Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Have the middle classes gone downmarket?

My ears pricked up the other day when Ed Milliband said that Labour had to to get back to doing something for "the middle classes". This seems like the latest step in the Americanisation of British politics. Most of my voting life British politicians have avoided mentioning the middle classes in anything other than a sneering voice, for fear of summoning up images of napkins and gravel drives. When American politicians talk about the middle class they're referring to regular folks. Homer and Marge.

I was thinking about this when I was watching the football in a pub at the weekend. It was full of middle-aged blokes drinking pints and swearing quite freely. I'd guess most of them had not gone to university, but owned their own homes, which their fathers probably didn't. Maybe they're the middle class that the coming generation of politicians is talking about. If that's the case then a lot of alternative comedians (and there's nothing more middle class than an alternative comedian) are going to have to start re-thinking their arsenal of slights. In the 70s "middle class" meant Tom and Barbara Good in "The Good Life". I suppose in my head it still does.


  1. I suspect the widening of the term "middle class" is because the term "working class" traditionally included manufacturing blue-collar jobs.

    Even a modest office worker may feel odd calling themselves "working class" because they don't come home each night covered in soot or grease. They may default to middle class, especially if they have their own home as you say.

    By referring to middle class people in that way, they aim to categorise people above benefit cheats and scrounging layabouts, and below the tax-dodging elite. Forgive me for lapsing into Daily Mail speak there...

    However, it is ironic if the term "working class" now means something closer to the scrounging, benefit-cheating class of people.

  2. When I was growing up, middle-class meant anyone that took the train to work. This was reinforced by watching Reggie Perrin.

  3. I'm still trying to work out what in the hell he means by 'the squeezed middle.' In days gone by you pretty much knew what politicians (of any persuasion) were banging on about - it tended to be written in Plain(ish) English. Now it's so deeply encrypted as to be virtually impenetrable.

  4. Doesn't middle class just mean "not having to save up all year to pay for your summer holiday"?