To measure – political success or anything else – we need to choose the right metrics. It is widely recognised that GDP per capita or average income is not necessarily that useful. A point that must be repeated over and over is that when in comes to wealth and income, it is not the crude average that matters, it is the distribution. The Guardian has published a superb graphic today where we can both look at distributions and choose our own metrics. The focus is mainly about London versus the rest of the England. A point, often made, is what about the extreme inequality within London? Or even, yes average incomes are higher in London but so are average house prices, so may be everything balances out? See comparison below for London and County Durham. For these reasons, monetary metrics and crude averages are not always particularly insightful.
By looking at other metrics that reflect quality of life factors, e.g. depression, we gain additional insight, and in contrast to monetary measures, here crude averages may be sufficient to tell us something important. We could still argue about how to weight different metrics. For example, London does very badly on air quality, but for many of the people of County Durham slightly cleaner air is not much of a consolation, as the graphs below illustrate.
I have argued before that the complete failure of the so-called centre and the ensuing polarization in our politics is far more about inequality of outcomes than the inequality of incomes. We need metric based, evidence based politics, more than ever.