Yesterday morning I squeezed into a packed room to listen to the findings on 'Squeezed Britain', a report by the Resolution Foundation, who produced their 'state of the nation' report entitled, 'Life on low to middle income'.
Excellent stuff, all about the 9.8 million people who make up one third of Britain's workforce who they say has seen a real time fall of 2.4% in post-tax income between 2009-2011. They work in construction, manufacturing, education (not teaching) and healthcare, but at the lower end. They were traditionally called the 'working classes'. Although this term doesn't appear in the lexicon of the centre-left think tank world.
The interesting thing is that this backward slide in incomes started before so-called 'austerity' in 2003, under Labour.
Dig a little deeper into their slides and it shows some stark facts:
• Poverty is driven more by a single earner in a family;
• Lack of savings;
• Debt equals a quarter of their income in repayments;
• 37% of income goes on essentials - fuel, food, etc
• In the Thatcher/Major years, their incomes rose from an average of £16k to £20k
• Contrast that to the Blair Brown years when in real terms their wages grew by only £2k over the thirteen years
This income group has seen fuel poverty kick in, unaffordable childcare, home ownerships slip out of grasp for the younger ones, job losses due to globalisation and automation and an education service that doesn't serve them well. I agree with every one of their points. Yet, what they don't say is that these families are having to pay for the climate change wheeze tax on fuel which is costing every family an extra £120 per annum, driven by EU policies, rubber stamped by a coalition government which believes in the unaffordable EU diktats. And homes, where recently a government minister admitted that 50% of our housing stock had gone to immigrants.
My view is that uncontrolled immigration has led to wholesale job losses for the unskilled and semi-skilled; put a strain on the housing stock and has led to men in this category earning less than their womenfolk for the first time. These people have also seen a real time downward turn in wages in exchange for jobs.
Take one example: Ford closed its plant in Eastleigh/Southampton with 500 skilled job losses. Ford transferred the production to Turkey, aided by EU money and a direct payment from HM Treasury. Those men (mainly) will lose their jobs. The same is happening in all northern towns and city centres, London is the only exception.
Now, this may be a modern juxtapositioning of the labour/gender workforce. But I don't believe so.
I put this to the panel, one of whom was Richard Lambert, former director general of the CBI, and asked him whether he thought uncontrolled immigration had had a detrimental effect on this group, and in particular men.
He said that "we have had no uncontrolled immigration ... and therefore no evidence to suggest that it has". Astounding. I reminded him of the millions of EU immigrants that arrived under Labour. I got a stony silence.
Every centre-left meeting I go to they bang on about the 1% - whether it is paying for childcare or the squeezed middle, it's all their fault. Yet what strikes me - and I like the work of the Resolution Foundation and its people - but they are a kind of 1%. We sit in their swish Savile Row offices, with the chattering educated, cultured, articulate classes of the London meritocracy - Observer leader writers; C4 reporters, think tank policy wonks; union representatives and my companion sitting next to me, Polly Toynbee, who asked me whether Lambert's answer had made me change my mind - ? We agreed to differ.
Interestingly, three of the 1% came up to me afterwards and said "you should hear what the indigenous women of the East End think about mass immigration, you're right" and "I'm from x think tank but by God I believe in UKIP's policies", to "I have voted Labour all my life but they're wrong on immigration, housing and jobs and I'm from an immigrant family".
As I have been saying for a while it's not just the disaffected Tories sympathetic with UKIP's views who are voting UKIP, but increasingly Labour supporters too.
Until it is acknowledged by the chattering and political classes that our jobs and prosperity are on the line, that they have to close our borders and get to grips with an education system that is failing the working classes, then the Resolution Foundation will continue to produce statistics that show we are failing our people.
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