In truth, however, Mr Waldegrave is probably not very concerned about Mr Edmonds and his members. They have long been familiar with job insecurity and they are not all that likely to vote Tory anyway. What is new is the extent of insecurity among the middle-class and aspirant working-class groups that put the Tories into power in the first place. Job tenure, it is argued, hasn't changed that much - eight years on average now, against nine years in 1979. A moment's reflection tells us that this statistic is almost meaningless: 17 years ago, many more people felt secure enough to change jobs on their own account. Far more important is that as many as 8.7 million different people have suffered at least a period of unemployment since the last election, including one in every three men of working age. Unemployment is no longer an experience largely confined, as it once was, to particular regions, particular occupations or particular age groups. Almost everybody, bank managers as well as brickies, accountants as well as shop assistants, will know a close colleague or family member who has been on the dole, if they have not experienced it themselves.
To many of these people, unemployment will have had a devastating effect on their lives. Again, manual workers always expected their incomes to decline as they got older and, therefore, weaker. The middle classes looked forward to steadily rising salaries, culminating in comfortable pensions; the sack was usually only a minor hiccup. Now, they face downward mobility. The longer they have been in a job - and, therefore, the further up the ladder they have climbed - the greater the fall. Somebody who has worked for the same firm for more than 10 years is likely to take a 25 per cent cut in salary when they start their next job, even if they find it within three months.
And, meantime, clever Mr Waldegrave offers his modern, sophisticated version of "let them eat cake". Two-thirds of the jobs created since 1993, he says, are in industries paying above-average wages. Read that again. Yes, Mr Waldegrave is saying, not that the jobs themselves carry above- average wages, but that they happen to be in industries where wages generally are above average. Are we expected to hold a party? Does Mr Waldegrave really think that lavatory cleaners in stockbroking firms should be specially grateful? Then he tells us that more than half the jobs created since 1993 are full-time. He omits to explain that many more than half those destroyed were also full-time. The net result, according to the Government's own Labour Force Survey, is that the number of full-time jobs has fallen by 69,000 since the last general election and permanent jobs by 109,000. Temporary employment is up by over 300,000 and the number of people who say they are in part-time jobs because they cannot get full-time ones is up by 175,000.
That is the reality of life as experienced by what Andrew Neil would call plain folk, and even the most expensively educated All Souls brain cannot explain it away.Reuse content