We’ve run this graph before, but in the light of Ed Miliband’s speech to the Scottish Labour conference yesterday it bears repeating. Labour’s newest line – a subtle play on the party’s traditional “too wee, too poor, too stupid” gambit – is to describe the UK as “the redistributive Union“. The twin intended meanings of the phrase are clear: Scotland can only survive if subsidised by the wealthy South-East of England, and a vote for independence is a vote to abandon England’s poor to the cruelty of the Tories.
It’s a powerful message (if not a particularly rational one – if we’re such subsidy junkies, aren’t we a burden on England’s poor?), but it’s also one founded on a gigantic and cynical lie. Firstly because, as this blog has previously discovered, Scottish votes almost never affect which party forms the UK government anyway. And secondly because even when the voters of England do elect a Labour government, the redistribution of wealth still only travels in one direction – from the poor to the rich.
The graph above, taken from independent monitoring group The Poverty Site and created from official UK Government statistics, shows the reality of the last 13 years of Labour government (shaded in grey). Over that period – including the time when Ed Miliband was Chairman of HM Treasury’s Council Of Economic Advisers – the gap between the respective shares of Britain’s wealth owned by the richest 10% of citizens and the poorest 10% significantly INCREASED in size, by around one-eighth.
Of course, when the Tories are in power the rate of increase tends to be slightly higher still, and not only from poor to rich – under the Tory administrations of Thatcher and Major, Scotland subsidised England to the tune of almost £30bn according to the UK Goverment’s own figures. Whichever of the London parties holds power in Westminster, though, the direction the wealth moves in is the same.
Ed Miliband does indeed represent a “redistributive Union”. He wants you to let him and David Cameron continue redistributing the UK’s money from poor people and Scotland to rich people and England. If that’s the future you want, then by all means vote No to independence. Just be clear what it is you’ll be voting for.