Laws returns to front line as head of 'alarm clock' unit

Click to follow

David Laws, who was forced to quit the Cabinet in May over his expenses claims, has been put in charge of a drive by Nick Clegg to support the citizens of "alarm clock Britain".

Liberal Democrat strategists have alighted on the phrase to describe the low and middle-income families that the Deputy Prime Minister views as the backbone of the country.

They are the people who are awoken from their slumbers – often while it is still dark – to do an honest day's work for modest pay. They do not depend on benefits, but rely on the state for healthcare and their children's education.

It did Nicolas Sarkozy no harm to declare that he was on the side of "la France qui se lève tôt" ("early-rising France") as he campaigned successfully for his country's presidency in 2007. Now the Liberal Democrat leader hopes it could help to revive his party's dismal opinion poll ratings.

Mr Laws, who is still awaiting the verdict of the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, has remained in close contact with Mr Clegg since his resignation. He has been charged with devising fresh policies as the Government's austerity measures bite. One Liberal Democrat source said: "David has a brilliant mind. We're not stopping at policies we've rolled out so far. We will come up with new ideas."

Mr Clegg's team say the concept goes far beyond the "Mondeo man" or "Worcester woman", dreamt up by marketing experts to portray the swing voters whose backing parties need in order to win elections. They are targeting basic rate taxpayers – those earning between £6,475 and £37,400 a year, or some 70 per cent of the population.

Mr Clegg's phrase has echoes of Ed Miliband's "squeezed middle" which, after initial confusion, Labour defined as households with an income of between £16,000 and £40,000-£50,000.

It was devised at a recent brain-storming session with senior Liberal Democrats, including Mr Laws, at the Deputy Prime Minister's grace-and-favour mansion at Chevening.

It could have a resonance for millions of workers who regard their lifestyles as a modern form of wage-slavery.