Saturday, 18 January 2014

Lost in Translation

Ed Miliband's latest big idea is that Labour must 'save the squeezed middle', but I'm not the only one to be confused by this strange policy announcement - if this article by John Rentoul in the Independent is anything to go by.

The whole business remixed me of the 'Lost in Translation' movie set in Japan and starring Bill Murray of Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day fame.  

The people who have lost out most of all during the economic downturn are not the middle classes, but those on less than average earnings of @ £25,000 a year - and the working poor.

Whereas those who have done best out of the recession (apart from the super wealthy) are those with big mortgages whose housing costs have fallen by thousands of pounds a year - because of the artificially low interest rates we have been experiencing since 2008.

In other words, Ed Miliband's believed middle classes which means that in terms of social justice - the Labour Party is barking up the wrong tree.

I put Ed Miliband's love letter to the middle class through Google translate, but it still doesn't make sense

Which other classes will do less well, now the middle is a priority?

By John Rentoul

It was a bold decision of Ed Miliband’s to write an article about his love for the middle classes in a foreign language. I know we middle class types are for ever bemoaning the failure of the British education system to take languages seriously, but when I put the article through Google Translate it made no more sense than before.

“There has been a hollowing-out of those white-collar professions that used to keep the middle class strong.” This was possibly the strangest sentence in the collection. I think it means that there are fewer secretaries these days now that everything is done on iPhones, but it is possible that the Labour leader’s staff has some secret statistics about the army of middle managers who took up manual work in the last decade.

Then the article says: “My own party’s politics changed in the Nineties to surf a wave of aspirational self-confidence.” According to Google Translate, this means: “Under the evil Blair we all pretended to be pleased that people wanted to join the middle class.” You have to admire the courage of a writer who sets himself this kind of challenge. So how was Miliband going to turn this awkward confession into a pitch for middle-class votes? “I thought Blair was wrong but now realise he was right”? No, apparently there was something not quite right with the economy in the Tony Blair years. Miliband’s article says: “Our programme is rooted in an understanding that this crisis began before the Tory-led government came to power.” Google Translate’s version: “It was all built on sand, you know.”

So a Miliband Labour government would build, and would build surely. Not on sand but on something more solid. Bark chippings, possibly. “This is a task that would also require serious long-term changes being made to our economy.” Translation: “Longterm durch Technik. We are going to make the British economy German.”

At this point one recalls the insightful words of “one senior figure” quoted by Rachel Sylvester in today’s Times: “Ed Miliband thinks Ed Balls has an insufficient interest in ideas.” I understand from several junior figures that Balls might characterise the contrast between him and his leader in different words.

Anyway, it is wonderful that Ed Miliband wants to rebuild the middle class. The polite question is: which other classes will do less well under a Labour government, now that the middle class is a priority? The ruder question is: what is he talking about? “Labour is producing specific proposals for how we would earn and grow our way to higher standards of living for everyone.” Well, as long as they are specific proposals, I suppose someone might vote for them. But “earn and grow our way”? At this point Google Translate gives up, offering the words on a genuine sign, translated from the Chinese: “Do not disturb: Tiny grass is dreaming.”