From the TUC

Melanie Phillips gets her middles in a twist

19 Jan 2010, by in Politics

I know that there is little point in taking on the Melanie Phillips leviathan. But I can’t resist quoting this from her column yesterday:

Similarly, the Government seems to have redefined ‘middle income’ to mean people on very modest means who aren’t actually on the breadline – while the actual middle classes have been rebranded as the ‘ privileged’, who can therefore be clobbered.

Surely there are only two possible definitions of middle income – either someone earning around median income – or someone living in a household on median income. And as these two figures are very similar (at around £21,000 or so) there is not very much point in arguing about this. “People on modest means who aren’t on the breadline” is a pretty good definition of the real middle Britain.

Interestingly fellow Daily Mail columnist, Peter Oborne gets that this is an important group, despite La Phillips somewhat snobby disdain. He says:

… there is also another, forgotten, category – middle Britain.

Those men and women who are neither poor enough to benefit from New Labour handouts, nor wealthy enough to exploit Gordon Brown’s tax giveaways for the rich, such as slashing capital gains tax to 10p in the pound for private equity investors.

They have lost out massively. As a most revealing new report published this week from the TUC demonstrates with hideous clarity, they have suffered an irreversible decline in social and financial status over recent decades.

Contrast this with Melanie Phillips:

… he is merely playing with words by redefining ‘class’ to mean not social background but money – thus enabling him to bash anyone who is better-off.

(The ‘him’ is Ed Balls in this quote, but it could be anybody – perhaps even Peter Oborne who doesn’t like the super-rich much either.)

I do not share very many of Peter Oborne’s conclusions but it does start from a recognisable real world, unlike Melanie Phillips whose defence of social background as a justification for privilege is extraordinary.

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