Middle-class economics

obama   “So the verdict is clear. Middle-class economics works. Expanding opportunity works. And these policies will continue to work, as long as politics don’t get in the way.”

Barack Obama, State of the Union Speech  2015. I suspect that these words will be taken up by UK politicians as they prepare for a May election.

I listened to most of the Speech last night. It was safe stuff delivered with great confidence from a man who clearly feels he has nothing left to prove, keen to energise through leadership (since he can’t get his policies through the Senate and House of Representatives.

It’s hard to argue with the facts, the USA has managed its economic crisis better than any other G8 country and while Democrats might not be the big winners, he is.

This style of leadership , based on bringing people together by targeting the middle is something we don’t get a lot of in Britain, only Boris Johnson (who is a toff gone wrong) has appeal in the same way.

It’s hard to remember that Boris is a conservative and hard to think of Obama as a democrat. Keeping politics out of the way of middle-class economics is a concept that Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan could have signed up to. Obama Care is a policy that Arthur Scargill could applaud. Politicians who can speak for all , generally don’t have to praise themselves.

Steve Webb, who is parliamentarian of the year , is from the same mould. Perhaps this is the mark of a true leader, that by the force of their character they bring different people behind them effortlessly.

In the process they will break eggs, Churchill had many enemies, Obama is virulently hated by many and has approval ratings in the mid 40s, but as he pointed out last night, when it comes to political campaigning, he’s a winner.

Obama: I have no more campaigns to run.

GOP: Applause

Obama: I know because I won both of them.

I very much hope that Obama can make a success of his last two years of office, I hope that Boris can continue to bring people together under that capacious mop and I hope that Steve Webb is found a place to do the good things in the next parliament, that he started in this.

Middle Class Economics is a meaningless phrase, unless it is uttered by someone who has the consensus behind him. As much as consensus happens in a country as amorphous as the USA, Obama has it. Boris has it in London and Webb has it in pensions. All can claim to speak for the Middle.

Their leadership (and you can test this against your theory of leadership) is about clearing the way for things to happen (expanding opportunity) , not making things happen.

That was what happened when Osborne set out the Pension Freedoms, it’s what happened when Webb adopted a previous Government’s vision for inclusive workplace pensions and it’s what needs to happen if we are going to find a long term solution for the inequalities in our pension system that sees pension haves and have nots depending on who they work for.

If I was writing the State of the Great British Union speech today, I would write it in the spirit of “Middle Class Economics”, with an eye to “expanding opportunities” and with the hope that “politics don’t get in the way”.


He even does a good Farage impersonation

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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