Posts Tagged ‘squeezed middle’

Unite’s confused kulturkampf

08/07/2013, 07:53:52 PM

by Jonathan Todd

Len McCluskey began his article in the Mirror over the weekend by stating:

“If your son or daughter fancies becoming a Labour MP, forget it. They have more chance of cleaning in the Commons than being elected to it.”

Who is he addressing?

The mother who has worked in the NHS all her life and the father who served his time as an electrician? They’ve never been active in politics or known any university besides the Open University. They have no friends in high places, whether in the “posh part of Stockport” or elsewhere.

Or is McCluskey warning off Oxbridge educated, ex-ministerial advisors and Demos associates? The thing is: Those are my parents and this is my life.

Perhaps my background is working class enough to get over the Unite acceptability threshold. But having checked my privilege, I’ve damned myself by having the temerity to get as good an education as I could and make the most of the opportunities this created.

It seems to me ever harder to be sure what class you are. By most measures, I’m probably becoming more middle class as I get older. But life isn’t a bowl of strawberries. Property prices, childcare costs, pension saving. They worry me as much as the next dad to a young family. I believe there is a term for this: the squeezed middle.

I don’t feel that any superior virtue or wisdom attaches to me through membership of the squeezed middle. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, whatever our class. While class membership seems to me more perplexing than ever, all Labour members can agree with the famous Neil Kinnock line: “The real privilege of being strong is to help people who are not strong.” And caring enough about other people to want to help them is a matter of empathy, not class allegiance.


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Families need less tax and more time

21/07/2011, 07:00:31 AM

by Peter Watt

Four years ago my Dad died. He had suffered with cancer for a few years, which forced him to retire early. He appeared to have recovered, but in 2007 he suffered a relapse. After just six months, he died at home with his family around him. It was a terrible blow to us all, but we were all with him when we he died. If there is such a thing as a good death, this was it. Eight of his children, their partners, countless grandkids and his wife of nearly 40 years, my Mum, were all with him. We cried, said some prayers and goodbye as he slipped into a coma and then, mercifully, died.

Over the next few months I missed him terribly. He was my Dad, of course, but also my friend, my advisor and an oasis of calm. I had known him my whole life, after all, and at moments of great stress, when I was celebrating or when I was alone, the pain I felt was intense. At really unexpected moments I would find myself welling up and crying. I remember sitting on a train crying uncontrollably to the concerned looks of fellow passengers. Slowly the incidences of acute pain lessened in frequency. They still happened, they still do, but I was also able to reflect on his life and my time with him.

In reality, I only got to know my Dad well as an adult. When I was younger he was all too often absent. Why? Because he was working. In order to keep his family fed and watered and the bills paid, he worked hard, very hard. He wasn’t hugely well paid, not badly paid either, but his job was demanding and required him to be out early in the morning, often returning after we were in bed, and some weekend working. He was always tired. Not just tired, but stressed. And that made him pretty crotchety. At times he was bloody moody. The result was that for much of my childhood, he was either not there or when he was he was quite hard to get on with. My Mum was the central figure in our lives and we could go days without really seeing Dad. And then there are the cherished memories of the times when he was relaxed or a bit more open. (more…)

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The right posture can really help a squeezed middle

14/03/2011, 07:00:37 AM

by Michael Dugher

There were some interesting polls this weekend. The latest YouGov one on voting intentions for the Sunday Times put Labour on 44 per cent, the Tories on 33 per cent and the Lib Dems clinging onto double figures on just ten per cent.  In fairness to the Lib Dems, the survey of voting intentions was conducted prior to their spring conference held in Sheffield this weekend.  They may receive a post-conference boost – and pigs might fly. ComRes also had a poll on voting intentions for the Independent on Sunday and the Sunday Mirror. That put Labour’s lead at three points, not eleven. But at this stage of the electoral cycle, polls on voting intentions don’t really count for much. It’s a bit like deciding who is going to win the premier league by looking at the table after the first six matches have been played.

Far more interesting was the ComRes data about attitudes to the economy, which suggests that public opinion is going against the Tory-led coalition. Only 23 per cent agree that George Osborne is “on my side” in dealing with the country’s economic problems. By contrast, nearly half of our respondents think that, when Ed Miliband talks about the “squeezed middle”, he is talking about “people like me and my family”.

As the Independent on Sunday’s John Rentoul wrote at the weekend: “the Labour leader seems to have struck a chord with his warning of a ‘cost of living’ crisis”.  But Rentoul is no fan of Ed Miliband and he likes Ed Balls even less. In fact, he may just have a problem with people called Ed. When Ed Balls wrote an article in the Sun, siding with hard-pressed motorists and arguing against the VAT rise – something Balls has done more consistently perhaps than almost anyone else – Rentoul denounced the move on Twitter as “opportunism”.  If Tony Blair had written a similar piece for the Sun, Rentoul would undoubtedly have said how “in touch” the former prime minister was. (more…)

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