How Labour has redistributed from rich to poor

New data shows how tax changes have benefited the poorest 10 per cent.

Robin Cook was always fond of hailing Tony Blair's Labour government as the most redistributive since Lloyd George, and now here's the data to prove it.

The graph below, from the Institute for Fiscal Studies, shows how New Labour's tax and benefits changes have redistributed wealth from the poorest to the richest since 1997.

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Under Labour, the poorest 10 per cent of households have gained by 13 per cent, while the richest 10 per cent have lost by almost 9 per cent.

With the Tories still committed to their grossly regressive plan to raise the inheritance-tax threshold to £1m and the Lib Dems' tax plans likely to widen income inequality, it's clear that only Labour can be trusted to combine redistribution with growth.

The party's deficit reduction plan, based on a ratio of 67 per cent spending cuts to 33 per cent tax rises, is also the most progressive.

The Tories plan to reduce the deficit through an 80:20 mix of cuts and taxes, while the Lib Dems, as Nick Clegg boasted to the Spectator, plan to do so through spending cuts alone.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Can Philip Hammond save the Conservatives from public anger at their DUP deal?

The Chancellor has the wriggle room to get close to the DUP's spending increase – but emotion matters more than facts in politics.

The magic money tree exists, and it is growing in Northern Ireland. That’s the attack line that Labour will throw at Theresa May in the wake of her £1bn deal with the DUP to keep her party in office.

It’s worth noting that while £1bn is a big deal in terms of Northern Ireland’s budget – just a touch under £10bn in 2016/17 – as far as the total expenditure of the British government goes, it’s peanuts.

The British government spent £778bn last year – we’re talking about spending an amount of money in Northern Ireland over the course of two years that the NHS loses in pen theft over the course of one in England. To match the increase in relative terms, you’d be looking at a £35bn increase in spending.

But, of course, political arguments are about gut instinct rather than actual numbers. The perception that the streets of Antrim are being paved by gold while the public realm in England, Scotland and Wales falls into disrepair is a real danger to the Conservatives.

But the good news for them is that last year Philip Hammond tweaked his targets to give himself greater headroom in case of a Brexit shock. Now the Tories have experienced a shock of a different kind – a Corbyn shock. That shock was partly due to the Labour leader’s good campaign and May’s bad campaign, but it was also powered by anger at cuts to schools and anger among NHS workers at Jeremy Hunt’s stewardship of the NHS. Conservative MPs have already made it clear to May that the party must not go to the country again while defending cuts to school spending.

Hammond can get to slightly under that £35bn and still stick to his targets. That will mean that the DUP still get to rave about their higher-than-average increase, while avoiding another election in which cuts to schools are front-and-centre. But whether that deprives Labour of their “cuts for you, but not for them” attack line is another question entirely. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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