When New Labour came to power in 1997 it spun itself as a political project unencumbered by historical baggage, travelling light in a philosophy-free zone.
However, its attraction for workers in the caring industries was not that New Labour was politics-lite, but that it promised more money for this and that. Carers greeted it in relief that two decades of hostility to the public realm might be over.
If people believed that only a comprehensive commitment to redistribution would address the polarisations between rich and poor, ill and well, educated and uneducated, then they reassured themselves that even if redistribution, like equality, was an un-word, anything was better than nothing.
However, the recent review of research into early years outcomes, which found that the impact of early years investment is not sustained through primary schooling, is augmented by research into parental incomes and child outcomes.
Parental background and child outcomes: How much does money matter, and what else matters by Laura Blow, Alissa Goodman, Ian Walker, Frank Windmeijer (download at www.dfes.gov.uk/ research/data/uploadfiles/RB660.pdf) found that a bit more money matters - a bit.
A bit more on child benefit, or tax credit, or whatever, matters much less, however, than permanent, reliable improvement in household income. This significantly affects parental educational achievement, which in turn influences children's educational achievement. Class sizes influence outcomes, parental income influences post-16 education.
Teenage pregnancy is a case in point: the researchers argue that tackling teenage pregnancy as if it were the real problem does not confront the underlying problem of the girls' disadvantage. Teenage mothers are not so much done in by early motherhood as by their own childhood deprivation, 'and once we account for this we find that the effects of teenage motherhood might not be as detrimental as previously thought'.
The implications of this research augment the accumulating evidence that there is no single solution to anything, and there is no alternative to a comprehensive re-distributive project from cradle to grave. It reminds us that an ideology-free zone, like a free lunch and Father Christmas, is an impossible dream.