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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Confusion reigns

I have to admit that I am getting more and more bemused by the claims and counter-claims being made by Labour and Plaid Cymru over their respective pledges to end child poverty by 2020.

You would have thought that as both parties have made the same promise that there would not be much disagreement between them on this issue. And yet we are treated to an unholy row about whose commitment is the most efficacious.

Having made the promise herself to end child poverty, Leanne Wood then says that it is politically irresponsible to be basing an Assembly campaign on a commitment that can only be delivered by London. Isn't that what she has done? I thought Huw Lewis summed up the situation quite well:

"It should also be pointed out that this is their (Plaid Cymru's) third or fourth position on child poverty in a matter of months. In the Assembly chamber, I heard their Social Justice spokesperson actually state that only independence can lift Welsh children out of poverty. A number of months later in a Save the Children event, again in the Assembly, the same spokesperson committed Plaid to Labour's plan to eradicate child poverty. And again in Friday's Western Mail, Plaid Cymru committed itself to ending child poverty in Wales by 2020 - what has happened over the weekend to suddenly make that a bad idea? The claim that the Assembly cannot have an impact on poverty rates is absolutely berserk. Increasing employment rates, for example, have been absolutely central to the fall in the number of children living in poverty since Labour came to power. Perhaps the nationalists don't consider the following policy areas important to the poverty agenda, but I'd suggest that improving childcare, employment rates, education, social services and tackling health inequalities are fundamental to our goal."

I think the reality is that whereas the Assembly can do a great deal to tackle child poverty it cannot eradicate it completely without the co-operation of the UK Government in terms of implementing complementary measures involving taxation and benefits. If we are to learn anything from this spat it must be that we should not raise unrealistic expectations during this campaign. To do so is to discredit politics and politicians even more.
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