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
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
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
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 will not produce a middle class worth having. I mention all this
because attitudes matter a great deal to the PR/communications
Let us not delude ourselves that they are as simple as politicians would
have us believe.