What about the hard-working singles?

If you don't live with a partner and kids then your government does not want to know



Prepare to step back in amazement at the latest figures to be dragged out of the Office for National Statistics and presented as a new way to depress us. No, this week's most worrying financial scandal is not the terrible plight of redundant bankers; it is that the number of people living alone in Britain is increasing 10 times as fast as the general population, and is now double what it was in 1974. These new figures are remarkably similar to the old figures. In 2012, the census showed that 29 per cent of households consist of only one person. In 2011, the government promised to address the growing singles problem by "promoting marriage". In 2010, we learnt that single people spend an average £250,000 more over a lifetime than those who live in couples. This time, according to LV insurance, it's even worse. The company has crunched the numbers and discovered, "most worryingly", that 60 per cent of solo dwellers don't have a financial back-up plan, such as, err, life insurance from LV. If they lost their jobs, 24 per cent reckon that their savings would last them a fortnight.

This time, the government's strategy for addressing the singles problem is not nearly so proactive as "promoting marriage", and seems instead to consist of reciting the mantra "hard-working families" repeatedly, to hypnotise us into thinking that they care. "Hard-working families" are less a policy area than an incantation to ward off the evil eye. To politicians, there is no such thing as people; only "families", who work hard, versus the rest, who are "scroungers". If you don't live with a partner and kids then your government does not want to know.

At some point, all the media trainers must have settled on the "hard-working family" as a symbolic image, like "baby rabbits" or "free chocolate", to which no right-thinking person could object. I think the same speechwriters must train the chuggers who approach shoppers with questions such as "Do you care about freedom?" And faith in the hard-working family (H-WF) is a creed which crosses political divides. In the past month, the H-WF has been invoked by people as diverse as Gerry Adams (protesting against water bills), David Cameron (deploring striking Tube workers, none of whom has a family, presumably), the Taxpayers' Alliance, the Citizens' Advice Bureau, and The Sun. Only the Labour Party's "Un-Credible Shrinking Man" Party Political Broadcast, which pokes fun at Nick Clegg, ends with an appeal to the "hard-working people of Britain". People? Did they miss the memo?

It strikes me that the fastest-growing group in the country might be a constituency worth addressing, but it seems that nobody in Westminster wants to acknowledge it. So who's going to form a Hard-Working Single People's Party in time for the 2015 election? It would have 29 per cent of votes without working very hard at all.


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