We shouldn't sneer at aspiring to be middle class, says STEPHEN POLLARD

Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher instinctively understood the aspirations that drive people (Image: GETTY)

There were many factors behind her success but perhaps the most important was her instinctive understanding of the aspirations that drive most people. The Left portrayed society and politics as a battle between the rich and the poor, and claimed that the rest of us could only prosper if the better-off were shackled. Mrs Thatcher, on the other hand, knew that most of us are not driven by jealousy. We don't want the government to punish success. We want everyone who works hard to be rewarded. Although Labour's failure to grasp this throughout the 1970s and '80s condemned it to opposition, one young Labour politician got it. The lesson Tony Blair learned was fundamental to transforming Labour's fortunes in the 1997 election. It is a political truth that remains just as pertinent today. But although most politicians pay lip service to the idea and claim to be on our side, Labour is now in the grip of Marxists and the Tories have lost contact with reality.

Indeed one of the most striking features of politics today is how the use of the phrase "middle class" has been transformed.

Where once the expression embodied the aspiration and solid decency that was part of what defined Britishness - along with patriotism, family and suburbia - today it is used as a synonym for greedy and pushy.

This week the former headmaster of Harrow School, Barnaby Lenon, hit the nail on the head: "Being middle class, which used to be a virtue, is now regarded as a sin. There's an attitude that it's OK, if you have money, to buy a big house or a big car. But if you buy education for your child, it comes at the expense of other children who can't afford it."

As is clear to anyone not driven by an ideology that is fuelled by jealousy, the way to improve state schools is to focus on the problems of state schools rather than the success of private ones.

Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn

Labour is now in the hands of Marxists and Tories have lost all touch with reality (Image: GETTY)

As Mr Lenon points out, many of the Left wing commentators who pen attacks on private schools and middleclass parents are themselves privately educated and want to hoist up the drawbridge, denying others the opportunities they were given by their parents.

They are, he says, hypocrites and "virtue-signallers, taking offence on purpose as a cost-free way of gaining superiority over those who don't agree with their one beautiful idea, which is the dependence of the citizen on the state".

The sneering attitude to the idea of being middle class has seeped into all areas of our lives.

A few years ago the chief executive of the Girl Guides decided that instead of celebrating its centuries old embodiment of such timeless middleclass virtues as self-reliance, co-operation, charity and mutual respect, her aim was to ditch that very "middle-class reputation" and show people instead that the Girl Guides are "cool".

Kate Middleton

Kate Middleton's engagement to Prince William saw a barrage of middle class shaming (Image: GETTY)

But it's not just the Left that sneers at the middle classes.

The engagement in 2010 of the then Kate Middleton and Prince William saw a barrage of middle-class bashing. One writer informed us that Kate's upbringing was "solidly middle class but lacking in the sort of breeding... so necessary to becoming a king's consort".

Her mother's former job as an air hostess was lampooned as if it was somehow shameful. Snobbish author A N Wilson ended one piece with the sneer: "Cabin doors to manual."

Last month, Sky News's usually brilliant Adam Boulton attacked a representative of Extinction Rebellion during an interview by telling him, "You're a load of incompetent, middle-class, selfindulgent people...", as if it was being middle class that was their real sin.

The irony of all this is that there is a real and pressing threat to the middle classes.

Ed Milliband

Milliband coined the term 'squeezed middle' to describe people who aren't poor but struggling (Image: GETTY)

It was, perhaps ironically, summed up by former Labour leader Ed Miliband when he focused on what he called the "squeezed middle" - people who weren't poor but who struggled to get by.

Take owner occupation rates, at their lowest for three decades. A third of 18 to 34-year-olds live with their parents. Real incomes for the middle classes have been stagnant, at best, over the past decade.

Instead of sneering at the middle classes, politicians should focus on making life better. But that will only come if we once again understand that it is the very aspiration to be middle class that is the engine of prosperity.

The idea of working hard to ensure your family is comfortable and to give them chances that you were denied is a noble motivation.

Rather than attacking it, we should celebrate it.

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