PETER Hitchens is an odd chap, isn’t he?
He uses language that is unavoidable for a tabloid columnist: extreme, uncompromising and shocking in equal measure. Did I mention “plain daft”?
His latest rant is on Labour’s alleged hatred of the middle classes. The governent’s determination to fight poverty is merely an excuse, claims Hitchens, to destroy the middle classes. Oh dear.
It’s true that Labour is, and always has been, committed to fighting poverty. That’s one of the reasons I joined up 24 years ago. It’s also true that if you’re going to fight poverty, you’re probably going to target those most likely to be affected by poverty: in other words, those families at the bottom end of the income scale (I know that sounds too obvious for words, but Hitchens seems to believe that any resources not spent on those who already enjoy middle class lifestyles is, by definition, wasted money).
But Labour’s focus on abolishing child poverty is not, as he (deliberately) patronisingly claims, for the “aah” factor. It is simply because children who are offered the same opportunities as their wealthier contemporaries are far more likely to lead productive lives as adults and be better parents. It’s called breaking the cycle of poverty, Peter. Why am I not surprised you’re against that?
It’s true that there was a time when the Labour Party believed in leveling down economically, when high taxes were seen as A Good Thing in themselves, regardless of how the revenue would be spent. The electorate, however, had other ideas and the Labour Party of Michael Foot was kept away from the levers of power.
Hitchens fails to grasp the truth of Tony Blair’s achievement in the creation of New Labour: Blair convinced the party that it was not only okay for people to aspire – to want a bigger home, to want their kids to go to a better school, to want a better (or even a second!) car, to want better and more frequent holidays, to want to earn more – but that it was positively desirable.
Far from hating the middle class, the government wants to expand it – not by redefining it, but by raising our poorer citizens up, by getting them off benefit and into work, by helping them to realise their ambitions, to aspire.
In other words, to encourage everyone – or as many as feasibly possible – to become middle class themselves.
Mrs Thatcher realised, long before her party did, that giving working class people an economic stake in society was not only electorally profitable – it was morally right. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown learned that lesson. However, unlike the Conservatives, Labour believes that those economic and cultural opportunities should be afforded to everyone, even the poorest in society.
Maybe Hitchens believes a “full up” sign should be placed on the door of middle class-dom?