Making Excuses for Child Poverty

Since he started writing for Golwg, Normal Mouth has written an interesting if opinionated and personal take on the politics of Wales and the wider world without appearing too partisan. His latest offering however changes tack - it is a full frontal partisan attack on Plaid Cymru over the issue of Child Poverty.

When Plaid says that the Assembly has few powers to tackle the issue properly, Normal claims that Plaid is being defeatist and that the party is reverting to type by pointing the finger at London as a defence.

The idea that Plaid is being realistic and honest doesn’t occur to our Labour sycophant.

Bethan Jenkins AM is Plaid's most outspoken champion on tackling Child poverty. What I hear her say is that it is a matter that needs to be dealt with at all levels of government, Assembly, Westminster, Local Authority and EU level. Rather than pointing a finger, I hear Bethan asking for better cooperation and understanding between all levels of government on this important issue.

Of course, if one level of government isn't pulling its weight, isn't doing all it can do to tackle the problem it is incumbent on the champions of the cause to point this out as both Bethan and Huw Lewis have done.

Having made his accusation Normal goes on to ask Why, then is Plaid so defeatist?

His answer is that:

Ending child poverty isn’t the Nationalists’ issue. Through its dogged persistence Labour has made the cause its own.

Ending child poverty is one of a dwindling number of policy areas that all shades of Labour can unite around. It reminds the party that real issues unite it in real ways. It is therefore an anti-wedge issue. The fact that the charge is led by Nationalist bête noire Huw Lewis only ratchets up the temperature. This is an issue that neither Lewis nor Labour can be seen to win on.

I find this difficult to believe.

It is true that everybody in the Labour Party wants to end child poverty. But everybody in every other party also wants to end child poverty. Child poverty is as universally hated as apple pie is universally loved. Indeed, one only has to look through Normal's own Questions to a Welsh Political Blogger posts to see ending child poverty pop up in answers from bloggers of all persuasions.

Child poverty isn't, in fact, a problem in its own right. Child poverty is a misnomer, a bit of Nu-Lab spin designed to unite the party on an apple pie issue.

Child poverty is a by-product of adult poverty. Most poor children are those who live in households headed by poor parents. The only way to take children out of poverty is to take their parents out of poverty.

Real policies that attempted to deal with parental poverty would split Labour mercilessly along the old / new fault line and along the middle England / industrial heartland fault line. The real problem - adult poverty, is a wedge issue in the Labour party.

My issue with Huw and especially Bethan is that whilst claiming the socialist moral high ground on this issue they persist in using the Blairite euphemism of child poverty instead of campaigning for what good old fashioned socialists use to campaign for - the ending of plain POVERTY.


  1. I'm in complete agreement. The article also seems to forget that it is Labour that has been in government for the last decade, not Plaid.

  2. I don't even like apple pie.

    But I think you are labour under a slight misapprehension, Alwyn.

    A goal to reduce the number of children in poverty is a largely proxy pledge to reduce overall poverty. The households in which these children live have to move out of poverty for them to do so, therefore a great deal of adult poverty will be addressed in the process.*

    As for my take on the situation, I'm sorry but I do find Plaid's stance to be a throwback to its opposition days; blame London and (implicitly) decry the Assembly's lack of powers.

    What is going on is a blatant piece of positioning for if/when child poverty targets aren't met - but the danger is that this defeatism bleeds into the administration. As I concede, London does have a huge role in seeing that through, but we need now to focus on what the Assembly can do, not what it can't.

    I don't even understand Sanddef's obtuse point. Labour's been in power in Wales and London for the entire period in which the commitment has been made (and in fact made it – I a point I make loud and clear), so they will rightly take the blame/credit for its succes/failure regardless of which end of the M4 one thinks things can be done. The very fact that success in this area will be seen as Labour success is Plaid's problem.

    * nb. this does not tackle household in which there are no children of course, so your point is taken in part.

  3. Check out Bethan's Blog there is an interesting discussion on there by people who know what they are talking about
    What is the basis of knowledge that Normal Mouth has on the subject I wonder, he doesn’t say who or what he does. He has opinions based on what - reading and Labour spin?
    This is not a subject for civil servants or policy people to pontificate on without some real hands on evidence or knowledge.
    Labour's policy in Wales has caused a lot of the problem, in Wales they have been in power over 50 years in the Local Authority sense and that’s where most power for this lies.

  4. Very good posting MOF.

    Take NM point about not wishing to get into a blame game, but a lot of these policies are decided by Westminster (taxation), Labour or implemented locally (county council), Labour. The Assembly is but one third of the picture and Plaid is one third of the Government there.

    I find the title 'Child Poverty' a turn off (and I have children of my own). It creates a situation where any one who disagrees with a part of the policy is branded as being against getting rid of child poverty. It's a bit like the old 'Children's Hospital' gag which the Tories used to go on about.

    Another term, less emotive, less apple-pie is 'social mobility'.

    Child poverty sounds like class jingoism to me, something to keep the Labour troops happy.

    I'm particularly suspicious of it because an Assembly with a left-wing coalition like the one we have now could do much more (as we're seeing with housing now). It could do even more if it had more power, fiscal autonomy etc, but the very people who seem to trumpet 'child poverty' are the very ones who seem to be most against One Wales Government and against handing Wales more power, more power to create an essentially perpetual left-wing government. Huw Lewis would prefere to have the Tories in power it seems than give Wales more power.

    If Labour was serious about its policies and believed it was the right track to take then more power for the Assembly would be the logical outcome. Bethan Jenkins and Plaid are right to point that out.

  5. I take your point on the general 'poverty' argument MOF. It is an interesting take.

    I have sent a letter of reply to Golwg to cover the points that I wish to make in relation to Normal Mouth's article, but you make them excellenty here already- its not about abdicating responsibility to Westminster- its about ensuring that all levels of Government are working together to tackle this issue.

    To be frank, some Labour AM's are trying to create a game of this issue, and to place a wedge between the Plaid and Labur One Wales Government. It is NOT my intention to say 'well we won't reach the targets, so lets get Plaid out of a mess' at all, and this should be clear. Coming from one of the most deprived areas of Wales, I have no time for such posturing.

    Child Poverty is a campaign which Labour has sought to claim as its own and champion, there is no doubt about that- so this now has to start materialising in practise. Raising the threshold on inheritance tax is not the way to go about it.

    I look forward to future debates on this issue.

  6. Firstly, i think its pretty accepted that Normal Mouth is a hugely valued blogger in Wales. Idiot and cretinous he is not.

    The issue of Child Poverty...

    I hope instead of fixating this ideological 'he said she said, i did it first, you're copying me' rhetoric is shed. I will offer the hand of comradeship to any party, particularly Plaid who are partners in the One Wales government, who is committed to ending child poverty.

    Secondly, i think it is a valid debate to consider whether we can utilise a more fertile centre-left ground, with the two biggest parties being of that persuasion to be more explicit in cutting child poverty numbers and consider having more powers devolved to achieve this. I am not saying this should always be our default position when encountering a challenge in Wales, yet it is correct that if a concrete case can be made to utilise more powers to end child poverty more rapidly in Wales then it is folly to not listen to it. Dogmatic positions, whether you believe in an independent Wales or oppose any further devolution are not helpful at this stage. This isnt a dogmatic constitutional matter, it is a matter of finding relevant and correct policies that we can all unite behind. Of course, the matter of more powers is in this mix, but currently this needs to be evidence based. I am glad the Welsh Assembly Government was able to top up the child trust fund above english levels due to the GoWA 2006 powers for example.

    The 'one wales' coalition can be a golden opportunity for all those on the centre-left in Wales if we focus on solving the 'progressive dilemma' David Marquand has written about. We wont even have a referendum on more powers before 2010, so it is vital we unite in trying to meet the targets.

    The voting system in Wales makes this approach not only preferable, but essential.

    Sorry this is a bit lite on policy, but i feel it is vital that we have the genuine debate not the party political one.

    Marcus Warner

  7. excuse my copying and pasting that refers to a comment on another blog...I am tired.

  8. "I take your point on the general 'poverty' argument MOF. It is an interesting take."

    What other take is there? Abolishing 'general' poverty is the last thing Labour wants. They need a situation which is perpetual poverty and then give hand-outs for the poor and claim browny points for doing so. Child poverty? Bloody joke! Surprised NM hasn't started reeling off facts about 'relative' and 'absolute' poverty and

  9. Firstly, i think its pretty accepted that Normal Mouth is a hugely valued blogger in Wales. Idiot and cretinous he is not.

    But biased and very partisan,so much of his diatribe is predictable

  10. Huw Lewis's Mam18/12/2007, 15:40

    Most poor children are those who live in households headed by poor parents. The only way to take children out of poverty is to take their parents out of poverty.

    In other news: Pope Catholic, Bears deficate in tree-rich areas.

    Have you got anything to say but the obvious?