There’s been lots of good journalism in the last week, much of which I missed through a combination of work schedules, two weddings and connection problems. One of the more noteable examples of fresh thinking on the election and matters arising is from Newton Emerson, who argues that this deal was not really aimed at the middle classes (of which he is a proud member), which might go to explain some of the underwhelming response amongst some commentators in the media.
Northern Ireland society comprises a middle class, a lower-middle class and an underclass and it is the lower-middle class that has swung Sinn Féin and the DUP into pole position. Analysis of that swing over the past 10 years suggests that actively floating lower-middles number around 150,000, making them easily the most important local electoral demographic. In fact, the past decade has been a remarkable time for the lower-middle class all round.
Booming property prices and a huge expansion of third-level education have granted them unprecedented levels of wealth and access. This has happened so suddenly and on such a scale that they have felt no need to shed the collective chippiness that characterises their view of the world and of themselves. Northern Ireland’s lower-middles might not yet have a shared sense of identity but they are all quite clear that they have not compromised their own identity on the way up.
This facilitates the most effective test for determining whether or not someone is lower-middle class – they call themselves working class, yet they have more money than I do. They might also have a university degree, even if it is only from Queen’s, and a four-bedroom detached house, even if it is only in Glengormley. To this extent the decision to vote for Sinn Féin or the DUP becomes an increasingly important signifier of their bogus street-wise posturing.