‘The conservatives have picked the (…) purses and wallets of the entire country (…) taking billions of pounds from ordinary working people.’ 

— Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves responds to the Autumn Budget in the House of Commons.

Decline and Fall

The middle class stands to lose the most, hence their precarious position in the economy. Middle-income households might be frequent flyers at The London Palladium and benefit from the luxury of a spare room, but they lack true security.

A mere change in circumstances can send them plummeting toward the breadline. Unlike lower-income households, the middle class does not benefit from means-tested government support in times of crisis, nor do they have a failsafe of generational wealth or dispensable money to cushion the shortfall.

They may fly close to the sun, but they fall short of reaching it.

In the fog of post-coronavirus life, individuals across the UK have had to tighten their purses to accommodate the rising cost of living. This has caused the distinction between middle and low-income earners to become increasingly blurred.

In the most recent energy crisis, the UK has seen a surge of middle-class households who have previously been comfortable, resorting to foodbanks and pawn shops just to heat their homes and balance day-to-day costs. Many of the self-proclaimed middle class have had to swap weekly visits to their local Waitrose for Lidl’s finest frozen range.

The End of an Era

‘A new Pew Research Center analysis finds that the global middle class encompassed 54 million fewer people in 2020 than the number projected before the onset of the pandemic.’

On November 17th, Jeremy Hunt published his Autumn Budget for 2022. The Chancellor promised a focus on ‘stability, growth, and public services.’ Instead, he buried working people with 21bn in income tax and a subsequent 7 per cent fall in living standards. All in good time for the festive season. This budget could have been a chance to fulfil the ‘tax cutting’ vision outlined by Liz Truss who promised that the Conservatives would ‘always be the party of low taxes.’ Perhaps the former PM’s speech fell on deaf ears because the tax hikes proposed in Jeremy Hunt’s budget will cripple working people and decimate what’s left of the middle class.

Some will be rejoicing after the Autumn Budget. Namely, those households that are poor enough or old enough to warrant support. For pensioners and those on means-tested benefits, Hunt’s budget offers one-off payments, a promise that benefits will rise in line with the latest inflation rates and a pledge to maintain the triple lock on pensions.

Working people are being called upon to open their shrinking purses and front the ‘stealth tax’ for the latest benefit rise. Hunt may have fulfilled his promise to protect the most vulnerable but like the countless members who held that office before him, the Chancellor has failed to protect voters bearing the brunt of higher taxes. The government is more concerned with protecting its ageing electorate to secure seats for the next election than protecting the futures of working people.

‘If our lives are constantly uncertain, our stress levels increase markedly — this is something that people living in poverty know only too well. And now, all of a sudden, the professional, liberal, educated middle class is getting a taste of this.’

Insecurity is the stamp of poverty and for low-income households, anxiety about paying the electric bill, affording the food shop, and making the rent on time is all too familiar. Yet, for the first time since the 2008 financial crisis, it is middle-income earners who are plagued by the same anxieties and fighting to make ends meet.

What’s next for working people?

Home Office Minister Rachel Maclean suggested that those struggling with the cost-of-living crisis should get a better-paid job.’

Current Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak proclaimed that a good education was the silver bullet to improving life quality. Well, for middle-class graduates who went to university to secure these ‘better-paid’ jobs, the silver bullet is looking a little rusty. For all their efforts, the middle class is congratulated with a 42 per cent energy hike, surges in mortgage rates, and an attack on their dispensable income.

It seems that the flagrant remarks spouted by the conservative members do nothing but demonstrate their disconnect from the general public and prove that the Conservative government is not on the side of working people.

If the Conservative party wants to lose the next election, then crippling working people is the way to go. However, I could think of less shameful ways to conclude a twelve-year run, or to quote Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves, ’twelve years of conservative economic failure.’

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