A future Conservative government would freeze benefits but protect pensions. Have the over-65s never had it so good?by Peter Kellner / October 3, 2014 / Leave a comment
The disposable income of those over-65 has been protected throughout austerity ©JM Guyon/Czech News Agency/Press Association Images Most people agree that Britain’s political discourse is often far too discourteous, with too many insults and too little gratitude. This blog seeks to redress the balance just a little. I wish to say thank you to all my readers, especially those of you under 65. Thank you for funding my Freedom Pass. And my winter fuel allowance. And my free prescriptions and eye tests. And my exemption from paying national insurance. Most of all, in this harsh economic climate, thank you for my state pension rights—and thank you, in advance, for accepting George Osborne’s decision this week to keep my pension growing by at least 2.5 per cent a year, while most benefits for people of working age will be frozen. Looking further ahead, to when I am 75, thank you for the free television licence I shall then enjoy—and also, again after this week’s policy announcements, for my ability to pass on any unspent portion of my pension pot at a lower tax rate when I die. I know that some people find this all rather strange. They say my generation has never had it so good, and that our disposable income has not just been protected throughout this era of austerity, but grown faster than that of any other age group. What ingratitude! Think of the terrible problems that have blighted our lives: growing up after the Second World War, having to listen to our parents explaining how they saved western civilisation; enduring sweet rationing and free school milk; forced to attend those divisive grammar schools; suffering the intense guilt of a free university education; agonising over the bewildering array of career choices in an era of full employment; having to pay as much as £5,000 for our first home and then fill out forms to claim mortgage tax relief. You youngsters simply don’t understand what life was like when we were your age. Surely we now deserve generous treatment, having survived all that. Some may complain that my generation has caused the problems that the under-65s must now pay to solve. If you are one of them, I say: deal with it and stop carping. Besides, won’t you want the same benefits when you retire? The way things are going, you should be able to look forward to receiving most of them, albeit not until you are 70. Well, some of them. Maybe. Meanwhile, acting now against us post-war baby boomers would be politically counterproductive. For, if we must reduce this important and principled discussion to one of electoral self-interest, just remember this. Almost everyone in my generation votes; many in yours don’t.