In the current climate of fear and uncertainty, it’s little wonder that hopes are on hold and dreams deferred; planning ahead is a luxury few can afford when simply making it through to the next salary slip is as much as many people can manage.And as they are the ones bankrolling the rest of the country, god help us….
Unlike the recessions of the early Eighties – when manufacturing and manual workers took a hammering – and the Nineties – when the white-collar sector was affected – top earners are among those being worst hit in the current downturn.
According to an analysis by the Office for National Statistics, architects, lawyers, tax advisers and commercial pilots are among the fastest-growing sectors for claims of jobseekers’ allowance. It’s a crushing comedown for those who have worked hard to establish high-flying careers and take pride in their self-sufficiency.But stoicism only gets you so far.
Just under a year ago, this newspaper highlighted how the middle-class, middle-income backbone of Britain was buckling beneath the burden of punitive taxation, high utility bills and council tax rises. With typical stoicism, professionals were quietly labouring away, paying the mortgage, putting teenagers through university and looking after elderly parents.
We identified them as the Coping Class, and urged the Government to pay heed to their plight. Instead, the squeeze continued, and now, with the economy in freefall, the value of savings plunging with every interest-rate cut, and unemployment set to reach two million any day, and three million by next year, the Coping Class is no longer coping.And that bodes ill for the three big parties at the polling booth.
This is the kind of situation where a ‘protest vote’ comes into play. We may have already seen that happen in Swanley last week…
“Everyone is suffering, but this is a particularly tough time for the middle class,” says Matthew Elliott, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance.Will there be ‘poll tax’ type marches and riots? I can’t envision that, somehow, but then, I can’t see how the situation can remain so obviously broken without some kind of action.
“They’ve been taxed to the hilt, are weighed down by high mortgages, and although there’s been a reduction in food prices since last year, they’re still historically high.
“The coping classes are anxious about losing their jobs, and those that are in work are facing difficulties because employers may not be able to give them a pay rise this year. When they read about banks handing out bonuses and MPs claiming exorbitant expenses they’re quite rightly furious about the double standards at play.”
Let’s wait and see…