Sir: Polly Toynbee's article (28 August) on ending poverty shares two misunderstandings which inform most recent contributions to the debate on "social exclusion": that poverty can be addressed without changing the structures of the mainstream economy, and that it can be resolved from the top down.
Toynbee argues for the speedy funding of already successful programmes. Fine. But programmes targeted solely on the poorest cannot end poverty. The increase in poverty in the last twenty years has been produced by the decentralisation and fragmentation of wage bargaining, the outlawing of most effective trade union action, the deliberate creation of high unemployment to lower wages and impose greater managerial discipline, increased freedom of movement of capital, deregulation of employment, and an overarching strategy of cost-cutting. These conditions, which New Labour is committed to retaining, cannot but reproduce greater inequality.
Nor will poverty be addressed primarily by pressure on the Government of liberal business and middle-class opinion. "Ordinary people", including the poorest, have to fight against the effects of neoliberalism and devise measures to replace it. But this requires an end to the trade union and public order laws which are the other major inheritance from Thatcherism.
Dr JAMIE GOUGH
Division of Geography and Environmental Management
University of Northumbria
Newcastle upon TyneReuse content