22 May 2011
Gavin Kelly, deputy chief of staff in Downing Street from 2007-2010 and now chief executive of the Resolution Foundation, explains why solving the problems of the 'squeezed middle' will change British politics
Sitting in their living room in Mansfield, Karen and Darren put on a brave face about the future. They are phlegmatic about their situation – they know they are doing better than many others. Both work full time, Karen for a children's centre and Darren for a software company, each earning a bit less than the average wage, making for a decent household income. The proud parents of four children, who run them ragged, they nurture high hopes for their futures.
But scratch the surface and there is palpable frustration. Life has not panned out how they thought it would: in their mid-30s, they still can't afford to buy their own home, the cost of running a family is escalating, the constant grind of financial insecurity takes its toll, and – underneath all this – is their entrenched belief that their living standards are flatlining, and will continue to do so. "My mum's and dad's generation saw their wages go up ahead of prices, with us it's the other way around," says Darren.
Alan Johnson benefits budget 2011 cameron chancellor Commission on Living Standards cost of living cuts David Cameron economy family food prices Gavin Kelly good life homeownership Housing income Independent inequality James Plunkett Labour Party Lib Dems living standards Middle Britain new statesman pension private rented prospect magazine social housing spending cuts Spending Review squeezed Squeezed Middle tax tax credits Treasury welfare