medium income is….is irrelevant to poverty.
    Poverty used to have a defintion. Now we wring out hands based on a GOVERNMENT CONTRIVED definition.
    Furthermore, if you are poor, the GOVERNMENT is not your solution.


  41. gus says:

    Heron, I’m giving you a standing ovation from 4000 miles away.

    The more normal work a day blokes like us buy into the media and government b.s., the more of it we get.

    The is little to no, child poverty in the U.S. and BRITAIN.
    There are children who have less than other children, and of that I will shed zero tears. It’s called life.


  42. Terry Hamblin says:

    I’m still shocked by the discovery that 50% of people have a below average IQ.


  43. Terry Johnson says:

    Knowing how elastic the Left’s definition of “British” is these days, I’d still like to know how many of these kids are from newly arrived immigrant families. Some group or other did a similar study in the USA and the US MSM (LA Times, WA PO, NYT etc. etc.) used the study as a stick to beat the Bush government with. What they forgot to mention was that a large percentage of those kids were from the famillies of illegal immigrants.


  44. Martin says:

    Cockney: Northern european countries have smaller populations, don’t allow endless and pointless immigration (they don’t seme to think they need 500,000 Somali taxi drivers for example) they don’t get involved in fighting wars around the world or pumping failed continents like Africa with billions of pounds in aid.


  45. Gordon BrownStuff says:

    The critical issue is not economic poverty, but rather moral poverty due to the subjectivist morality endemic across all social strata.

    As some have implied on this thread, economic poverty is a temporary phenomenon if you set rational goals to improve your own situation.


  46. fewqwer says:

    Cockney: “… free market orthodoxy and letting people get on with it … didn’t work too well did it?”

    To my knowledge, there has never been starvation in Britain. People are better off today because of economic (ie technological) progress, not because of collectivist welfare schemes. Surely you knew that?

    If people in 1820 had to support today’s levels of state parasitism, there would have been mass starvation.

    I recommend reading The Welfare State We’re In by James Bartholomew to get an idea of the way things worked in Britain before it became infested with leftists.


  47. Jason says:


    Nearly Oxfordian:
    Jason, you are talking through your backside. So do many of the other ignorant ranters here.
    There are plenty of genuinely poor people in this country, people with no playstations who can barely pay the rent.

    Bull! Bull! Bull! That is a relative definition of poor! Genuinely poor people walk around in rags with no shoes and go hungry most days of the year. They don’t have access to housing benefit, jobseekers allowance, free health care and everything else available in Britain.

    There are people who are “not well off”, sure – and people who live in a perpetual state of belt-tightening, but compared to the REAL poor worldwide, they are still living privileged lives and you know it.

    Besides which, even if you concede that there are many “poor” people in Britain, to judge a country by the number of its poor is stupid for the following reason:

    A country should be judged not by its number of poor but by its level of freedom and potential economic mobility. If a country protects the freedom of the individual and thus creates the ideal conditions for economic freedom, innovation, entrepreneurship, growth and opportunity, then it is doing its job regardless of how many people choose not to take advantage of that freedom and those opportunities. In other words, it is not the fault of the country if generations of family X decide that education and hard work is not for them.

    When I first moved to New York I had a rucksack of clothes, a guitar and $500. Now I own my own small business and have employees and do quite alright thank you very much. There is so much opportunity to make money here I’m always astounded when I hear people whine that they’ve been trapped on welfare their whole lives and that the country has “failed” them. THEY have failed THEMSELVES. The same is true of Britain. I have friends back home who are stuck in the same old cycle of signing on, getting up at midday, doing nothing and then meeting up at night to whine about how much life sucks and how capitalism provides nothing for people like them. I grew up in that atmosphere and have never occupied an ivory tower in my life. I am qualified to comment on the attitudes and culture behind what you wrongly describe as “poverty” in Britain, and feel perfectly entitled to do so.

    Of course, there are the homeless. But how many of them are in that position not because their country has failed them but because of their own bad decisions? Is it really the government’s job to protect people from themselves? In my home city, as in others, there is even a “trendy” culture of homelessness in which kids from perfectly good backgrounds and homes, at around the age of 15 or 16, start to dress like vagabonds, hang around the city center with the scruffy guys who sell the Big Issue, sit on the pavement and dream about the day they too can sit with dirty faces begging for money with a mangy dog in tow and a penny whistle. And some of them DO end up like that, despite having been given private school educations by their parents! I know of such people! Such people are a bad reflection on themselves, not the country.


  48. ColinChase says:

    Ron Todd:

    I once work with somebody brought up in India pre independance he always said that there was no poverty in this country.

    I hope he didn’t do any job requiring attention to detail. Or judgement. Or eyesight.


  49. gunnar says:

    According to this article relative poverty is defined as:

    “What the government is assessing is not whether people are unable to feed and heat themselves and their families, but how the spending power of the poorest families is keeping pace with the growth of incomes in the economy as a whole. Those whose income is below £226 a week (60 per cent of the median average for the whole population) are judged to be in poverty.”

    Grossing this up means that the median family income is around £20k and 60% of that would be around £12k.

    With current cost of living, one would find it difficult to cope with that, but to look after at least 2 people on this money can surely be described as tough.

    When I come across this blog, it occurs to me that the “dictionary of moral clarity” does not contain the words “empathy” and “solidarity”. Well, no surprises there.

    But hey, let’s celebrate that we moved on from the times of “Road to Wigan Pier”.


  50. BaggieJonathan says:


    Is 12,000 in the UK low and a hard life – undoubtedly.
    But is it poverty? No, not in my view, perhaps you want to make that argument.

    Any Malawian family on 12,000 would be deemed to be in the richest very few.

    Poverty is when you don’t have enough to eat, no or inadequate shelter, no warmth in the cold, not enough to drink. By that definition very few are in poverty in the UK, though many are in the third world.

    But the problem with relative poverty is much worse than that, because its not 12,000 its 60%.
    So if the median doubled to 40,000 ‘poverty’ would simply move up to 24,000.
    It should not require a degree in economics to see this is ludicrous.

    In reality the complaint, if at all legitimate, is that society is too unequal, not one of poverty.
    And even then we are talking parochially just of this country and not the world.

    ‘Relative poverty’ belongs in the dustbin, we should hear no more of it.