This article appeared in the print edition of the Evening Telegraph: 26/08/2019 [Online], Available: https://www.eveningtelegraph.co.uk/fp/ewan-gurr-the-tories-pension-plans-would-see-dundee-men-worked-to-death/ [Accessed: 2019, Aug 27]
“Do you want to see 75 year old bricklayers, bus drivers, police officers or firefighters?”
I always grew up believing that the one demographic the Conservative Party would always insulate against the high winds of hardship would be our senior citizens and that they were, in effect, the political party for the pensioner. That illusion was shattered when I read the Conservatives’ 2017 manifesto, which scrapped winter fuel payments for pensioners, required those with assets of more than £100,000 to pay for their own care and downgraded the triple lock on pensions to a double lock.
Then, last week, a report by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) proposed that the state pension age be increased to 75 amid reports of an ageing population and declining birth rate. The report highlighted that pensions expenditure has grown from £17 to £92 billion in the last three decades and is expected to grow a further £20 billion in the next three years. This followed news from the National Records of Scotland that the average life expectancy for a male in Dundee is just 74 years old.
The CSJ was founded by Iain Duncan Smith two years after a visit to Easterhouse in Glasgow’s east end in 2002. At the time, he was leader of the Conservative Party and described the experience as an “epiphany” having been visibly moved. He sought for the Conservatives to become ‘‘the natural party of those who want to make a better life for themselves and their children”. The CSJ has since been the welder between many a Conservative vision and legislative reality, including Universal Credit.
The DWP Press Office and Work and Pensions Secretary quickly sought to quash concerns that this proposal would become official policy but, last Monday, Duncan Smith tweeted: “Removing the barriers for older people to working longer has the potential to improve health and wellbeing.” The irony is that the life expectancy for a male in Easterhouse is not even 70, let alone 75. Were such a policy to become a reality, men living in Dundee or Glasgow are likely to be literally worked to death.
Do you want to see 75 year old bricklayers, bus drivers, police officers or firefighters? The CSJ is picking up where the last manifesto left off with the pension downgrade and the only reason the Conservative Party allowed such a ruthless measure in 2017 was because, at the time, they were courting a 20% lead in the polls which quickly evaporated.
The state pension is the last line of defence that anchors our senior citizens against the tide of poverty at a time when safety and security are of paramount importance. These are our parents, grandparents and great grandparents who raised us and cared for us at our most vulnerable and they are worthy of our best care at their most vulnerable.