Hunting for the ordinary hard-working little people of Britain. Who are they, where do they live and what do they do?

Rich bankers will always be all right, they’re wealthy. I’m not worried about them, I’m worried about ordinary hard-working people’s jobs – David Cameron

If you’re from an ordinary working-class family, life is just much harder than many people in politics realise – Theresa May

There’s nothing utopian about wanting this country to work in the interests of ordinary, hard-working people. – Jeremy Corbyn’s campaign team

£4.5 billion taken from the purses and wallets of ordinary, hard-working people right across Scotland who can least afford it. – Nicola Sturgeon

We have managed, the little people, the ordinary people who have ignored all the threats that have come from big business and big politics and it has been a huge, amazing exercise in democracy. – Nigel Farage

For millions of ordinary hard working people, that means paying £700 less in income tax each year. – Vince Cable

The truth is that the coalition is turning ordinary hard-working people into scapegoats for the government’s disastrous handling of the economy. – Len McCluskey


So who are they? Who are these mythical beasts – the ordinary hard working little people and families – that politicians fight over each and every day of the year? Where do they live and just how many of them are there?

Speech after speech, commentator after commentator waxes lyrical about the ordinary hard working little people or ordinary hard working families, so it is worth pausing for a moment to work out who they are all talking about with such gusto, where they live and what makes one or a group of them. I will only look at the UK, but the same count logic could be applied to America or any other nation.

Firstly the numbers. Best guesses of current UK population numbers are around 65.3 million. Now the first part is to look at how many of those work. Latest estimates from the ONS put this figure at 31.42 million in some sort of employment or another. So we are already down to 33.9 million. Then we should also look at how many are people in the country are British workers since we know that politicians only care about those that can vote for them. So we shouldn’t be including foreigners in this. That knocks off another 2.15million. And presumably, as they are only part-time working – 8.27 million can’t really be that hard working can they?

Having eradicated over half the population with ease to 31.7million there is the wonderful word of ‘ordinary’ to look at. Using the synonym of ordinary on Word (admittedly not terribly scientific), you get phrases like, ‘normal’, ‘average’ and ‘run-of-the-mill’. So by this definition we have to remove working disabled people from this definition as they are not ordinary – exceptional, incredible, different – but certainly not ordinary. So that is another 3.5million out of the sums.Then there are the not-ordinary, perhaps some could call the extraordinary or exceptional – the high earners, academics, managers, entrepreneurs – those that don’t fit the ‘ordinary’ bracket. Bong goes the 5million managers  and consultants and ping goes a further 1million people earning over £100,000 a year.

Then comes the prickly issue of whether to include public sector workers. Sure, they may fit the bracket of ‘ordinary’ and ‘working’ and ‘people’, but when over the last decade or so the earnings of this group has been consistently eroded by parties of all the main political colours whilst in government, then it is hard to see how they can be on their side or talk about them with such praise either. Another 5.372million gone then.

There is also those who have criminal records in the UK. They surely can’t be classed in the bracket that politicians are talking about. This, amazingly hovers around the 9.2million mark , but it would be impossible to divide those into the other groups. Yet you can be sure as anything that it hoiks another chunk out of those numbers who politicians class as ordinary hard working people.

That leaves just 8.6million ordinary hard working little people or families – or approximately 13% of the UK population, but probably many fewer than this would fit into the bracket if you really picked apart the numbers still further.

And then there is the final issue – how to determine whether, even if you or I is an ordinary working person – how do you know that I am a hard working person? I may doss. I may play tetris in the bogs to time waste. I may spend so long making a cup of tea that the water has gone coldm and clock off at exactly 4.59pm. But so may everyone in other countries – so the best way to determine whether Brits are hard working is to look abroad and use them as a comparison.

But, by the looks of the stats, the answer is that pretty much no-one is an ordinary hard working person in the UK, because British workers don’t work hard compared to their overseas compatriots. From what the ONS tells us, we work around 17%-19% less hard than any other G7 country. That is a stratospherically high number and shows, instead of being hard working, we are basically lazy, workshy and unproductive. To give it context, it means that, on average, every other country is doing a five day week whilst we do a four day week.

So there we have it. Whilst politicians are ruthlessly targeting ‘ordinary hard working little people’, there actually aren’t any in the UK that fit their description. And personally, I cannot for the life of me think why I would want to be called ‘ordinary’. And come to think of it, I would prefer not to be particularly ‘hard working’ or a ‘little person’ either for that matter.

Yet there must be swathes of the British population who aspire to be ordinary and hard working and little people. Otherwise why would the focus groups for all these parties tell them that this kind of mundane stereotype would resonate with such strength? And just what does that say about a country when the biggest aspiration is to achieve precisely the norm? To me it sounds like a depressing place to live.

 

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