73% of Lib Dem members say gap between poorest and richest now unacceptably large

by Stephen Tall on January 16, 2011

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Over 660 party members have responded, and we’re currently publishing the full results.

LDV asked: Some people believe that the gap between the earnings of the richest and the poorest in Britain is now unacceptably large and unfair. Other people think this the natural and acceptable result of a free economy, and that very successful people should be allowed to get rich. Which of the following best reflects your view?

Here’s what our sample of party members said:

  • 73% – The gap between the poorest and the richest is unacceptably large and unfair
  • 16% – The gap between the poorest and the richest is an acceptable part of a successful economy
  • 8% – Other
  • 3% – Don’t know / No opinion

This question was asked by YouGov a couple of months ago, and the result was similiar but not identical for Lib Dem voters — here’s what they said:

  • 59% – The gap between the poorest and the richest is unacceptably large and unfair
  • 25% – The gap between the poorest and the richest is an acceptable part of a successful economy
  • 8% – Other
  • 3% – Don’t know / No opinion

In fact, it was Labour voters — 77% to 13% agreeing the gap is too large — whose answers were most similar to those of our sample of Lib Dem party members. In stark contrast, Conservative voters felt, by a margin of 49% to 34%, that the current gap between rich and poor “is an acceptable part of a successful economy”. Clear evidence, if it were needed, that a marriage between the Lib Dems and Tories is not likely to be a meeting of minds.

Here’s a sample of your comments:

I don’t have a problem with a few rich outliers, but the general distribution should be narrower, and we should do everything possible to keep people out of absolute poverty.

There’s nothing wrong with people getting rich but the gap between those who have little and those who have a lot has grown far too big!

More important that the gap in earnings is the gulf in inherited wealth concentrated over decades and generations; we cannot live in a meritocracy where people get what they deserve until the undeserving do not have such privilege and insurmountable advantages offered to them through the circumstances of their birth.

As long as the standard of living of the poorest is good (which it isn’t), the size of the gap doesn’t really matter so much.

The gap itself is not the issue, but it is the role of government to ensure that the rich do not earn their wealth by exploiting those less well off.

Anyone who does not choose Option number 1 needs to read the party preamble “create a more equal society”. It is what we stand for. Anyone else can fuck off and join the Tories!

Gaps are acceptable, even necessary, it’s mobility that is important.

Would you rather you and your neighbour both had £50, or you had £100 and he £200?

Too much money equals too much power in few hands; too much money in few hands means that the few can exert undue influence on government at all levels.

Very successful and able people should be allowed to get rich but there should be a limit to what they pass on to the next generation.

It’s the natural conclusion of a free market economy. The unfairness comes from the perception, and often the reality, that the super rich play by a different set of rules and are able to avoid contributing their fair share in tax revenue.

This is a key test of liberalism. You need an acceptably small gap between rich and poor in order for equality of opportunity to mean anything, especially as so many of life’s outcomes are the product of one’s environment and not simply one’s will. ‘Liberty without equality is of noble sound, but squalid meaning’- Hobhouse.

Too simplistic a question to give a straight yes/no answer – there should be a balance between elitism and equality of outcome, the question is how to balance it and currently I agree with the coalition’s emphasis on social mobility rather than more redistribution.

There will always be rich and poor. We should be asking if the means to becoming the richest or the poorest are fair.

  • Over 1,300 Lib Dem paid-up party members are registered with LibDemVoice.org. 662 responded to the latest survey, which was conducted between 3rd and 9th January.
  • Please note: we make no claims that the survey is fully representative of the Lib Dem membership as a whole. However, LibDemVoice.org’s surveys are the largest independent samples of the views of Lib Dem members across the country, and have in the past accurately predicted the winners of the contest for Party President, and the result of the conference decision to approve the Coalition agreement.
  • The full archive of our members’ surveys can be viewed at www.libdemvoice.org/category/ldv-members-poll