Many will have picked up the echo of Richard Nixon’s “silent majority” in David Cameron’s pledge to fight for the “great ignored”. But my colleague Richard McGregor reminds me of an even more striking parallel. The Australian prime minister Robert Menzies delivered a famous speech in 1942 on the ‘forgotten people”. Click on the preceding link to read the full text but here is a key quote:
Quite recently, a bishop wrote a letter to a great daily newspaper. His theme was the importance of doing justice to the workers. His belief, apparently, was that the workers are those who work with their hands. He sought to divide the people of Australia into classes. He was obviously suffering from what has for years seemed to me to be our greatest political disease – the disease of thinking that the community is divided into the relatively rich and the relatively idle, and the laborious poor, and that every social and political controversy can be resolved into the question: What side are you on?
Now, the last thing that I would want to do is to commence or take part in a false war of this kind. In a country like Australia the class war must always be a false war. But if we are to talk of classes, then the time has come to say something of the forgotten class – the middle class – those people who are constantly in danger of being ground between the upper and the nether millstones of the false war; the middle class who, properly regarded represent the backbone of this country.