Monday 24 June 2013

How the middle classes can fight back

Regular readers of this blog (if there are any) will be astonished that I haven't mentioned the middle classes, ooh , for weeks...

Let me put that right immediately.  Because Mark Pack has pointed out the results of a new YouGov poll for Prospect about class in the UK and it confirms to some extent what I've been saying.  Interestingly, 44 per cent of the poll identified themselves as middle class and 44 per cent said they were working class.  A dead heat.

The rest didn't know, except for one per cent who said they were upper class - though whether this really was the One Per Cent or a few surviving aristocratic types, I don't know.

And sure enough, no less than 40 per cent said they believed it would be more difficult for the next generation to be middle class than their parents.

That is what I wrote in my book Broke: Who killed the middle classes? (read it to find out whodunnit).

I would take issue with the poll, at least, that only 23 per cent said this would be a bad thing.  This seems to me to be naive and dishonest, and a clear example of the usual middle class disease - embarrassment about class.  For reasons I've said elsewhere, it matters very much - and matters to everybody.  Because if nobody  can break out of the fetters of the proletariat, then we become a society with a tiny elite and a huge population, trapped in poverty and dependence, deeply unequal, unstable and dispiriting, with no leisure, culture or space.

I was thinking about this also as I was listening to the BBC's plans to expand their food awards into a fully fledged festival to back the growing movement for artisan and local food entrepreneurialism.

This seems to me to be an example of the middle classes clawing back some kind of role, as they will have to if they're going to survive.

But it isn't enough.  It needs to go hand in hand with a new political strategy to support the new movement, if it is going to survive - to break up the privileged monopolies, to provide a lending infrastructure capable of supporting entrepreneurs, and above all to bring down the price of property.

It is absolutely staggering that parts of the media and political establishment are breathing sighs of relief that house prices and rents are accelerating ahead again, as if this was evidence of any kind of prosperity - except for the financial elite who profit from it.

It is equally staggering that the Treasury believes pushing up the price of homes, by helping people buy at inflated prices, helps anyone or rebalances the economy one jot.

So don't believe the middle classes are as relaxed about their own demise as the YouGov poll implies.  But they haven't yet articulated what they need to survive - I think it's time they did.


David Cox said...

The Liberal Democrats need to re-discover an updated version of Distributism.

David Boyle said...

I absolutely agree!

David Cox said...

I’m trying to fuse (real) community politics with Distributist ideals, supporting the local credit union, community land trust and transition group. I guess the council ward level is where we should start.

David Boyle said...

Let me know how you get on! I think you're right that the local level is where to start, but it would help enormously if it was also joined up - at least articulated - at national level.