When the Rt Hon Gideon George Oliver Osborne, heir to the Seventeenth Baronet, “threw his weight behind a proposal to increase the minimum wage to £7 an hour by 2015” last Thursday, in a blatant attempt to outflank Labour, a move that would restore the figure to its pre-recession level, he was applauded by the convocation of Tory nodding donkeys and I-speak-your-weight machines.
But there was a problem: as I’ve noted previously, the Astroturf lobby groups posing as non-partisan think tanks, which make up such a significant part of the Conservative Movement, are vehemently opposed to such radical ideas as paying the lower orders in money, rather than washers. The likes of the IEA, CPS, ASI and TPA have predicted doom and destruction since the Minimum Wage appeared.
That was in 1998, and it may be usefully noted that unemployment did not take off as a result – as these august bodies predicted – although it did improve the purchasing power of the less well off. And those are the people with the greatest propensity to spend, so there was more economic activity as a result, even if the goods and services purchased were not to the liking of the orthodox right.
So when Osborne made his statement, the Astroturfers were aghast: here was someone from their preferred team committing the ultimate economic heresy. Even before the Chancellor’s announcement, Ryan Bourne of the CPS was unhappy about burger-flippers getting a rise: “it’s the poorest – for whom a fast food restaurant might be a treat – who suffer the most” he whinged.
This demonstrates just how out of touch Bourne and all the other clever people who talk loudly in restaurants really are: the least well off don’t eat out. But this was not an isolated view: Mark Littlewood, the IEA’s very own humour-free zone, told that “This move would ... jeopardise the jobs of some of the most vulnerable workers in the country”. Yes, won’t they think about the poor? And the ASI followed suit.
Sam Bowman opined “A minimum wage increase will hurt the poor, particularly young people and vulnerable groups like migrant workers”. Won’t they think about the young and the migrants too? One can almost hear the orthodox graphs depicting supply and demand being wheeled out, despite this tactic having so clearly failed in the past. But one Astroturf group was silent.
And that group was the so-called Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA), which has previously railed against the minimum wage, in concert with its pals out there on the right. Nor has their CEO Jonathan Isaby had anything to say on the matter. It’s not as if the TPA has mellowed on the issue, so what is the problem? Is there more upheaval in the offing at Tufton Street? We will no doubt find out in due course.
In the meantime, expect more defence of the poor by making them less well off.