However, they are useful in isolating a few key points.
The first few things which leap from the page on reading the report are:
- how the much-maligned 1970s saw a reduction in both the very poor and very rich
- how little has changed since the 1980s to redress the damage done by Thatcherism
- what Will Hutton called the 30-40-30 split is more accurately a 25-50-25 split between the poor, middle and wealthy.
One interesting point is how, since the 1990s, the number of very poor ("core poor") has declined but the number of breadline poor has increased. One persuasive explanation put forward for this is that the numbers of unemployed have fallen as the number of people working for a pittance has increased i.e. people are moved off unemployment benefit onto low-wage jobs.
This confirms what we have learned both anecdotally and statistically about the effects of the minimum wage. The Labour Government of the past few years ought to be congratulated on its introduction (and the lack of recession) but substituting "breadline poverty" for "core poverty" is hardly the great step forward which many of us might have expected from ten years of a Labour Government.
The urgency of the COFUP campaign has never seemed greater.
As a final aside, this report interested me particularly as, by coincidence, I started reading some of Charles Booth's reports on poverty in 19th century London this morning. The improvements to working people's lives made by the welfare state need hardly be remarked on again. What is so shameful is that which has not changed. Immigrant workers in particular are still overworked and underpaid.
Neither Charles Booth nor the Rowntree Foundation (both well intentioned middle-class reformers) offers much in the way of solutions. Those solutions must be presented and fought for by us in the Labour Party and the trade unions.