Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Does anyone like the term Alarm Clock Britain?

I've said many times in this blog how the poorest people in this Country are those who are just above the thresholds for certain benefits or tax credits - the pensioner, for example, whose occupational pension puts her something like 28p above the minimum income guarantee so she can't get Pension Credit or the family whose income is just and no more above the threshold at which they get working tax credit - and so find themselves having to pay full Council Tax, prescriptions, rent and the like. It was to Labour's absolute shame that they left behind a situation where the poorest children were in homes where parents were working.

Those are the people Nick Clegg is talking about when he uses the phrase "Alarm Clock Britain", those people who live pretty much month to month, or week to week. Those people who never really get the chance to save for the future because the basic needs of the present use up all their income. I get the principle, but I hate the label. It's not quite as patronising and judgemental as its predecessor "hard working families", which used to get on my nerves, but I really don't like it. You shouldn't really criticise when you don't have an alternative, as I've been saying to the Labour Party all the time, but coming up with snazzy terms is not my strong point. Low paid households doesn't really have a snappy ring to it although it's probably more accurate.

I loved what Jennie said about Alarm Clock Britain:
And then he resurrected the spectre of Alarm Clock Britain. I don't know who keeps telling him that it's a good idea to remind people of the thing they hate, the thing that makes them get out of bed and go to work, the bastard alarm clock, in every sodding speech, but I don't know one single person who really resonates with the phrase.
Although I disagreed with her next bit about those people being the squeezed middle - I take it to mean the £15-£25000 income range rather than £40k and above.

However, scrapping about words is one thing, but I shouldn't let it distract me from the fact that today's budget will help those people, who really need it at the moment, to cope with rising food and fuel prices. The tax threshold is being raised again, to £8015. That's an increase of some £1630 over the first two years of the Parliament, good progress towards the £10,000 in the Coalition Agreement.

The price of fuel doesn't just affect those who have cars - it affects all of us who ever eat, or wear clothes or buy anything. While I wince at the roughly £42 it takes to fill my Micra, that must be multiplied in the accounts department of every business when they realise how much it costs to get in their raw materials and then transport their products for sale. The 1p cut in duty, and not having to worry about any more increases for at least a year, will make a difference and the above inflation fuel increases are stopped until 2015 - all of this paid for by a tax on the extra profits the oil companies are making. I just hope that the oil companies don't try to pass that tax rise on to us because that would defeat the object.

Those are the budget measures which are there to help out people with living costs. There are others which are aimed at boosting jobs, which I'll write about later. In the meantime, I'll leave you with another e-mail from Nick Clegg to chew over:

Dear Caron,
Today the coalition government has announced a budget that will return the UK to sustainable and balanced economic growth and which puts helping Alarm Clock Britain at its heart. 
We are increasing the income tax threshold by £630 to £8105; lifting hundreds of thousands of low income earners out of paying income tax and putting £126 back in the pockets of low and middle income earners. This is in addition to the last budget that took nearly a million of the lowest income earners out of tax and made millions of hard working individuals £200 better off. We are making a real difference in people’s lives - from the front page of our manifesto to people’s back pockets. 
Alarm Clock Britain will be further helped by the measures we have taken to give motorists a fairer deal. We are shifting taxation away from the pumps and onto the broader shoulders of the oil companies instead - with fuel duty being cut and taxation on oil companies rising. 
At the same time we are making the wealthy pay their fair share with increased measures to tackle tax avoidance, higher charges for non-doms and a special tax on private jets. This budget also places green growth front and centre – the Green Investment Bank will begin operation next year with £3bn of capitalisation, delivering an additional £18bn of investment in green infrastructure by 2014-15. 
We were left a toxic economic legacy by Labour with a record deficit and debt. Under Ed Balls Labour have no answers and solutions to the mess they left. The difficult decisions we have taken in government have rebuilt confidence in Britain’s ability to pay its way, kept interest rates lower than they would otherwise have been, and have provided the stability that business and individuals need to invest in the UK’s economy. 
There are no easy decisions in this budget. But we are delivering a budget which will mean that that those who can pay more will; and those who are working hard to make ends meet will get a helping hand. This budget is progressive, green, liberal and what our country needs at this time.
Best wishes,
Nick Clegg MP
Deputy Prime Minister & Leader of the Liberal Democrats


oneexwidow said...

I agree with you with you re: Alarm Clock Britain - I don't like the term, although struggle to think of an alternative.

Dan Falchikov said...

Not liking really doesn't go far enough...

Anonymous said...

I was woken by my clock at 7.30 this morning. It was a very alarmign experience.

Jeff said...

I quite like it. There are days when I hate the sound of the alarm clock when work is all I do but there are many other days when I look forward to going in or have a holiday to enjoy or whatever.

If I was in the first situation all the time, day after day, year after year, I would be hideously depressed.

In other words, this choice of words is a real 'wake up call' for me as to how just how bad some people have it and how pressed they feel.

(Note - I hadn't heard the word before reading your blog post)

burkesworks said...

Horrible Middle Englander soundbite politics from Clegg. Anyway, I'm sick of hearing about "the squeezed middle" - I dread to think what he and his new Tory chums have in mind for "the crushed bottom" (and no, that's not a reference to any practices they may have once indulged in in a public-school dormitory ;) )

Bernard Salmon said...

I agree - I can't stand the term. It's meaningless marketingspeak claptrap. If you think about it, it encompasses just about everyone from Richard Branson right through to the poor OAP who religiously sets his clock for 7am, despite being retired for 20 years. I wish Clegg wouldn't keep spouting such nonsense.

Jonathan King said...

It embodies exactly the kind of rhetoric that he was so good at avoiding in those TV debates. Now he's in govt. some PR goon has obviously got to him and explained that voters are actually less intelligent than toenail-scrapings and need one of these utterly pathetic soundbites to float to the top of every policy like chunky sewage, giving you a nasty taste in the mouth and sadly reminding you it's Lib Dem.

Sanjay Samani said...

I don't like it, but my wife does. I wonder whether we politicos, insiders find it a bit trite, but normal people do actually get it, feel it relates to them.

It certainly isn't about squeezed middle. It is certainly pointing more at the lower end of the wage spectrum.

As for him avoiding these sort of phrases before the election, I am far happier with "Alarm Clock Britain" than I am with "Yaboo politics" or "Tweedledum Tweedledee" or "Blue Red Red Blue" or other pendulum references.


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