Alarm Clock Britain: why the doubters don’t quite persuade me

Take a look at comments on blogs, Facebook or Twitter from Liberal Democrat activists after the two latest outings for Nick Clegg’s “Alarm Clock Britain” phrase – in his Sheffield conference speech and his post-Budget email – and the reaction is pretty universal. It’s not a popular phrase with activists.

I’m doubtful about the phrase myself, but … a good reason to give it a second thought is that from what I’ve seen many of the people who say they dislike it, also have said in the past that they hate “hard-working families” and similar phrases. Yet those phrases have come out extremely well when tested by research by all three of the main parties in their own different ways.

So there is a little voice of doubt at the back of my mind saying, “If so many people didn’t like that phrase but it actually worked well with many voters, perhaps the same is true of Alarm Clock Britain?” And there is merit in a phrase that tries to capture an understanding of both the pressures that people in work but on low incomes face, and the resentment there often is at people they perceive at having things handed to them far too easily. Some of that resentment I strongly sympathise with – such as the way some banks are too big to fail and regardless of how badly they mess up, they get bailed out with senior staff leaving with very large pension pots. Some of it also comes from views that should be firmly opposed – such as hostility to recent immigrants based on all sorts of false scare stories about who is getting what housing or benefit payments. But simply ignoring it as it we wished it weren’t there is not a wise approach.

The right question therefore seems to me not to be Alarm Clock Britain or not, but if not the alarm clock what should the phrase be?


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