BBC BLOGS - Nick Robinson's Newslog
« Previous | Main | Next »

The squeezed muddle?

Nick Robinson | 10:49 UK time, Friday, 26 November 2010

We know Ed Miliband's standing up for them but who exactly are they?

The Labour leader's phrase "the squeezed middle" is deliberately vague. It has the same widespread appeal as "hard-working families who do the right thing" - the phrase William Hague once used.

Pretty much everyone - bar, perhaps, the very poor and the very rich are meant to think Ed's talking about them. What's more, the phrase has the advantage that newspapers tend to replace it with the more reader-friendly words "middle classes". This morning's Telegraph, for example, implies he'll stand up for their readers even though he said no such thing. What's wrong with that, you may ask? After all, he's a political leader trying to re-build a widespread coalition of support.

The problem is that, as someone once said, to govern is to choose and when there's no money to spend you do really need to choose.

So, it matters whether Ed Miliband's standing up for people on £50,000 a year who stand to lose their child benefit or those on £40,000 who stand to lose their tax credits - both, incidentally, statistically part of the rich "few" rather than the poor "many" - or those he met in Tescos in Dudley yesterday who earn £6.81 an hour and had the same views about those on benefits as Howard Flight (even though they didn't use the word "breeding"). If he intends to stand up for them all at the same time that may tell people something about his willingness to make choices.

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content.


When I interviewed Ed yesterday, he refused to define his terms beyond saying it didn't mean millionaires and that everyone knew what it meant anyway. This morning on the Today programme he was pushed again by John Humphrys. He explained that he meant those above and below the median salary and, in particular, those earning less than £45,000 and, therefore, on the basic rate of income tax. He went on to say that the words "squeezed middle" and "middle classes" meant something different.

This is the group who John Healey, the man who topped the shadow cabinet elections, identified as "one third of the population who manage with a household income either side of the UK's £22,000 median... more than 7 million families with an annual income between £14,500 and £33,800; 14 million people working hard for low and modest wages." Healey wrote that:

"The squeezed middle seem stuck in no man's land. Too poor to get the best from the market, too well off to claim state benefits. Not wealthy enough to get a mortgage, not sufficiently vulnerable for social housing.
 
We too easily allow a mobile, metropolitan class to skew our understanding of society. Too many of those in the media, political and public policy world take people earning 40 or 50 thousand pounds or more as typical of 'the middle'. The real squeezed middle are overlooked by the press, and overlooked by the modern Right."

This is the group Ed Miliband's really talking about but, spotting the danger of saying so this morning, he quickly reverted to saying that he meant everyone who wasn't rich and wasn't poor and were, after all, middle class.

Many wiser than me who've slogged through long years of opposition - whether on the Tory or the Labour benches - will tell you that Ed's wise not to pin himself down to policy positions early, that opposition's a marathon and not a sprint, that being seen to listen and learn is the most important priority after an election defeat.

However, definition matters too. At the moment Ed Miliband's struggling to find it.

Comments

Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    They are the masses, they are persons unknown, they are you and me. We are the invisibles. We don't count, we just pay for all this madness.

  • Comment number 2.

    1. At 11:06am on 26 Nov 2010, Arrrgh wrote:
    "They are the masses, they are persons unknown, they are you and me. We are the invisibles. We don't count, we just pay for all this madness."

    Correct, and who ends up with all the money we earn? the banks, so they can cream off as much of it for themselves as they can in the form of "bonuses" which are in effect legalised robbery.
    http://www.bbc5.tv/eyeplayer/video/money-debt
    www.bankofenglandact.co.uk

  • Comment number 3.

    After Nick Robinson's temper tantrum against that protester....I couldn't give a monkey's uncle what he has to say anymore!

  • Comment number 4.

    What a chump.

    He rather quickly moved on when he asked the Tesco workers of that was the general feeling around the table.. wrt benefit claimants being better off than working people.

    Failed to answer the question about whether the party formerly know as newlabour 'got it wrong' on welfare.

    Still in denial.

    It's a great time to be a tory...

  • Comment number 5.

    'We know Ed Miliband's standing up for them but who exactly are they? '

    Er, no we don't. We know he's claiming to stand up for them. We also know that Blair claimed he would be tough on immigration and Brown claimed he would be prudent with a purpose.

  • Comment number 6.

    Nick,

    A single mother on income support and benefits gets about £2000 a month after tax. That equates to a salary £35000 per annum. Now who's the "squeezed middle"? Yes the mugs who get down and work like the Tesco's employees who mirrored the views of Howard Flight but didn't mention the word "breeding". Strangely it didn't rate a comment from the "welfare dependent" Milliband (our taxes) or yourself.

  • Comment number 7.

    so for 13 years they forgot the middle , thought they were cash cows to provide for thier eqauilty and diversity porjects. Just a cheap political gimmick from those that are now irrelevant and have wrecked this country

  • Comment number 8.

    wonder how long this blog will be allowed to run for ?

  • Comment number 9.

    I do think he has decided to take a long view rather than following those that say you must define yourself before other do it for you.

    I personally think he needs to do a lot more in 3 areas

    1. Acknowledging the failures of the Blair/Brown years;

    2. Pointing out that prior to the financial crash Cameron and Osborne were promising to match Labour spending and were pressing for more financial deregulation;

    3. Defining what he would do on deficit reduction.

    BTW - thought of Robin and Andy when I saw this

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-11844918

    Nice to see the Government's Business Minister wants ot do something on bank bonuses. In this area at least the Government is more left wing than Blair or Brown ever were.

  • Comment number 10.

    "He explained that he meant those above and below the median salary"

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    So his definition of the middle is everyone except those exactly in the middle.

  • Comment number 11.

    John Healy appears to be something of a Socialist. He'd better keep his head down because most of his colleagues are far more interested in the 40-50k poor than the 14-20k poor.

  • Comment number 12.

    He really means people who work. The focus on "the most vulnerable in society" and being progressive means that working folk are being squeezed and the value of work over benefits is being eroded...

  • Comment number 13.

    I notice that you're all in it together in First Class, Nick. I expect you'll be joining us in Second Class when the fares go up? It's great in Second Class, you'll like it.

  • Comment number 14.

    They're not the party for the squeezed middle. They're the party for those who want to scrounge off the squeezed middle, or indeed off anyone who can actually be bothered to get off their backsides and work hard for a living.

  • Comment number 15.

    Ed Miliband comes across as shallow but still out of his depth.

    And utterly ruthless in the pursuit of power, without really knowing what he would do with it if he had it.

    Hence all this vague but nice sounding guff which he can't define further even when pressed.

    No thanks.

  • Comment number 16.

    Skynine @ 6 - have you got a ssource for that unbelieveable figure?

  • Comment number 17.

    @ rockRobin7

    Heaven forbid a tory that doesn't approve of a Labour party leader?!? Stop the press...

    And "Tory" and "Great" in the same sentence? Only other time I saw that was in East Cambs on a Thatcher poster, which was promptly defaced. Can only imagine the owner was using the poster to keep children away from their house...

  • Comment number 18.

    Whatever Miliband's message was it was totally obscured by the adenoidal doppel glottal voice of faux-trendy post-Blair Labour. He fools no one.

  • Comment number 19.

    The comments of Howard Flight were clumsily expressed, but most people understand the underlying issue(including apparently the staff at Tescos in Dudley). The problem is that income from work is based on the job (obviously), whereas benefits are calculated on a per person basis. So the larger the family, the greater the benefits and disincentive to work, and the more likely they are not to be better off in work.

  • Comment number 20.

    Just now, Ed Milliband is in a political no-mans-land.

    Until he (and Ed Balls) admit that the NL Government gambled this countries immediate future on an assumption of a certain level of year-on-year economic growth and lost, then nobody will listen.

    In this case, it turns out that two Ed's are certainly not better than one.

  • Comment number 21.

    'The problem is that, as someone once said, to govern is to choose'

    He isn't going to choose anything. He's going to let focus groups and pollsters do that for him. He's a complete vacuous non-entity, as a growing number in his party are beginning to realise.

  • Comment number 22.

    Unfortunately, like all of the promises made by his predecessors Messrs. Blair and Brown. I don't believe a single word he says. Its a sad state of affairs really.

  • Comment number 23.

    or those he met in Tescos in Dudley yesterday who earn £6.81 an hour and had the same views about those on benefits as Howard Flight (even though they didn't use the word "breeding"

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    I've no idea why Howard Flight apologised for stating something which is pretty obvious.

    If you have a situation where "breeding" leads to more benefits, higher priority on the housing list, bigger housing benefit / council house, then "breeding" is encouraged.

    Why such a fuss?

  • Comment number 24.

    Its_an_Outrage, you obviously don't travel by train as they are very obviously in Standard Class.

    Ed may be new at this, but he's not a complete idiot it would seem.

  • Comment number 25.

    @ rockRobin7

    I asked you about your rigid political stance, and your rediculous signature in a previous blog yet you never replied.

    Like any firm party supporter you seem to be quick to have a go at the opposition, regardless of their stance, blinded by you own bias. I'd ask you what makes the torys better at supporting the squeezed middle? So far I'm not sure they've done anything other than squeeze a little harder.

    I'm not saying that the torys are better or worse on this issue, but what I am saying is that people like you who support one party regardless of the realities are incredibly short sighted and foolish. Until people can get away from this left vs right, blue vs red playground fighting then we are doomed to face incompetant politicians who themselves are only interesting in point scoring.

    I don't claim to be in support of any particular party, and certainly wouldn't have voted labour in the last election. Though Ed seems to be appealing to me because he does at least seem to want to listen rather than to tell.

  • Comment number 26.

    The Squeezed Middle = the Majority!
    The working class, the Middle Class, the sick, the disabled, children, the elderly, the students, the unemployed, believers in democracy.

    Whereas the Tories stand for:

    The rich, the banks, the elite, multinationals, Rupert Murdoch

    The Lib Dems stand for err wait let me think.....? nothing!

  • Comment number 27.

    16. At 11:50am on 26 Nov 2010, Cassandra wrote:
    Skynine @ 6 - have you got a source for that unbelievable figure?
    =========================================================================
    DwP stated figures as refered to in Hansard during the debate in the House of Commons.

  • Comment number 28.

    You have to love vague soundbites

    "one third of the population who manage with a household income either side of the UK's £22,000 median... "

    The hedge fund manager with his £100,000,000 bonus is "either side of the median". Well above the median is clearly to one side of it.

    "more than 7 million families with an annual income between £14,500 and £33,800"

    Wow, some specific numbers for a change. But presumably the family making £33,900 will be no better off under whatever changes might end up being made? Which highlights the problem very nicely...

    "14 million people working hard for low and modest wages"

    Meaning what exactly? What are "modest wages"?

    Sounds like more soundbites without substance to me. Not that I'd expect you to give the Labour leader a hard time over that of course.

    As it stands it just proves what the Tory peer said. It's ever-harder for those who do live on an "average" income (e.g. the couple I know making about £35-40k between them in suburban London) to fund children (largely due to the cost of housing) yet all the while they are paying taxes to provide houses they can't afford for those who have never worked.

    The young couple who both work but who still can't afford more than a one-bedroom flat and therefore cannot afford to have even one child should not be paying for someone who has never worked to live in a four-bedroom house with their three children. Who should pay? How about nobody? How about those who have never worked squashing into an undersized flat just like those who do work would have to do?

  • Comment number 29.

    Fair enough comment Nick. You're right, at the moment, he doesnt have to pin himself down. I dont doubt for a second that John Healey's version of the squeezed middle is an accurate one.

    I also have a feeling that Ed knows it too, he certainly does now if he didnt before. What you dont say is that whilst the Healey Squeezed Middle - arguably part of the Labour core vote, as they've already abandoned the underclasses, years ago - are indeed constituents, either real or potential that a true Labour leader (as against a metropolitan elite chattering class pseudo-leader) should be standing up for, but in terms of scoring votes, in terms of winning seats, you underestimate the middle classes at your peril, as the coalition is finding out.

    Whats going to be interesting is whether he can detoxify the Labour brand in anything approaching the way that Cameron is trying to do with the cons (and not necessarily succeeding either), getting rid of the Blair/Brown legacies, which may be an uphill task...

    Given that they've got a 90 seat deficit to come back from plus the very real possibility of AV, plus the redrawing of constituency boundaries, he would be well advised, if he is serious about this marathon to 2015 not to be seen to alienate anybody. That way, the path to the electoral wilderness lies.

    Interesting how you included the Flight comments. Tactlessly expressed maybe, but as many commentators are finding out and now publicising, certainly true. So true, even the people of Dudley know it. Bet Tom Watson is next door West Bromwich is seething about that....

  • Comment number 30.

    "4. At 11:32am on 26 Nov 2010, rockRobin7 wrote:

    Still in denial.

    It's a great time to be a tory..."

    Well this "chump" regurlarly makes Cameron look like a bigger chump every Wednesday and the way the polls are going I'd say it's a terrible time to be a Tory!

    http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/blog/archives/2887

    In denial, I think not!

  • Comment number 31.

    Gotta link Chris?

  • Comment number 32.

    This is anecdotal evidence admittedly... I personally knew a couple back in about 1995 who divorced. She had custody of the child and immediately became one of the stereotyped "single mothers" even though she had her one and only child with her then husband. She worked out that just to match the benefits she would lose she would need a salary of £25,000 and that was before even factoring in the question of whether there is any point working full time for no extra money than is available on benefits (for her it was, even if only for the sense of self-reliance and the chance to progress over time).

    That was 15 years ago. Is it any wonder that we have a growing underclass who have never worked and probably will never work? And how is it fair for the people who do get out of bed and work for £7/hr to pay a penny to support them?

  • Comment number 33.

    Sorry Nick, I think attempts by yourself and others (Mark Easton did a blog on this same issue) to discredit this concept are liable to fail. Just because you can't define the concept on exact statements of £X p.a. doesn't mean a lot of people are not going to understand what he means.

    If we take the student fees fiasco then the people feeling the injustice are those who are not rich enough that they can just pay £30-40K for their kids without thinking about it, yet are not so poor that their kids will get free degrees under the ConDem social(ist) engineering scheme.

    Those same people feel added anger since they perceive themselves as the the stalwart contributors to the state. They are not so poor they are exempted from tax, nor are they so rich that they can routinely avoid/evade tax.

    Is there a specific pay range? - may be it differs dependent on the issue at hand.

    Certainly the same old people who are always copping for it - tories no change from the last lot again - readily identify with this.

    I agree with you that the tories understood the concept perfectly well when they were in opposition.

  • Comment number 34.

    "20. At 11:59am on 26 Nov 2010, JohnConstable wrote:

    Until he (and Ed Balls) admit that the NL Government gambled this countries immediate future on an assumption of a certain level of year-on-year economic growth and lost, then nobody will listen"

    Err that what the Con-Dem's are doing now!

    That's what every Government does!

    What planet are you from?

  • Comment number 35.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 36.

    George Bernard Shaw once said...

    "A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul"

    And now Ed Miliband has the cheek to blame the current government for the treatment of Peter, as if the last 13 years never happened.

  • Comment number 37.

    So was Frank Field right then back in 1998 he though the unthinkablr and every since then Labour have got it wrong and Ed Millipead is saying just that. what else is he going to apologies for , because there is a lot and if he does not even understand what "he" in power did wrong he has no hope of returning as they country is at last waking up and smelling the coffee

  • Comment number 38.

    First, it is totally unreasonable and unrealistic to expect "the squeezed middle" to be defined in terms of hard income limits - it clearly has fuzzy bounds because different people/families live in different circumstances, geographical locations etc and have different responsibilities, financial outgoings etc.

    However, the definition given by John Healey is reasonable and provides a good starting point. Subjectively, I would say that "the squeezed middle" is that group of people who earn too much to qualify for zero university fees, legal aid, housing benefit and other means-tested state benefits, but earn too little to be able to pay outright university fees, legal fees, and so on.

    The "squeezed middle" are those who are trying to save for their retirement by paying into a pension fund and building a 'nest egg', whilst at the time paying off a mortgage, helping their children through university, support their elderly parents in nursing homes, and so on. Whereas those below the 'middle' will just fall back on the state to fund all these things, and those above the 'middle' (such as Messrs Cameron, Clegg, Osborne, etc) will comfortably fund these things from their personal wealth.

    Ed Miliband is entirely correct, "the squeezed middle" are being severely overburdened and hit financially from every direction at the moment. (Ironically, a corollary of this is that Howard Flight was also entirely correct - the incentive for the very poor to have more and more children (to breed!) is far too great. They receive for free many of the things for which "the squeezed middle" must pay heavily. The solution to this (and to Ed Miliband's dilemma regarding those higher tax payers who are losing their child benefit) is to pay child benefit to everyone, but only for the first two children. Abolishing child benefit for the third child and above would also help alleviate the UK's rapidly growing overpopulation/overcrowding problem.)

  • Comment number 39.

    Ed Who? Milliband refers to guardianistas when he talks about the squeezed middle, other Labour supporters are too busy breeding or watching X factor to care

  • Comment number 40.

    24. At 12:02pm on 26 Nov 2010, Steven wrote:
    Strewth! It's a better class of Standard class than you get in these parts. Where are all the stains on the seats, where are all the people taking up the table with their laptops? Where are all the drunks and people shouting into mobile phones? It's a set-up.

  • Comment number 41.

    "The "super rich" can afford to pay loads more so they will. But not beyond the point (65%) at which they'd flee in such sickening numbers as to reduce the total tax we get from them. Got all this modelled but it's too dense to post." - sagamix.

    No you haven't got it modelled. You know it and I know it and everyone else on here knows it.

    Why not just a few extracts from your alleged model?

    1 - The names of developed countries with a top rate of income tax of 65%.

    2- Your proposed rates of tax, the income bands at which they would operate and your calculation of the amount each band rate would bring in.

    If you HAVE done the research, should be easy enough to produce the figures....

    Figures such as the fact that the wealthiest 1% paid 14% of the total of all income tax before 1988, when Nigel LAwson lowered to top rate of tax from 60% to 40%. The top 1% now pay 25% of all income tax. Tax rates went down, the share of income tax paid by the richest went up (source ONS) because behaviour changed. More work, less avoidance.

    Facts and figures like these (from a real report, not an imaginary one such as yours)

    http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/1996/07/BG1086nbsp-The-Historical-Lessons-of-Lower-Tax

    You could also check out the info here, especially table 2.4 (although hahaha, I'm sure you already did while...hahaha...you were writing your 'report')

    http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/stats/income_tax/

    High tax rates result in lower tax takes. I know it, successive chancellors have known it, the developed world's financial controllers know it. The tipping point is around 40% (see how few countries have a top rate above that).

    You and Ed Milliband stand alone. But, to paraphrase Kevin Keegan and from a professional point of view, I'd love it if tax rates were put up, love it.

  • Comment number 42.

    ToriesBrokeBritain

    I'll tell you what the Tories stand for as you obviously don't have a clue. They stand hard work and talent being rewarded, and that's true whether you're poor, middle income or rich. Those sort of people will always be squeezed under Labour because their whole philosophy is about ensuring we all end up the same regardless of our merits.

  • Comment number 43.

    9#

    Cable's just dogwhistling and making a career out of stating the blinking obvious. Next he'll be standing up in the HoC and announcing that large quantities of Ursine Faecal materials have been found in Yellowstone National Park.

    Following Brillo's demolition of him prior to the election, I wouldnt trust a word he says.

    26#

    Oh terrific. More student dogwhistling. The police finally chucked you out of the sit-in at the library did they?

  • Comment number 44.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 45.

    30 ToriesBrokeBritain

    Well this "chump" regurlarly makes Cameron look like a bigger chump every Wednesday

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    After a decent start, Milliband has struggled to land a glove on Cameron in recent weeks.

    Cameron is better at big picture rather than detail, which for me is what you want in a leader. However, it isn't a great characteristic at PMQs. Milliband needs to narrow his focus and get back to his tactic of pursuing Cameron on one area in detail, this is when Cameron is shown at his weakest.

  • Comment number 46.

    If Mr Ed cannot explain his premise, then how can one talk about 'nothing' of course I forgot they talk about nothing all the time.

  • Comment number 47.

    There is no 'squeezed middle' it's like trying to find the average person. It's a statistical creation not a real person.

    I earn 20,000 a year before tax etc, and I have to pay for everything. I receive no benefits. Yet if I earned a few thousand less I'd be eligible for housing benefit and working tax credit so I'd actually have more disposable income. Is that fair?

    I think I count in the squeezed middle - it's everyone who earns enought not to receive any state help, yet not enough to be immune to recession or the greed of big business.

  • Comment number 48.

    AndyC6555

    'Why not just a few extracts from your alleged model?

    1 - The names of developed countries with a top rate of income tax of 65%.'

    No point asking Andy. I've already tried on more than one occasion, to no avail of course. Sagas favoured way of digging himself out of a hole is to invent a whole load of bogus figures to try and make his arguments stack up, his 65% being a prime example.

  • Comment number 49.

    @42 - I think there are many Labour people who would like to agree with you. Unfortunately the gap between rich and poor grew significantly during the Blair/Brown years.

    Makes your comment seem a bit silly doesn't it.

    @43 - I agree but I find it remarkable that we know have a ConDem Coalition Governmet that is going to be tougher on banks and bankers than a Labour Government. How times change.

    @6 and 27 - Can you give us a link to support your statements?

  • Comment number 50.

    "6. At 11:36am on 26 Nov 2010, skynine wrote:
    Nick,

    A single mother on income support and benefits gets about £2000 a month after tax."

    "16. At 11:50am on 26 Nov 2010, Cassandra wrote:
    Skynine @ 6 - have you got a ssource for that unbelieveable figure?"

    Why is it unbelieveable? Housing benefit alone can be £400 a week (reduced from the previous barmy Labout figure of £2,000 a week). I confess I don't know where the figure Chris quotes comes from and haven't tried to look it up but the point (I think) is to consider the cost of all the things given for free (from Council tax to free school dinners) that a person earning DOESN'T get for free. And that's without even looking at the actual payments of benefits.

    Interesting, by the way, the reaction to Howard Flint's remarks on 'breeding'. The BBC phone in this morning was swamped by people agreeing. The harshest criticism was the use of the word 'breeding'. If he'd said 'having children' instead, it seems he would have had almost universal agreement. Seems to me that the vast majority of working people DO resent a bloated benefits system that they pay into for the beenfit of others. This really should be something Cameron taps into.

    Meanwhile, I see Bernard Matthews has passed away. Started from humble beginnings, son of a mechanic, first investment just £2.50 in some turkey eggs. Can you imagine if as a youngster he's been talked to by those who believe "it's all a capitalist plot, you've no chance, you're being held back, the world only exists for Oxbridge types, unless the whole system changes there's no point trying, you're poor, the only chance you have of a good life is to be spoon-fed by the state from taxes taken from the undeserving idle rich (such as trustafarians and ex-city workers)". He'd have probably spent his life on the dole.

  • Comment number 51.

    36#

    Thats not all he said.

    Try "The only fundamental and possible socialism is the socialisation of the selective breeding of man."

    Not a million miles away from Howard Flight's comments...

  • Comment number 52.

    26 ToriesBrokeBritain

    The Squeezed Middle = the Majority!
    The working class, the Middle Class, the sick, the disabled, children, the elderly, the students, the unemployed, believers in democracy.

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>.

    In other words anyone apart from healthy members of the upper class who work and do not believe in democracy.

    Not really telling us much is it!

  • Comment number 53.

    I'm overjoyed to see that Mr Milliband is standing up for my interests as one of the sqeezed middle of the UK. Does this mean that if he ever gets into power that I can look forward to a lot more years of careful nurturing of my needs as performed by the previous government of which he was a member? I cannot wait for the state to take the few remaining pennies that I have and give them to a whole variety of undeserving causes so bring on his careful stewardship of the middle's interests!

  • Comment number 54.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 55.

    Yea Yea, whatever, where have you been for the last 13 years or so Eddy; standing up for the “squeezed middle”?
    This one can join the junk pile of vague phrases along with “Stake holder Economy”, “Big Society”, “broad shoulders” etc...Yawn.

    Due to the lack of any real opposition, it’s still a great time to be a Tory by default.

    Will the last person to leave the room please turn the lights out for the sake of austerity.

  • Comment number 56.

    Wh are the Squeezed Middle?

    Howard Flight said, astutely:

    "We're going to have a system where the middle classes are discouraged from breeding because it's jolly expensive. But for those on benefits, there is every incentive. Well, that's not very sensible."

    So he actually used the term "breed" in a sentence about the middle classes, nont one about those on benefits.

    The Squeezed Middle are those ignored by everyone who turned Flight's comments into a slur on benefit claimants.

  • Comment number 57.

    #25 jizzlingtons
    You won't get a reply, he's, er, 'frit'!
    I quite agree with you by the way.
    As for Ed Miliband: I would give him the steam off my (CENSORED)!

  • Comment number 58.

    48 - "Sagas favoured way of digging himself out of a hole is to invent a whole load of bogus figures to try and make his arguments stack up, his 65% being a prime example."

    I'd always thought his favourite way of digging himself out of a hole was simply to ignore the points he can't answer, wait a while (a few hours or days) and then simply repeat his bogus claims.

    We'll have to see which approach he adopts this time......making up stats or ignoring the points raised (although there's also his "emperor's new clothes" approach of airily explaining that he has done the work but it's far too complicated for mere mortals such as ourselves to understand).

    Anyone seen our little yapping dog this morning? I've metaphorically walked past the door a few times and not a yap out of him.

  • Comment number 59.

    Take a look at the entitledto.com website to see what benefits can be claimed under what circumstances. Plug in a few stats, say single mum with 1, 2, 3, 4 children and see how the £'s grow.

    I'd like benefits to be capped at 2 children (starting from nine months hence). No job gives a pay rise when you have a baby. Is it any wonder that benefit claimants are 'breeding' when it's the only way for them to get more cash off the state?



  • Comment number 60.

    Cassandra
    Yes, a niece who claimed it.

  • Comment number 61.

    At the risk of being a total anorak, if you look at the video about 20 seconds in, then compare with what you can find online, it is clearly a first-class carriage, Virgin Pendolino 390 class, I think.


    Another clue is that the backs of the seats on the side they are sitting overlap the end door, and the seats on the other side don't -- if it was 2 and 2 as in standard class, then a bit odd that someone would have designed the carriage with the doors almost (but not totally) off-centre...............

    Shows that some people don't travel by train that much, or have a rather inflated view of what it is actually like in cattle-class.

    But another point -- exactly who thinks that train staff are standing meekly by the doors of standard class carriages, to greet you with a friendly smile. In standard class, you're lucky if you get to see the chap that collects the rubbish and restocks the toilet paper!

    And as we all know, it would be far too noisy in standard class to conduct an interview, whereas the vast swathes of first-class carriages, most of which are largely empty, provide a perfect place for a quiet chat!

  • Comment number 62.

    48. At 12:30pm on 26 Nov 2010, jobsagoodin wrote:
    1 - The names of developed countries with a top rate of income tax of 65%.'
    ==================
    Sweden is up to 61% (national + local income taxes) and VAT is 25%

    source http://www.taxrates.cc/index.html



  • Comment number 63.

    58. At 12:46pm on 26 Nov 2010, AndyC555 wrote:
    I'd always thought his favourite way of digging himself out of a hole was simply to ignore the points he can't answer, wait a while (a few hours or days) and then simply repeat his bogus claims.
    ==================================
    May I suggest that he is not the only one using that tactic


  • Comment number 64.

    "The comments of Howard Flight were clumsily expressed, but most people understand the underlying issue(including apparently the staff at Tescos in Dudley)."

    It's interesting how Labour work. Along with the 'bigotted old lady' who Brown came across, I suspect that Milliband will simply dismiss what he heard at Tesco.

    Labour have this peculiar arrogance that they 'understand' the working class. They might have at one time but they don't any more. They have some idealised picture in their head, probably read about them in a book whilst at university. As I read recently, Labour politicians who went to minor public schools sound hollow when criticising Tory politiicans for going to better public schools.

  • Comment number 65.

    I fear we should stop encouraging politicians to say things. What they say is irrelevant compared to what they actually do. (see Clegg & his pledge over student tuition fees). They should state what their policies & philosophy are before elections & then we can hold them to account. In opposition, politicians should be questioning government policy & preparing the statement they will give at the next electoral test. the rest is verbiage - most of it specious, ephemeral, often misleading, deliberately vague and warm-sounding. Generally when they speak, politicians insult our intelligence. As Clem Attlee once said, a period of silence on (their) part would be welcome.

  • Comment number 66.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 67.

    ToriesBrokeBritain @ 34

    The NL Government gambled this countries immediate future on an assumption of a certain level of year-on-year economic growth ... you stated that that is what the Con-Dem's are doing now and furthermore, go on to say that that is what every Government does.

    In my opinion, the fundamental policy error that the NL Government made was to appear to believe their own rhetoric - that they really had abolished boom-and-bust and from that assumption, build up an unsustainable level of public debt (they more than doubled the national debt they inherited from the previous Tory administration).

    Even this Coalition Governemnt is probably being unrealistic with its projected growth figures but it probably feels compelled to 'look on the bright side' so as to not unduly frighten the bond market.

    There are economically responsible honest Governments around the world, we just have not enjoyed one here in England, probably since WW1 crushed our country - that was the harbinger of our long decline.

    PS. I am from the Lonely Planet.

  • Comment number 68.

    Nick, I think the underlying concept is well understood by the public. It does not necessarily relate to a specific income or mathematical measure of 'middle'

    Taking the university fees fiasco. People who are hit by this are ... Not rich enough to be able hand over £30-40K to their kids without problem. At the same time they are not poor enough that their kids will get a free degree under the nu-conservative social(ist) engineering scheme.

    Insult is added to injury because the same people see themselves as stalwarts who fund the state. Not poor enough to be exempt from tax, not rich enough to routinely evade/avoid tax.

    Once again this all feels very little different from the last lot.

    I agree with you that the tories understood this concept fine well when they were in opposition.


    (This is a post on the topic of 'middle class' in keeping with the blog topic. If this post is censored by a particular person clicking the 'complain' button then moderators should investigate that as a malicious complaint intended to disrupt the blog)

  • Comment number 69.

    Good take on the deliberate vagueness of the phrase "squeezed middle".

    I think those who try to define him will probably have egg on their faces when he comes out with something completely different and let's be honest, he doesn't really need to do much of anything for about 4 years (except criticise the government).

    Suddenly dreaming up a plan right after an election is not credible, but then fighting to become leader of a party without a clear set of goals will have its critics too.

    But the good thing about opposition is that you have time to sit back and investigate alternative approaches and wait in the wings until the next election when you unveil your approach. The Tories made the mistake of having lots of good ideas in opposition which Labour, quite simply, stole.

    The likes of IDS went off and did his homework and came into office with a clearly thought-out welfare reform plan based on investigation across the world - and that may be what Ed Milly is doing.

    I'm not yet convinced that he is as bad as they are making him out to be.
    A whole new direction for Labour is what they need - the approach of taxing people to death to fund "services" (which is a euphemism for funding other peoples' lifestyle on benefits choice) just is not going to work any more.

    There is a big difference between standing up for working peoples' rights (as they were formed to do) and doling out other peoples' money to the great undeserving - working or otherwise. Labour could surprise everyone by going to a low tax Hong Kong style economy where there are very few public servants (and yet excellent services) and champion the rights of workers in the PRIVATE sector.

    Hard to see how the Tories could counter that.

  • Comment number 70.

    AnotherEngineer 62

    The figure was 65% (or more) but nice try.

  • Comment number 71.

    Before Ed Miliband goes stating who he is going to stand up for! Lets have some policies. What are his taxation policies? How would he deal with the deficit? If it is a graduate tax how will he fund universities until students start earning this graduate tax after completing their studying? The welfare reforms affect the poor, therefore how is he going to please them and the middle classes who work and receive no state welfare?

    Looks like he is waiting till the con-dems clear the deficit then he can go on a spending spree again!

    It is all well and good supporting this and supporting that , but he has to advise us all what HE would do! Until we know this he is just avoiding the issues!

    The BBC needs to start getting some answers to the questions we want to know - WHAT WOULD HE DO?

  • Comment number 72.

    Oh, here we go again. Modzilla is in the building. For Gods sake, havent you got anything better to do? Like pulling the legs off spiders or the wings off Crane Flies?

  • Comment number 73.

    Wow, I can't believe we're discussing salaries of £40 and £50k as being "the middle". The average UK salary was £26,000 last year, and is probably lower this year (the figures aren't out yet).

    I'm sure there are people who have dual incomes of £40k each, bringing £80k into their household, and believing they're in the middle. I know people like that. And I'm sure they're fighting hard to hold onto their money.

    But can we stop imagining these people represent an average? They don't. They are earning at least double the average.

    Those who earn the average (or - God help them - those who earn below average) need more attention and help than the rest of us.

    Why?

    Because if you remove, say, £2,000 in tax and benefits from a household with £80k going in, it has little effect on their ability to spend, save or invest.

    Whereas if you take £2,000 off somebody on average earnings, it hits them hard, and they don't spend, save or invest.

    50% of people fall into that category. If you the income of those people you effectively prevent half the population from contributing to recovery.

    This country needs much more saving, spending and investment. I'm sorry for those on £40k who think they're "the squeezed middle", but frankly you're not the middle, and you're not squeezed.

    It's time we had some politicians with the guts to tell the truth about this, Labour, LibDem or Tory. There are far too many comfortable lies told to the better-off.

  • Comment number 74.

    #57 Poprishchin

    Yes I find that whenever you bring the absurdity of party squabbling to light, people like that go very quiet.

    Thinking about it you're probably right about Ed Milliband. As far as I can see we are in a situation where we have lib dems who's only policy seems to be greasing up to the party in power, the torys who have some ideas but seem to implement them with completely unthought out policies and refuse to change their mind regardless of how stupid those policies are, and labour who seem to moan a lot about how various groups are being disadvantaged but are yet to actually come up with any alternative ideas at all.

    We are hardly spoilt for choice with these morons!

  • Comment number 75.

    A fair society is one in which you get what you work for, with benefits only being there if workers fall on hard times until they can get back to work. hes still got the obsession with creating the client state of labour voters

  • Comment number 76.

    "52. At 12:39pm on 26 Nov 2010, AS71 wrote:

    In other words anyone apart from healthy members of the upper class who work and do not believe in democracy.

    Not really telling us much is it!"

    The Upper Class who don't believe in democracy or the "super race" :P

  • Comment number 77.

    "45. At 12:23pm on 26 Nov 2010, AS71 wrote:

    After a decent start, Milliband has struggled to land a glove on Cameron in recent weeks.

    Cameron is better at big picture rather than detail, which for me is what you want in a leader. However, it isn't a great characteristic at PMQs. Milliband needs to narrow his focus and get back to his tactic of pursuing Cameron on one area in detail, this is when Cameron is shown at his weakest."

    Rubbish!

    Not even a Miliband fan but any neutral can see Cameron squirms when he's at the dispatch box and regurlarly resorts to insults like this week. "All Labours mess etc etc blah blah blah"

  • Comment number 78.

    Why should anyone believe the posh privately educated millionaires on the opposition front bench. After what labour did to people earning between £10k and £20K per year, particularly single people, why would anything Snooty Ed says matter.
    At least the other millionaires on the government front bench are removing child allowance from high rate taxpayers, reducing the massive housing allowances/benefits paid to relatively high earners,hitting the bankers with bonus tax, leaving the 50 pence high rate tax,attempting to make it more profitable to work rather than draw benefit,and make it easier for new businesses to employ people with the removal of employers NIC.
    Labour with or without posh boy Ed and his millionaire friends have nothing to offer millions of single people on low wages.

  • Comment number 79.

    The 'squeezed middle', however you define it, can generally look after themselves.

    If, for example, this 'squeezed middle' choose to be wage-slaves i.e. PAYE employees and have these levels of Income Tax and NI extracted from their salaries, then that is what they have chosen to do.

    There are other working choices that people can make.

    Our sympathies must go to those who are earning poverty level wages (officially defined as being less than 60% of the median wage).

    Can anybody in politics give a sensible answer as to why these people who are 'in poverty' are being taxed AT ALL?

  • Comment number 80.

    50 AndyC555

    The BBC phone in this morning was swamped by people agreeing. The harshest criticism was the use of the word 'breeding'. If he'd said 'having children' instead, it seems he would have had almost universal agreement.

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    I haven't spoken to anyone who disagrees with what he said - but then again, I don't live in Hampstead!

  • Comment number 81.

    Come on then moderator, if you're going to delete my comments, you could at least abide by your own rules and send me the email that your own house rules say that you should.

    At least then, when I denounce you to the Central Communities Team, as I will in due course, I'll know accurately on what grounds you've censored me.

    Or did you have that conversation with them last week about one of my posts and you're still sore about it?

  • Comment number 82.

    Why do the media keep referring to the "middle classes". This seems to encompass Kate Middleton's family who seem ratheer well heeled down to a family struggling on 25,000 per annum. In fact there are only three classes in this country, the super rich (eg. friends of New Labour who owe their wealth to 13 years of Labour rule), those on benefits (rightly or wrongly) and those who have to work for a living and pay tax. Since Milliband does not seem to have any sensible policy on tax how on earth is he going to help the squezzed middle ie the taxpayers?

  • Comment number 83.

    59 - Interesting. A single non-working parent with four children is entitled to around £28K (excluding free school meals).

    You need to earn around £37,500 to 'take home' £28k.

    Or, a couple, both working, both earning £17.5k would take home about the same.

    I wonder if that couple might be saying that they can't afford to start a family.

  • Comment number 84.

    "67. At 1:05pm on 26 Nov 2010, JohnConstable wrote:


    Even this Coalition Governemnt is probably being unrealistic with its projected growth figures but it probably feels compelled to 'look on the bright side' so as to not unduly frighten the bond market."

    The problem they have, they layered on "it's all Labours fault" nonsense so thick it's difficult for them to turn around and say, oh look its all bright, when clearly its not!

  • Comment number 85.

    Middle incomes are, in fact, quite near to low incomes and quite a long way from high incomes.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2006/09/the-height-of-inequality/5089/

  • Comment number 86.

    Its not hard to identify the squeezed middle. Its not about income but a result of effort. The squeezed middle make an effort but they always get penalised (squeezed) the more effort they put in like education the more they get penalised (fees). The more hours they work the state take away more. The more aspireations like wanting to be a sister not a nurse the more the state take away benifits like child allowance.
    Labour spent so much time protecting the idle and the Tories are spending so much time protecting the wealthy its only the squeezed middle taking the stick. Untill both parties realise its effort that matters not income or wealth we will have a squeezed middle.

  • Comment number 87.

    "42. At 12:17pm on 26 Nov 2010, jobsagoodin wrote:

    I'll tell you what the Tories stand for as you obviously don't have a clue. They stand hard work and talent being rewarded, and that's true whether you're poor, middle income or rich. Those sort of people will always be squeezed under Labour because their whole philosophy is about ensuring we all end up the same regardless of our merits."

    Pfft.

    Nonsense.

    If anything Tony Blair and New Lab appealed to those who wanted to get ahead.

    The Tories only care about the super rich. They stopped caring about the Middle years ago. We are witnessing the death knell of Torydom.

    Still its a good time to be a Tory and its all Labours mess! NOT!

  • Comment number 88.

    69 chris911t

    Labour could surprise everyone by going to a low tax Hong Kong style economy where there are very few public servants (and yet excellent services) and champion the rights of workers in the PRIVATE sector.

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    A dynamic low tax, small state economy - they would get my vote.

  • Comment number 89.

    When people talk about a 'Graduate Tax' do they mean on people who graduate after 2014 or on everyone in the country who has a degree of some sort? Is it possible to renounce a degree like you can a peerage?

  • Comment number 90.

    "62. At 12:58pm on 26 Nov 2010, AnotherEngineer wrote:
    48. At 12:30pm on 26 Nov 2010, jobsagoodin wrote:
    1 - The names of developed countries with a top rate of income tax of 65%.'
    ==================
    Sweden is up to 61% (national + local income taxes) and VAT is 25%"

    Well, that's one country with a LOWER top rate than 65%, thanks for pointing it out, although I expect that you could name LOTS of countries with tax rates lower than 65%. But I was after countries with tax rates of at least 65%, saga's self-claimed 'golden rate'.

    And of course, the rate isn't all the story...In Sweden you can claim
    deductions from employment income for commuting costs, increases in living expenses resulting from comutting, maintenance of more than 1 dwelling, premiums paid for private pension insurance and alimony. A tax reduction of 50% of costs relating to housekeeping costs such as cleaners and chilminders is also available.

    Oh, and there's no IHT either.

  • Comment number 91.

    "A single mother on income support and benefits gets about £2000 a month after tax." - skynine @ 6

    Does she now? Hang on, let me check ... gee, you're right, she does! If she lives in Chelsea and has 7 kids.

    Lucky girl.

  • Comment number 92.

    77 ToriesBrokeBritain

    Not even a Miliband fan but any neutral can see Cameron squirms when he's at the dispatch box and regurlarly resorts to insults like this week. "All Labours mess etc etc blah blah blah"

    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

    Your name does not suggest neutrality!

    To me, Cameron only looks uncomfortable when he is put under pressure on detail. Milliband has changed from a focussed approach to more of a scattergun approach in recent weeks and it is not working.

  • Comment number 93.

    #72 yeah migration debate capped at 55 and 33 and you cannot mention the name Enoch Powell on the blog.

    One to watch ie fighting in the coalition 320, that 6-10 times as many
    and this one at 80+ and heading skywards fast.

    Bais anyone.

  • Comment number 94.

    sorry I mean bias

  • Comment number 95.

    #83 and you have not added in the cost of going to work either, fuel cars more orad taxes etc etc.

  • Comment number 96.

    Please desist from calling people "yapping dogs", Andy (58). It's not big and it's not clever.

    No cleverer, in fact, than clinging to the outdated notion that 40% is as high as top rate tax can go without spooking the "talent".

    65%.

  • Comment number 97.

    Howard Flight demonstrated, rather like Lord Young last week, that nothing will get you fired faster than speaking the plain truth. We are hedged in all sides by polite fictions of such density that any serious debate on the issues that face us all are closed down with great speed, so that the politicos and journos can go back to offering up their received wisdoms, couched in their desperate "nooffencetoanyonespeak"

    Ed Millband is a vacuous, fourth choice candidate who, despite being the author of the last Labour manifesto, is adopting a faux accent and mannerisms to appeal to a group of people that his pollsters tell him must exist, it's just that he's not sure who they are yet! Funniest of all of course is when Ed, being the offspring of wealthy "Hampstead Marxists", was asked whether "he had ever experienced trouble paying the bills"! The look that past over his eyes was hilarious and the question was, as ever ducked.

  • Comment number 98.

    @ #42

    I think it you who obviously doesnt have a clue. Your refering to Labour as if they're are some sort of communist regime. I for one think the Blair/Brown era was very representative of centre right poltics. If anything under their watch the gap between the rich and poor grew. Capatilist projects where set up in the city and the growth of the private sector industry, student fees introduction (a good indicator of who the squeezed middle are; my parents couldnt fund living expenses for me although we were deemed 'rich' enough not to receive any bursaries); I for one dont think tories faired to badly under NL in terms of personal finances, whether u agree with their other polices on education crime, etc is another matter.

    #47 makes a very good point. I once worked with a guy in a part time job I had who wouldn't work more than 16 hours a week because he would lose whatever benefit he was entitled to for working less than 16 hours a week. THIS IS WRONG and needs to rectified. #47 is an exact representation of the 'squeezed middle' as it has been branded; just above the threshold to receive benefits and ending with less disposable income then somebody on benefits.

    Nick, you also mentioned the people on £50,000 a year who would lose their child benefits. I actually cannot believe these people have ever been entitled to child benefits as long as they have been earning that salary. How can you have a person who is 'rich' enough to pay the top rate of tax but 'poor' enough to receive child benefit. The same goes for the wealthy elderly who receive heating allowance, free television license and a bus pass. You can bet your bottom dollar that in most of these cases these 'hardpressed' people earning £50,000 a year will still be able to conjour up money for a holiday come summer time.

  • Comment number 99.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 100.

    http://www.worldwide-tax.com/

    Of course it hasn't got EVERY country but of the 62 countries shown, the number with a income tax rate of 65% or higher is......nil.

    Rather suggests that higher rates don't work.

    So, once again we're faced with two possibilities, the rest of the world is right and Saga is wrong or the other way round.

    We all know what Saga thinks, I wonder what everyone else does.

 

Page 1 of 2

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.