Reading Charlotte Metcalf's article on her "poverty-stricken" existence almost made me sick. In it she pines about "only" making £500/week (if she's lucky) and the dilemmas of what to buy her materialistically-inclined six year old for Christmas. As someone who comes from a poor background, has never known a good salary, and now just makes enough to get by, Metcalf's piece was crass and insensitive even by the Mail's execrable standards.
That said, I won't be going out my way to condemn her. Sure, plenty of others have mocked the downsizing of her affluent lifestyle. But I think it would be a mistake for activists to do this every time a hitherto privileged member of the metropolitan intelligentsia moans about how tough it is to manage on two holidays a year.
If the anti-cuts movement is to be successful, if the labour movement is to overcome the bulwark of animus that exists toward trade unions and working class politics, we need to address and win over the upper end of the "squeezed middle" too. This section of the class structure is populated by small business people, departmental heads, managers, property owners, and the like. Their social and cultural weight is such that they often drag so-called aspirational strata of the lower middle and the working class in their wake. If you take these together they constitute the Conservatives' core, the bedrock of their electoral dominance in the South East and rural England. So, just as the cuts to local authority budgets are partially designed to sow divisions between Labour-supporting trade unions and Labour councils, so we must in turn drive a wedge between the Tories and their relatively affluent voters.
This isn't a call to emulate New Labour's obsession with triangulation, applying it to social movement building instead of electoral strategy. It is not a prescription for toning down protests or curbing militancy so as not to frighten the London dinner party circuit. But it is a warning against going all out to piss take the discomfiture of the affluent: we want them to be with us, not against us. They still have resources, media presence, and an amorphous collective clout to make politicians - especially Tory politicians - take notice.
If they can be welcomed into the anti-cuts movement and find a place within it, then British politics is set to become very interesting indeed.