We are told that one of the defining goals of the Labour Party is to reduce social inequalities. Labour administrations always talk of their desire to improve the lot of the very poorest in society. The present government is no exception.
And it is true that Tony Blair and Gordon Brown can point to some successes in this area. The introduction of the minimum wage, extra help for the unemployed and the Chancellor's redistributive tax credit system have helped reduce overall poverty levels. The working poor have been particular beneficiaries. And, of course, Mr Brown's sound stewardship of the economy has safeguarded jobs.
But a study led by Professor George Davey Smith of the University of Bristol shows the Government's record in a rather harsher light. It reveals that those who live in the UK's most deprived areas " the poorest of the poor " are still much more likely to die prematurely than those who live in affluent regions. And under a Labour government, this disparity has got worse. The difference in life expectancy between the male residents of Glasgow (at the bottom of the scale) and Dorset (at the top) rose from 10 years to 11 between 1995 and 2003. For women it went from 7.8 years to 8.4.
It would be simplistic to pin the blame entirely on the National Health Service and its variable ability to cope with the big killers " such as heart disease and cancer " in different parts of the country. …