Gordon Brown’s speech: the PM gets the middle income message
As regular visitors to this site know, the TUC has made a big splash over the last few months on the issue of Middle Income Britain. The PM’s speech today drew on many of the themes we have been pressing. Two sections of the speech particularly stood out:
“When markets falter and banks fail it’s the jobs and the homes and the security of the squeezed middle that are hit the hardest. It’s the hard pressed, hard working majority – the person with a trade, the small business owner, the self-employed. It’s the class room assistant, the worker in the shop, the builder on the site. It’s the millions of people who do their best and do their bit and in return simply want their families to get on not just get by.
It’s the Britain that works best not by reckless risk-taking but by effort, by merit and by hard work. It’s the Britain that works not just by self-interest but by self-discipline, self-improvement and self-reliance. It’s the Britain where we don’t just care for ourselves, we also care for each other.
And these are the values of fairness and responsibility that we teach our children, celebrate in our families, observe in our faiths, and honour in our communities.
Call them middle class values, call them traditional working class values, call them family values, call them all of these; these are the values of the mainstream majority; the anchor of Britain’s families, the best instincts of the British people, the soul of our party and the mission of our government.
And I say this too; these are my values – the values I grew up with in an ordinary family in an ordinary town. Like most families on middle and modest incomes we believed in making the most of our talents. But we knew that no matter how hard we worked free education was our only pathway to being the best we could be. Because like most parents, my parents could not easily afford to put me and my brothers through fee paying schools.
And I come from a family which, independent and self reliant as it was, could not have kept going without the compassion and caring of the NHS, because my parents could not easily have afforded to pay for operations on my eyes. So I come from a family for whom the NHS was quite simply the best insurance policy in the world. For us the NHS has not been a sixty year mistake but a sixty year liberation.
And it has been those experiences, and that background, that has taught me that yes, too much government can make people powerless. But too much government indifference can leave people powerless too.
Government should never try to do what it cannot do but it should never fail to do what it needs to do. And in a crisis what the British people want to know is that their government will not pass by on the other side but will be on their side. So we will not allow those on middle and modest incomes to be buffeted about in a storm not of their making.”
“Today more and more people see their parents and grandparents suffering from conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia, and they see their dignity diminish. And for too many families the challenge of coping with the heartbreak is made worse by the costs of getting support.
The people who face the greatest burden are too often those on middle incomes, who have savings which will last a year or two, but then they will see their savings slip away. And the best starting point for our National Care Service is to help the elderly get the amenities to do what they most want: to receive care and to stay in their homes as long as possible.
And so for those with the highest needs we will now offer in their own homes free personal care.”
For contrast read Rachel Sylvester today in The Times, who urges the Prime Minister to abandon Middle Income Britain and return to a Blairite appeal to well-to-do Middle England with an attack on taxes and political correctness. Social justice in action!