Ben Brogan is a twit.

Alright, he isn’t but I have to get readers somehow.

Today, Ben (amongst others) rolls out the “Isn’t it terrible people in deprived areas vote Labour” line.

Well Ben, I don’t think there are many people who’ll benefit from inheritance tax cuts in Glasgow North East, but there are plenty who’d suffer if there was less nursery provision. Some people call this “dependency on the client state”. I call it Government working to make life better for families.

If you live in a poorer area, the money Labour governments spend on schools, on policing, on child care, on sure start and on tax credits make a big difference for you.

But really, why doesn’t Ben make the opposite argument? We’ve had a Labour government for thirteen years, and people in Surrey, in Hampshire, in Tatton and in Witney have better indices on poverty than anywhere else in the country.

Yet despite this prosperity, they keep electing Tories in landslides. So why is no-one railing against the shortsightedness of these fools who keep voting against a government that has made life in their area so good, eh? Why are they so shortsighted?

Oh, yes, because they know who’ll act in the interest of their community.

Just like the voters in Glasgow.

Isn’t there an implication in this convential wisdom that it’s OK for the wealthy to vote in their own interest, but immoral and foolish for poorer people to do so?

If Ben really wants to know why people in poorer areas think it’s in their interest to vote Labour and people in richer areas think it’s in their interest to vote Conservative  he could do worse than start with this chart from the IFS.


Average incomes under Tories and Labour 1979 to date

Now, I’m not arguing everything Labour’s done is perfect. The IFS report shows although we’ve made a lot of progress in increasing lower and middle income, the massive increase in wealth at the very top has driven inequality. But where does Ben think the voters of Glasgow and Tatton fit on those income scales and so, who is more likely to make working people in Glasgow North East better off?

Now, all this sits alongside a disturbing trend in journalism (fueled, in part, by the fact that most journalists are like me, middle class professionals) that implies that people in Labour strongholds in places like Glasgow, Newcastle, Manchester and Liverpool are basically a bunch of welfare munching dole scroungers who are only voting Labour because they have not yet been weaned of the welfare teat.

It’s a load of stereotyped rubbish and should be treated with contempt.

The IFS research suggests that those on benefits alone are not hugely better off under Labour*. Rather, it is the relatively low income workers, the shop assistants, the cleaners, the part-time time nursery nurse, the office assistants and the manual workers who have done better in terms of income.

On top of this, it is groups like this that benefit most from schools that have had more money spent on them, medical provision that has improved, more access to nurseries and so on.

It is these people, too often neglected in media narratives, who make up the vast majority of the population of core Labour seats. Their support for the Labour party is neither irrational nor the lazy suckling of the teat of the state, but a recognition that although imperfect, Labour generally tries to do more for them than the alternative.

History shows they’re right about that.

What Labour people want isn’t “welfare”, but for life to be a bit fairer, just a little less stacked against the family trying to make ends meet.

There is a long and interesting debate about income and social inequality in this country – but we must not start it with stereotypes.

*At least in income terms. People in these social groups probably find their houses might be nicer and their schools better, but I refuse to think of that as, y’know, a bad thing.

UPDATE: Dan Paskins says that there’s no easy dividing line between “Feckless poor suckling on the state” and “upright working man/woman”. He’s quite right – and as he says, the support of the state is vital for those trying to climb the income scale. His critique of the stereotype is probably more accurate than mine.

42 Responses to “Ben Brogan is a twit.”

  1. Tom

    “Isn’t there an implication in this convential wisdom that it’s OK for the wealthy to vote in their own interest, but immoral and foolish for poorer people to do so?”

    The defining feature of a Conservative is a refusal to generalise.

    • Simonsays

      If it is in your own interest to live in a mouldy, slimy, yob-infested estate in Glasgow and you still want to vote for the people who condemn you to live in these dog kennels, then, fine, vote labour. (bloody fools or congenital idiots. Not sure which)

  2. ron

    I think this is very sad.

    The people in that area of Glasgow have had a Labour MP pretty much forever and things have only got worse and worse. That Labour pretend this is some sort of victory for their policies is frankly disgusting.

    Most of the people in that area have voted Labour for no other reason than that their parents and parents parents did. Labour rely on that sort of blind allegiance. That is pretty much why they don’t give a stuff about people in these areas having any sort of social advancement – there is a danger they might stop automatically voting Labour.

    As long as these people are unable or unwilling to look at reality and make some sort of informed decision they will always be saddled with Labour and will be stuck in the quagmire of low aspiration, minimal educational achievement, low paid jobs or long term (often intergenerational )unemployment.

    But that is Labour’s secret to success: keep them down, keep them poor, keep them voting Labour. They even wheel in the unions to get a bit of bullying and moral blackmail in the mix as well.

    Absolute travesty.

    • hopisen

      “As long as these people are unable or unwilling to look at reality”

      Couldn’t agree more. So please supply some evidence for your assertions about life in Glasgow getting “worse and worse” – some comparators with the previous two decades would be good. Things like average income, employment rates, overcrowding in housing, that sort of thing. I’m sure you have them to hand.

      Unless of course, you’re just making a series of assertions that fit with your own prejudices and calling them “the facts”

      • ron

        I saw a whole raft of stats on the news regarding not just this area, but Labour safe seats in general – and they are eye-wateringly depressing. The percentage of the populus on incapacity benefit, no qualifications, etc, etc, is astonishingly high – in Labour constituencies.

        My general assertion is that the client state has been massively expanded under Labour – and wards like this have a truly depressing inevitabiltiy about them.

        Labour do not lift people out of poverty (in fact no political party does – people do that themselves) – however, they most most certainly entrench it.

        It is not an achievement an area voting for the same party for decades and decades – it is a tragic endictment of entrenched prejudice, lack of attainment – and a chronic reliance on welfarism.

        If that is the pinnacle of Labour’s “vision” – you are welcome to it.

  3. Paul Linford

    Ben Brogan is a twit. Alright, he isn’t but I have to get readers somehow.

    You really shouldn’t launch personal attacks on people just in order to get readers Hopi. That’s The Sun’s job.

  4. hopisen


    Yes, people in poorer areas tend to vote Labour. It is true to say therefore that figures about income, and many other indicators of poverty, will be much worse in Labour areas, than in Knightsbridge or Mayfair.

    But that is rather different from your first assertion which was “things are getting worse and worse.” They’re not.

    The evidence I’ve seen says that under Labour mid to low income families incomes are growing significantly faster than they were under the Tories, and many key indicators of deprivation are beginning to come down.

    Perhaps you have some evidence that things are getting worse and worse that I’ve not seen?

    • Liam Murray

      You’re point about evidence is a fair one Hopi and I’m sure the evidence that’s there shows some improvements for people in areas like Glasgow NE when Labour are in office.

      But couldn’t you argue there is a truth buried in Ron’s inelegant comment or Ben Brogan’s article – namely that for all the improvements in this index or that one, for all the money spent there seems to be an intrasigence to the sort of social breakdown you see in areas like this, certainly over the longer term.

      Partisan’s might use this to score cheap points but there is conundrum here and at that level of discussion there’s no evidence that Labour OR the Tories necessarily have an answer.

      • hopisen

        Liam –

        If we look at “severe poverty”, then there are a few drivers. If you look at the value of benefits for households w/out children, they’ve actually fallen vs median incomes. (see the poverty report Tom links to below).

        Now, this is presumably intentional – an attempt to ensure that “work pays”, alongside tax credits and so on – and we’ve seen benefits from that strategy at the low to mid income range.

        Yet if you’re going to look at inequality, that appraoch will be a significant drag. If a government wanted to reduce severe poverty, an easy way to do it would to increase JSA and IB by £10 a week or so. Hey presto, almost everyone at the very bottom of the income pile would be better off vs the median. For obvious reasons, this isn’t a nesc brilliant idea.

        Reading the reports and data, you get the sense that the early Labour years, with tax credits and main wage and so on, were effective in reducing poverty – but over the last few years, we’ve come up against se more intractible problems.

        I’ve said before that to address these kinds of issues is actually much more expensive than sending out a benefits cheque – it costs more to get someone to stop drinking than to give them an extra £1000 a year in benefits. But do that sort of thing, and the papers would be full of “Hotels for Alkies” stories.

    • james

      Please can I ask a stupid question?

      Why is it assumed that raising incomes of poorer people (through tax credits and the like) is the best way of helping them out of poverty?

      Raising incomes is a means to an end (raising living standards, enabling people to achieve economic independence or equality of opportunity – etc) rather than an end in itself. I would genuinely be interested to see evidence that shows that “money really does buy happiness”.

      I completely accept that health and education spending benefits the poor and helps achieve these aims – but personally I think tax credits are a very inefficient way of eliminating real poverty. I think it’s very possible that “things get worse” at the same time as “incomes go up”.

      • hopisen

        It’s not a stupid question at all.

        As I say above, the easy way to reduce inequality would simply to increase the value of benefits for the workless relative to the median wage. A strategy the government has not pursued.

        What’s happened instead is that incomes for people in low paid work (esp those with children) have increased gradually. If you worry that benefits will prevent people from becoming economically independent, then tax credits are exactly the wrong target to cut.

        That strategy – “making work pay” or “a culture of dependency” depending on who you talk to, has been effective, but it’s not going to make people on JSA or IB any better off.

        If you reduce tax credits there will be two consequences: working low income families will be worse off, and benefits will be a more attractive alternative to working.

      • james

        (Can’t seem to reply to your reply, so will have to reply to my own….if that makes sense)

        Thanks for replying. But I don’t think I explained myself very well.

        My stupid question was more fundamental – how does raising incomes (through the benefit system, including through tax credits) feed through into better outcomes (less crime, better housing, happier people, higher educational attainment in poor areas, stronger societies)? And where is the evidence for this?

        My worry is that incomes may well have risen for the lower parts of the income distribution but are people’s lives in poorer areas actually better? What are they spending this extra money on? To caricature my own argument — have they turned into model Scandinavian citizens by saving it to help put children through university who never would have gone, thus breaking the cycle of poverty – or has the traditional British tendency to p*** any extra money up the wall on a Friday night proved too strong? Would it have been better instead to spend the money devoted to tax credits in ways to help them get better paid jobs in the first place, so they don’t need them? (Or not spent at all and given to businesses as tax breaks to create more jobs – etc).

  5. grace the collie

    I heard this poor woman interviewed on the radio in Glasgow East say that “she would be voting labour because she had been bred to vote labour” and I thought “yeah you got that right”

  6. Matt

    It is in fact a Labour myth that the poor are better off under Labour. What actually always happens under a Labour government is that there are more people in poverty at the end of their term than there was at the start. That has indeed again happened under Bliar and Brown, according to the ONS’s official figures. There are now more elderly people in poverty, more children in poverty and more people officially defined as being in poverty than there were in 1997 when Labour took office.

    “Of course the left love the poor, that’s why, when in power, they always make more of them.”

      • Simonsays

        Tom, you are a stupid asshole. Are you, like brown a communmist placeman? I feel sorry for buffoons like you who live in slums and have the minds of a comprehensive graduate from a labour inspired sink school. Idiot.

        [HOPI HERE] I don’t mind you being aggressive, but at least make an attempt to back up your arguments alongside the abuse. Then it might be cutting. This is just shouting.

      • AB

        Simonsays, you may be too dim to spell the word “communist”, but surely you can read a simple graph? Where were you educated – Eton? (Before you ask: I went to my local comprehensive and went on to get a double first from Oxford and an MPhil from Cambridge.)

  7. newmania

    Infuriating but enthralling , seriously good post Hopi Sen, you have shed the outer skin and revealed a new Polly Toynbee . Some queries -Were the IFS right about the 50p rate as well then , or just on this graph ? You think you are over rewarded ; by how much and can I have the unfair bit ? Just asking .
    Tax credits are paid for by working people and their children under threat of imprisonment . It has been delivered incompetently ,encourages fraud and pushes down minimum wages . Frank Field called it ,“Last throw of the politics of central control“. and said “ The effect of Gordon Brown’s reforms has been to create a degree of dependency among the working population hitherto unknown “,and ….,“ No free society can function when very large sections of the working population are imprisoned in a welfare system that their own efforts make little difference to their income “ .Why did your hero Tony Blair have such faith in this ‘misguided’ man , got a point no ?
    Relative poverty would ultimately justify throwing wealth in the sea whilst only maintaining the real value of benefits We are getting quickly more equal now , happy ? Still happy about ‘sacrificing growth’ your words ? Ta for that .
    You read across from Thatcher to Blair if that`s ok why not from Callaghan to Thatcher . Would the poor would have benefited from our continuing towards East German perfection . Say what you like about the Stasi they really did have equality there and full employment , probably made the trains run on time .
    “Fair” is a pious platitude without agreed responsibilities between specified parties .When did we agree , and who is “we“ ? . If those duties are less limitless then massive redistribution follows until you run out of other either people’s money or 20th century .Are “we “ ,the Sudanese , everyone ,my children , future generations , the English ? . You draw the line along a fragmented electoral area, I emphasise my family more and outwards with weakening ties , which is fair , which is licensed robbery ?
    You redistribute from South to North , England to Scotland , Private Sector to Public Sector , Everyone else to Unionised workers , Successful to failing ,working to idle, Future to Present ..(as well as healthy to sick and everyone to the destitute which I agree with ),. If you rob Peter to pay Paul Paul will vote for you, but it has nothing to do with fair .
    Perhaps the rich ought to behave charitably , they often do , but Mayfair is a ‘contemptible stereotype ‘. Your problem The working-class home owning private sector Southern self employed man and family.. They make sacrifices not you, you do rather nicely out of it .
    Granting that redistribution is otherwise neutral *holds nose* , Is this a reasonable summary ?
    Conservative – Good safety net not as good for those failing but just above. Plenty to aspire to
    Labour – Good safety net but even better for those failing above that level . Commensurately worse , at least , for anyone above the failure zone or who aspires to be in it .
    “Workers Unite” a could win an election once “Losers Unite “ cannot that is the problem New labour was supposed to solve. You are a Brownie now Hopi , twist around and vanish …..?

    …….back to bed zzzzzzz

  8. John Bowman

    And why do people adhere to a certain religion? Well, from their earliest experiences they observe what their parents, those around them believe and they are encouraged even required so to do: by training, example, encouragement, sometimes duress, habit and wish to belong.

    Alternative religions are at best presented as not valid, at worst, evil. Alternatives are mis-represented and their worst features highlighted.

    Peer pressure and sense of belonging to the “tribe” do the rest. Defection is betrayal.

    In closed societies like Glasgow and other areas where most people are born, get maried, work and die wthin the same few suare miles, why would we imagine political affiliation would be any different to religious affiliation?

    It’s belief – belief that Labour is good Tory bad – thinking and reason not required – from the cradle to the grave.

    • ron

      “It’s belief – belief that Labour is good Tory bad – thinking and reason not required – from the cradle to the grave.”

      Fantastically put. THAT is Labour’s legacy in areas like Glasgow.

      The Left are brilliant at inventing bogey men – and tease out their core voters’ prejudices. I remember Michael Howard’s election campaign in 2005 – which was roundly scorned by the liberal elite – and probably people like Hopi. Those tired old bogey men were wheeled out – “racist”, “homophobe”, “callous”, “anti-poor”, etc, etc, etc. Now, his 2005 manifesto looks positively tame compared to Labour’s policies. Where is the vicious character assassination that Michael Howard was subjected to? I digress.

      Anyway, I simply do not believe that blindly voting for one party, decade after decade, can possibly be a positive thing – especially when those areas have average life expectancies of genuinely poor countries. Without the English shilling, Scotland WOULD be a third world country.

      People like Hopi may hate the Tories – fine – just remember that without the wealth creation that the Tories aspire to – and achieve – the welfare system that props up Labour’s core voters would not even exist.

      • hopisen

        and there you go… blindly voting for the Tories is OK, but voting Labour is an irrational sign of closemindedness and isolation.

        I don’t hate the tories – I just think that if you have two parties, one of whom increases the incomes of all social groups about equally, and another that increases the incomes of the top half a lot more, then it’s ignorant to then accuse those on low incomes of voting tribally and without thought.

        It reveals more about you, and your prejudices than it does about them.

  9. newmania

    People are insecure now , in areas that rely on subsidy Public Sector employment and welfare , fear will send them back to Labour , this is why Labour want to spread dependency in the first place

    • ron

      Spot on. Just look at the North East – which correlates nicely with an exponential expansion of public sector jobs.

      Simple electoral calculation, nothing more than that.

      • hopisen

        I’ve lived and worked in the North East for a long time. You want to believe that what Labour’s done there is electoral calculation, then you know nothing about the region – nor about the constant criticism we’ve recieved for not spending enough in the region.

        I spent several years trying to explain to journalists the reasons we weren’t adjusting spending formulas, nor bringing thousands of public sector jobs to the region.

        Broadly, the redevelopment’s we’ve encouaged, from netpark in Coutny Durham to Silverlink on North Tyneside and regeneration of the Riverside after the closing of Swan Hunter, have been designed to attract private sector jobs to the region.

        The poss exceptions, Gateshead Quayside and Newcastle Ouseburn, are cultural developments (art galleries and book museums) which have been used as magnets to attract private housing, builders, small business, restuarants, hotels and so on, to previously industrial areas.

      • AB

        So those huge rises in the numbers of people on unemployment and sickness benefit in the early 80s and early 90s after Thatcher and then Major had horrendously mismanaged the economy – that was all a secret plan to deliver votes to the Labour Party? Well, it took until 1997 to come to fruition, but I have to admit it paid out handsomely in the end. Hats off to Comrade-Agent Thatcher and Commissar Major, and Lenin medals all round. I mean, really.

  10. Blogless Tory

    What is the difference between vote buying with other peoples’ money (as Brogan seems to allege) and increasing benefits to Labour voters (as you put it), or by moving make-work public sector jobs to Glasgow (which is as common as direct payments)? I don’t think he was actually denying that it is in these peoples’ interests, at least proximally, to take the bribe: that’s the whole point.

    This criticism is really rather fundamental. If you’re a collectivist, you probably don’t see any problem with it, because as you see it, the money never belonged to the person who created it, it was always just a state asset to be distributed however you please. Clearly many people in Britain do not take this view and believe people have a moral entitlement to wealth they have created.

    On the purely pragmatic side, I don’t think it is true in the medium or long term that it is best for people to simply accept more and more benefits. Liberalisation of the labour market, lower taxes and fewer regulations means more private sector jobs that are actually productive and therefore sustainable and likely to grow. Incomes have gone up steadily and so have benefits, yet most of the social problems on sink council estates are the same or rising, which indicates that much of the problem is not money anyway

    The civil institutions of a free society would be in every way preferable to the dead hand of the state. It is pure naivete to think that the state doesn’t use all of its considerable powers to hang on regardless.

  11. newmania

    I don’t hate the tories – I just think that if you have two parties, one of whom increases the incomes of all social groups about equally, and another that increases the incomes of the top half a lot more, then it’s ignorant to then accuse those on low incomes of voting tribally and without thought.

    New Labour do not increase anyone`s income ,they take money from some groups and give it to others as it is the middling who pay all the tax they are the chief sufferers .

    AB – The violent adjustment of the economy under Thatcher was due to the long period of socialism under both Parties when structural weaknesses and vested interest built up. New Labour accepted this implicity by retaining Union reform or do you think that was absent mindedness ? Chump

    • AB

      And the 90s recession? Had socialism crept back in by the back door of Downing St in the late 80s while MT was napping?

      On the whole I preferred your earlier post, which had a dreamy kind of James Joyce stream of consciousness feeling to it (the Sudanese – who was expecting the Sudanese to make an appearance? you brilliantly wrongfooted us all there) but, attempting to thread through your corkscrew syntax, I seem to discern an argument that the Tories were better for growth and the economy. If you do a standard Chow test (yes, I know you don’t know what it is – but look it up, man, you must have google even if you apparently lack a dictionary) and you’ll see there was no structural break in average GDP growth post-1979. Sorry.

      Yours in solidarity with the Sudanese

  12. newmania

    I spent several years trying to explain to journalists the reasons we weren’t adjusting spending formulas, nor bringing thousands of public sector jobs to the region

    What utter shite more money is taken from the tax payers than actually earnt there . Why do you think it is a Labour strong hold .. a more altruistis attitude ? Childish nonsense

    • Tom

      Most regions of the UK take more money from the exchequer than they contribute, if you want to to look at it that way. The south-west certainly does, and that’s far from a Labour stronghold.

  13. The Parallax Brief

    The solution to this seems to be a hypothetical situation in which Labour HAS done a terrible job. So, let’s just accept the Brogan/right wing view that the people of Glasgow NE have been terribly let down by Labour. In order to vote Conservative, one would have to ask “would life for the poor have been better and inequality less under the Tories?”

    If the answer to that is no, then at the very least, Labour would get their vote as the lesser of two evils.

  14. AB

    To Tom and the Parallax: Lads, LADS. Cogent, logical, correctly spelled: your comments are letting the side down big-time.

    Another blindingly obvious point that ought not need to be made is that, under Britain’s complicated system (probably designed by a closet socialist), if you vote for a party and it loses, you don’t get a government run by that party just for you anyway. You have to accept the majority verdict. Hence even if the good people of Glasgow have been clamouring for the jackboot of welfare Stalinism for the last half century, they’ve ended up with the Tories running Westminster for more than half the time. So their poverty, which apparently was created entirely by malign bureaucrats in SW1 and in no way reflects the structural change of Central Belt manufacturing industry and shipbuilding, is actually mainly The Tories’ Fault. I knew we’d get there in the end.

    I still want to know where the Sudanese fit in, though.

  15. newmania

    Wow , you insult me with a startling allusion to James Joyce`s Stream Of Consciousness technique, and on blog thread too. Amazing , you should be on TV or something. As if that was not enough you thread corkscrews , to think I called you a chump.
    I mentioned the Sudanese because they are a people whose experience of ‘unfairness’ was legendary. I intended comic hyperbole I can see why you got confused
    A boy born in Camlachie is expected to live to 64.5 — the same as in Uzbekistan. In Parkhead it is 62, the same as Bangladesh.In Dalmarnock it is 58 — lower than Sudan, (and Cambodia …and Ghana. ) It a socialists paradise up there clearly.
    As for your chow test , if ,as you suggest it proves that we should have kept Callaghan then you are welcome to the acclamation of fellow chowists. They sound like a bunch of chumps to me AB.

  16. Amber

    If this is a “victory” for Labour then it is certainly a hollow one. The depressing thing about this election is not so much anything discussed above (although that is too), it’s the 30% turnout figure.

  17. newmania

    Most regions of the UK take more money from the exchequer than they contribute, if you want to to look at it that way. The south-west certainly does, and that’s far from a Labour stronghold.

    Said Tom

    That is not the same thing as actual earnings being more Public Sector than Private sector


Leave a Reply