A graph (from Alex Hurn).

In the concluding part of our series, Judith Woods discovers how the Squeezed Middle are making ends meet as taxes and the cost of essentials keep rising.

The Telegraph believes that people who make £120,000 are the “squeezed middle.” Then it goes on to talk about boarding school fees.

All of the numbers in this feature have many zeroes on the end of them.

As Alex Hern showed in this Twitter post, that kind of household income puts people above 96% of the population. My post-tax income, almost a tenth of this (about £13.8k after council tax, before other tax), is very close to the national average for my household. I’m on £265 a week and I’m the squeezed middle. I’m relatively well-off.

(It should be added that I’m putting in data for a single-person household. I’m sure Alex is putting in data for a family household.)

It’s amazing to me that features like this get written and that people like this hold the views that they have. But then, ignorance of the position that many people are now in is exactly what contributes to their remaining in that position.

Have you ever thought about what information you are not seeing on the internet every day?

Have you ever considered how your search queries may yield totally different results to your brother, husband or mum?

This, a thousand times this.

The old citizenship test is history

So, David Cameron would like more questions about British history on the Citizenship Test, would he? According to the Telegraph, this would include “questions on topics such as Winston Churchill, the Magna Carta and the English Civil War,” while the Guardian provides some sample questions for you/I/us all to fail terribly at.

Or perhaps not, particularly if you’re David Cameron himself and may well have benefited from an Eton education. I didn’t, but I went to a decent comprehensive school in Hampshire. Over five years, my history teachers tried to compress about 2055 years of British and world history into around two or three hours a week, a subject that many could and did drop when they turned fourteen. Was that it?

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Compare and contrast

Gamers cannot tell the difference between fantasy and reality, said the Metro newspaper last week in an article that was shown to be completely unrepresentative of the scientific research that it had been based upon. Gamers could and did tell the difference between fantasy and reality, but were often talking in terms of metaphor or interpretation.

If the above misrepresentation wasn’t enough to show that many British journalists lie somewhere on a scale between questionable practice and profound confusion, it turns out that some of them can’t tell the difference between computer games and reality. A documentary shown by ITV used footage from a computer game and genuinely believed that it showed something real. The footage keeps being taken down from YouTube, but the above link to the Telegraph still holds the video in question.

Quite rightly, this has been lampooned:

Sober weekend reading

This weekend the right-leaning broadsheet newspaper The Telegraph has published an interesting op-ed piece on not just the death of The News of the World, but also on the consideration that conservative economic theory might not be all it’s cracked up to be, that an economic environment that lets the most powerful forces rise to the top of (and then dominate) a market isn’t a good idea at all:

The Left was right that the power of Rupert Murdoch had become an anti-social force. The Right (in which, for these purposes, one must include the New Labour of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown) was too slow to see this, partly because it confused populism and democracy.

Though I don’t consider myself right-leaning and I’ve not always agreed with it, I do like the Telegraph and I was proud to contribute this piece to it recently. I particularly like Mr Moore’s line here, which I think pretty much hits the nail on the head:

It has surprised me to read fellow defenders of the free press saying how sad they are that the News of the World closed. In its stupidity, narrowness and cruelty, and in its methods, the paper was a disgrace to the free press. No one should ever have banned it, of course, but nor should anyone mourn its passing. It is rather as if supporters of parliamentary democracy were to lament the collapse of the BNP.


The New York Times also published this response to something else The Telegraph wrote, wherein it accuses Rupert Murdoch of being as much a contributor to the slimier elements of British culture and society as anyone else, through his promotion of such things as celebrity-obsession and postmodern self-interest via his newspapers:

The culture of the United Kingdom as a whole has been reeking pungently of late — its venal, voyeuristic, reality-show-obsessed, me-me-me nature thrust under the magnifying glass by revelations about what the tabloid press would do to satisfy the prurience of its readers, hacking into phones at any price, even the phone of a 13-year-old murdered girl.

It may be debated to what degree Murdoch created this culture, or reinforced it, through his ruthless, no-holds-barred approach to journalism — and its ultimate deviation into criminal activity.

Certainly he had a significant role.

That definitely goes towards describing the Britain that I recognise.

Both articles suggest that something will have to change to fix, to heal, Britain and its culture and that, hopefully, a reduction of Murdoch’s influence has already been a part of this. Not only is there the possibility that so-called populist news and broadcasting as a whole may increasingly focus on bigger issues, on social issues and on forward- or outward-looking stories, but also that, if nothing else, this opportunity for change may simply give other ideas more room to breathe.