Blair’s simplification of the class system contains fundamental flaws

Back in the tough old days of journalistic pride, which ended approximately 20 months ago, lobby correspondents systematically asked one simple question of every Government initiative: ’Is it new money?’. They reasonably wanted to know whether the Government was recycling old policies and old cash or was actually doing something fresh and costing the taxpayer a bit more in the process.

Back in the tough old days of journalistic pride, which ended

approximately 20 months ago, lobby correspondents systematically asked

one simple question of every Government initiative: ’Is it new money?’.

They reasonably wanted to know whether the Government was recycling old

policies and old cash or was actually doing something fresh and costing

the taxpayer a bit more in the process.



Since Tony Blair came to office with austere financial policies, this

question has either not been asked or, if it has, it’s been posed out of

habit rather than concern. The Government has been allowed to run the

busiest policy recycling plant in Britain.



Its relaunch last week was entirely devoted to its products, as Jon

Craig pointed out in the Sunday Express, with chapter and verse on

previous announcements about maths teaching, NHS winter crisis cash, a

’beat the burglar’ scheme, a ’single work-focused gateway’ to get

benefit claimants back to work and education action zones.



So much for Mr Blair’s aim to make us all middle class, much to the

distress of the old proles in his party. The media’s new attitude to

initiatives and the money to pay for them displays anything but middle

class values. Rather, with the notable exception of Mr Craig, it

reflects the couldn’t-care-less attitude towards cash of both the

super-rich and the profligate poor. It is all the more reprehensible

since Chancellor Gordon Brown has only one word to describe his

policies: prudent.



This demonstrates Mr Blair’s problem in making us all middle class: it

is a primarily a question of attitude. Being middle class is not just

being comfortably off; it is also a matter of values. Vast swathes of

the working class from which I sprang were marinated in middle class

values.



They believed in personal responsibility, paying their way, saving for

old age and ultimately for their offspring, educating themselves upwards

towards a more comfortable life and, above all, in respectability.



It has never been possible to identify the middle class solely by their

homes or the size of their garages. The flashy noveau riche have much in

common with the wastrel branch of the upper crust and the

spend-as-it-comes proletariat. The responsible landed gentry are at one

with the vast mass of professional, technological and just plain

hardworking labourers who do not live for tomorrow but for future

generations.



Mr Blair’s middle class seems to be largely economically driven by

greater ambition to succeed - and greater opportunities to earn a decent

living, leavened only by greater tolerance of ’difference’, whatever

that means.



That will not produce a middle class worth having. I mention all this

because attitudes matter a great deal to the PR/communications

industry.



Let us not delude ourselves that they are as simple as politicians would

have us believe.



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