There is nothing like a catchy acronym to hammer home a political point. And if anyone was in any doubt before the Autumn Statement which group of people Prime Minister Theresa May and her government claim to be prioritising, they must now know that it is the Jams – the Just About Managing. These are the workers on low incomes relying on benefits to get by, who are being targeted with help.
Waiting for Chancellor Philip Hammond to deliver his set-piece statement on Wednesday, I tweeted some alternative conserve-related acronyms that might represent other demographics.
The Marmalades – Middle Aged, Rather More Affluent, Living A Dream Existence. The Jellies – Just Enjoying Life, Large Income, Everything Solvent. Or maybe the Preserves – Pension-Rich, Everything Saved Early, Retirement Vacationers, Equity Savvy?
These were supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, but in the wake of the Autumn Statement, it is clear that the chancellor and prime minister are keener to protect these affluent older people than they are willing to admit.
For the Jams, Hammond offered changes to universal credit which would amount to a tax cut of £700m from 2021/22, an increase in the national living wage to £7.50 an hour from April, a (previously announced) rise in the personal allowance to £12,500 by the end of this parliament, and a ban on letting agent fees for tenants.
But, as both the Resolution Foundation and Institute for Fiscal Studies revealed on Thursday, it is the Jams who face the greatest strain on their household incomes as a result of the Autumn Statement.
Flattening wages, the increasing cost of living and freezes to working age benefits mean that the poorest 10% will be more worse off by 2020 than any other group apart from the richest 10%. The Resolution Foundation says that there could be a greater squeeze on living standards over this parliament than the last.
What happens when the Just About Managing find they are the Can No Longer Manage? Just because this does not form a handy acronym, it doesn't mean politicians should care about them less.
If May and Hammond really wanted to help the Jams, then they could have gone further on universal credit and in-work benefits, axed plans to limit universal credit to two-children households, and eased other planned benefit cuts introduced by George Osborne.
But, I hear you say, there is not enough money to go around - even less than there was in March, thanks to Brexit. Yet, once again, a Chancellor has stood at the Despatch Box and failed to do anything about the great grey elephant in the room - pensioner benefits. Yes, he hinted that the state pension triple lock, which ensures it rises by at least 2.5% a year, could be undone after 2020 to "tackle the challenge of rising longevity".
As the nation gets older, the cost of the state pension is soaring. Yet this demographic time bomb is ticking loudly now - and falling on the deaf ears of ministers who year after year insist on exempting pensioners from any benefit cuts. Besides the state pension, the cost of pensioner benefits - including winter fuel allowance, free bus passes and free TV licences - is rising ever higher, more than £3bn a year.
The IFS calculates that pensioners account for 55% of all welfare spending. Yet not only do they remain protected from any economic turbulence, they are doing well: according to the IFS, the over-60s will be 11% better off after changes in the Autumn Statement.
No one would want to deny TV licences, bus passes or winter fuel payments to pensioners forced to choose between heating and eating. But there are wealthier older people, with better occupational pensions than the current working population, who could give up these extra benefits without a squeeze on their living standards.
The problem for the prime minister and chancellor is that protecting pensioner benefits was in the 2015 Conservative manifesto written by their predecessors, for an election where 47% of the over-65s voted Tory.
It would be politically self-wounding for a Conservative government to hit its core vote. Yet this fact only exposes the hypocrisy of May and Hammond claiming to care about the Jams when they are really looking after the Jellies, Marmalades and Preserves.
Jane Merrick is a freelance journalist and former political editor of The Independent on Sunday. She writes an allotment blog, www.heroutdoors.uk.