Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Grist to the mill

Typical, isn't it. Just like buses you wait ages for something decent from The Telegraph's comment section, then two come along at once!

Following from Heffer's article on The Union, is a piece by Irwin Stelzer which ponders the stew that Britain's "aspirational" class now find themselves in.

Woe unto Britain's aspirational class, about to be crushed between the upper millstone of David Cameron's Tories and the nether millstone of Gordon Brown's Labour Party.

Start with the nether millstone, already grinding away at the general wellbeing (you remember general wellbeing, or GWB, Cameron's preferred alternative to GDP) of the broad middle classes. Brown is fond of warning that Britain's workers are increasingly subject to competition from low-paid Asian workers, producing many of the goods and some of the services that Britons once produced, and at a fraction of the cost. That keeps British wages from rising, a good thing if you worry about inflation, not so good if you are the affected wage-earner.

Brown is less fond of mentioning two other forces pressing down on wages. The first is the disincentive to work created by means-tested welfare schemes. Why work that extra hour to increase your income when the Government will snatch some 70 per cent of that extra money in higher taxes or lower benefits?

All very true. Stelzer offers a lot more very pertinent criticism of Brown's policies. And the alternative offered by Cameron?

Then we have the upper stone of this grinding mill: Cameron's business-smiting, greener-than-green Tories, who have launched a programme to help consumers keep their living costs down. The incoherence is stunning. Cameron moans about mortgage payments that have risen 78 per cent since Labour came to power, and says this reflects "the trebling in house prices". It is hard to see what the problem is: mortgage payments up 78 per cent, the value of the houses underlying those mortgages up 300 per cent. Sounds a pretty good deal to me.

Never mind: numeracy is no longer the Tories' long suit.

I don't agree with everything Stelzer says in his article - particularly regarding supermarkets, but it's food for thought and demonstrates rather well the lack of choice there is in mainstream British politics. It's no longer a choice between left and right, conservative or socialist. It's a question of which way do you want to face? The rock or the hard place?

Some choice!

Read it all.

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