No one likes having to pay more, but hard times and Jeremy Hunt’s autumn statement have put the issue at the centre of politics
Elections hinge on the people in the middle. The same goes for Jeremy Hunt’s autumn economic statement this week. In the space between the statement’s modest increases in personal taxes on the richest on the one hand, and its increased support for the poorest on the other, Thursday’s package was marked by a major revenue-raising squeeze on the living standards of the many millions in the middle. This represents one of the biggest political gambles by any government in modern times, the more so because this is the same government that helped create the very problem it is now struggling to solve.
This large group of taxpayers and voters has gone by many aliases down the years – among them Middle Britain, the squeezed middle and the just-about-managing. Not everyone who falls into any of these categories thinks of themselves in the same ways, and there are certainly many large contrasts of wealth and living standards among them. In personal finance terms, they stretch all the way from anyone who will now miss out on the more targeted cost of living support for their heating costs from April, through to those whose incomes will be dragged into higher tax bands in the coming years as a result of the freezes on allowances.