Yves here. A cost of living crisis in the UK has crushed prospects for what was once called the middle class in the UK. Citi projects that in January, year to year inflation will exceed 18%. And remember that Brits, unlike Americans, are underhoused.
However, rentiers have squeezed Americans on other fronts like health care and higher education. And even though Americans may have more space, rents and home purchase prices are becoming less and less affordable. So even though the decay path for the UK middle class has suddenly gotten steeped, it’s not as if the US isn’t on the same trajectory.
Murphy posits this deterioration will shake up politics in the UK in a big way. For those living there: do you agree?
By Richard Murphy, a chartered accountant and a political economist. He has been described by the Guardian newspaper as an “anti-poverty campaigner and tax expert”. He is Professor of Practice in International Political Economy at City University, London and Director of Tax Research UK. He is a non-executive director of Cambridge Econometrics. He is a member of the Progressive Economy Forum. Originally published at Tax Research UK
I wrote an article for The Independent yesterday. The title they asked me to wrote about was ‘It’s now impossible for the average worker to live decently in Britain‘.
The article began with an exploration of data on this issue, which I felt to be important. Then, though, I moved to the politics:
If the average household once voted Tory, it was because they had aspirations for their children. They supported children with talent in sport, music or anything else. They helped those with coaching in subjects they struggled in. And they sent them on school trips, believing these were a key part of “getting on”.
All that is now beyond such families. The struggle to survive has tipped the balance for average-income households. Once they saw themselves, or their children, as being on the way to better things. This was the dream Thatcher and her successors sold them.
It was this hope of a secure life that might get better that defined “decent living”. Those in the upper two income quintiles already had it. Those in the bottom two were told by the snubs sent in the direction of all those who were either on or faced the risk of being on benefits that this was not a hope they could or should share. But the average household was supposed to have a home, a pension, a Ford, a holiday in the sun and access to advancement for their children within their grasp. This was what defined living decently.
That aspiration is now but a faded memory. Instead, the desperate hope is that all the essential household bills might be paid and Christmas might be afforded, somehow. Lurking in the background is the realisation that none of this might be possible and that inability to pay, insolvency and the insecurity that results from them are all a real possibility.
The hope of a decent living has departed for the average household. Fear is all that remains for those who once had hope. Forty years after politics abandoned the post-war consensus, our economy now fails the majority in this country. The era of living decently on average pay is over.
And that, I suggest, changes the whole political landscape.