Are the Tories the party of the rich?


Andrew Grice in The Independent cites a Comres poll they commissioned which attempts to portray the Tories as the party of the rich. There are certain questions you can ask which will elicit predictable responses, which is probably why they did it. But is it true? And is its implied converse true, that Labour is the party of the poor?

For all the class war rhetoric from Gordon Brown, the poor have fared worse under a Labour government, and social mobility has declined, not increased. This Institute's inspiration and patron saint, Adam Smith, favoured markets and trade because they offered most chance of improving the lot of poor people, those at the subsistence end of the economy.

First of all market policies and trade augment the wealth of the economy, and create employment opportunities not available in a poorer economy. Secondly, they tend to produce goods and services in larger quantities and at more affordable prices, giving poorer people access to what were once limited to the rich. Thirdly, an economy featuring market and pro-trade policies tends to develop products that narrow the gap between the lifestyles of rich and poor. This is not the gap in incomes, but the difference between what the rich and poor do.

As Arthur Shenfield described it in his Myth & Reality in Economic Systems,

Thus in capitalism the inequality of condition is little more than the difference between the Cadillac and the Chevrolet, the Parisian couturier's model and the excellent mass-produced copies of it, caviar and the equally nutritious cod's roe. In pre-capitalist societies it was the difference between the mansion and the hovel, between silks and rags, between exquisite luxury and frequent famine.

For these reasons and others, the party which will implement pro-market and pro-trade policies is truly the party of the poor, in that it will act to better their condition. The party that attacks achievement, success and the wealth they can bring, undermines the chance of improvement for the poor by doing so. Take your choice.