The Middle Classes Have Discovered They’ve Been Duped by the Super-Rich
Madeleine Bunting writes in Comment is Free:
Never have so many of us appeared so well-off yet felt so poor – and we used to believe obscene wealth was victimless.
Public opinion can sometimes shift suddenly, and a new consensus emerge with striking force as familiar details are re-ordered, rather as a kaleidoscope makes a new pattern. That’s what is happening now: inequality has been the lonely preserve of hoary class warriors worried about child poverty for much of the past decade. No longer. Inequality has shifted to the centreground of politics; it has been propelled there not, however, by a sudden outbreak of social conscience worried by poverty in the UK, but by the increasingly powerful sense of grievance of middle England.
If you want to understand this gathering storm, check out the Daily Mail, the Telegraph, the Spectator – even Tatler. You could see it in the coverage last week of the private equity bosses hauled up before the Commons select committee to defend their paltry tax returns, or the news reports that “non doms”, those resident but not domiciled in the UK, don’t pay stamp duty.
“It’s not fair” is the indignant cry, and out tumbles a self-pitying litany of dispossession and deprivation. The middle classes, normally a bastion of effortless entitlement, are feeling very hard done by. It’s the struggle to scrape together the half a million required for a modest south-east house with some cash spare to pay the childcare; the scramble for a half-decent school; the prospect of pathetic pensions; and the impossibility of easing their own children’s university debts, let alone their entry into the London housing market. These last, assistance to the next generation, were key to how the middle class reproduced itself so successfully – but no longer.