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The precarious success of the national minimum wage

A political arms race threatens to undermine a policy triumph

By Johnny Runge  

Chancellor Sajid Javid and his Labour shadow John McDonnell. Photo: Daniel Leal-Olivas/PA Wire/PA Images

The UK minimum wage has been a great success story since its introduction in 1999. Twenty years on, it is at risk of becoming overly politicised in a growing arms race between the two main parties, both eager to claim the credit for boosting the earnings of millions of low-paid workers across Britain.

In reality, the policy success owes a lot to its institutional setup, in which politicians delegated the responsibility to a social…

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