Polly Toynbee rehashes the arguments for a higher minimum wage. So I'll repeat the arguments against.
1. A higher minimum wage does not materially reduce poverty. The low-paid face enormous marginal tax rates, so most of the higher wages end up in the state's pockets, not workers'.
2. The fact that the Stupid party was wrong to say that the minimum wage would destroy a million jobs proves nothing. No-one would mistake the slaverings of imbeciles for economic analysis.
3. The fact that jobs have been created since the introduction of the minimum wage is also irrelevant. The test of the effect of the minimum wage is not: how many jobs have been created since it began? It's: how many jobs would have been created, had we not had a minimum wage?
4. The effect of the minimum wage on employment is not the true test of its impact. Economic theory tells us that a higher price reduces the demand for labour. This could mean a drop in hours worked, rather than in employment.
5. Even if all the impact of the minimum wage is upon jobs rather than hours, the jobs lost are just too few to show up in macroeconomic data. Put it this way. New Labour has promised to raise the minimum wage by 30p - 5.9% - in October. This implies a rise in the aggregate wage bill of barely 0.1%. Assuming a price-elasticity of demand for labour of 0.7, this implies that just 17,500 jobs will be destroyed; there are just under 25 million employees. This is half a week's inflow into unemployment. It's undetectable in aggregate figures. To find the impact of the minimum wage, we need detailed microeconomic studies. Like this one (pdf). It found "some evidence of employment and hours reductions" - just what theory predicts.
6. The claim that the minimum wage doesn't reduce hours or jobs is a radical one. It implies that the first rule of economics - that if you raise the price of something, people will buy less - is wrong. How can this be? The least implausible explanation is that there's monopsony in the market for low-paid workers. But even this implies that higher minimum wages reduce profits (pdf). Lower profits might reduce business start-ups, or cause firms to close. If you think profits have no such effects, why not call for the abolition of capitalism?
7. Even if a higher minimum wage doesn't reduce employment and hours, it might change the composition of the workforce. A higher minimum wage might attract the semi-retired, housewives or students into work. As employers would find these more employable that the semi-literate unskilled, the latter would see their prospects worsen. Why should egalitarians welcome this?
8. The real way to help the poor is not to raise the minimum wage but to introduce an unconditional basic income. This would give people the choice of whether to accept low-paid jobs or not, and so genuinely empower them. But then, New Labour's mission is to harrass and manage the poor, not to liberate them, isn't it?