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Anger in Acacia Avenue

Is an English Tea Party on the way to exploit middle-class discontent?

Gavin Kelly's cover story in this week's New Statesman on the intensifying squeeze on the living standards of ordinary working Britons has been attracting attention across the Atlantic, where the discontent of the "middle class" (in the American sense) has been politically salient for some time, in the form of the Tea Party and other emanations of inchoate suburban rage.

Reporting from London for the New York Times, Alan Cowell introduces American readers to the discourse of the "squeezed middle", which ought to sound rather familiar to them. He observes that Ed Miliband borrowed the phrase from Bill Clinton in order to "denote what was once called the lower middle class – which feels singularly threatened by the coalition's contentious plans to reduce Britain's crippling deficit through a combination of tax increases and spending cuts". And he cites Kelly's claim, in the NS, that the "typical working household is now poorer in real terms than it was a year ago. Millions of families are living through a prolonged, personal recession."

Cowell wonders where middle-class anger will go and quotes the prognosis of the former Daily Telegraph editor Max Hastings:

The rich have always been with us. But for decades, the rest of society saw its own circumstances improving in step. That is no longer so. The Tea Party has not yet crossed the Atlantic, but suburban anger in Britain is real enough.