Fraser Nelson

Balls keeps on telling porkies

Balls keeps on telling porkies
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So, it took me two weeks to get out of the blogging mindset - when you read something outrageous, and start mentally composing a blog. I found out that James and Pete had a bet to see how long I'd last for while on holidays - they reckoned four days. Ha! I was back yesterday, and didn't blog just to show that I could hold out.

But there's been plenty of temptation during these past two weeks. Not least when my friend Ed Balls tried one of his porkies again. "I actually think it's an astonishing achievement that we've arrested that rise in inequality," he said two weeks ago. I was going to let that one slip, until I spoke to a senior Tory yesterday who said that inequality was rising in the 1990s. That's Balls, I told him - but of course, who's to know?  

When someone like Ed Balls - who knows his figures better than anyone in the Cabinet - makes such an assertion you think he has some basis for truth. No one ever picks ministers up on porkies like this. On holiday, I was in two minds as to whether to keep doing graphs on CoffeeHouse. Danger: it looks nerdy and can repel general readers. On the other hand: it's precisely this attitude that allows people like Balls to think they can get away with claims like this. They know the media will never pick them up. So, for the record, here is the Gini 'inequality' index after housing costs:

As you can see, the sharp rise in inequality was arrested under John Major. It wasn't arrested under Labour - they reduced it to the level they inherited, briefly, before seeing inequality rise to an all-time high. If the Gini is to be taken seriously - and John Rentoul, who has written a book on this, considers it the only index that means anything - then Britain under Thatcher was far more "equal" than Britain is under Brown.

I should add that I am deeply suspicious of the so-called "equality" agenda and the Gini index - look at its league table and Belarus, Mongolia and Kazakhstan are far more "equal" than Britain, for example. I know which country I'd prefer to be poor in.

But my wider point here is that Brown - after all the money his government borrowed, and confiscated from the rest of us - failed to hit even his own "progressive" targets. The poorest are getting poorer. All those billions upon billions in tax credits designed for the ideological objective of making Britain more "equal": another abject failure.

The moral: you just can't fine-tune an economy from the centre, no matter how pure you think your intentions are. It is the constant epitaph of old left politics, wherever they are tried: the best of intentions leads to the worst of results. This is why Cameron needs to uproot the Brown/Balls agenda wherever he can find it in government departments. All it has done is make Britain a more socially segregated country while bankrupting the government into the bargain.

Written byFraser Nelson

Fraser Nelson is the editor of The Spectator. He is also a columnist with The Daily Telegraph, a member of the advisory board of the Centre for Social Justice and the Centre for Policy Studies.

Topics in this articleSociety