Is the government is right to maintain benefits to older people, whatever their financial situation, while cutting benefits to more vulnerable people?
This was the popular issue on BBC radio’s Any Questions/Any Answers this week – popular because it highlighted the contrast between pensioners, who influence governments, and youngsters, who don’t.
The simple fact – nailed by a tweeter – is that old people vote more than young people. Therefore, it is the choice they make that can decide who forms the next government. Therefore any party (or parties) in power will pander to them and try to ensure that they take as few hits as possible during a time of cuts.
Remember the old adage that, if you don’t vote Tory when you’re old, you’ve got no brains? They try to look after their support base.
So pensions stop being linked to RPI and get linked to CPI instead, meaning a drop of 0.4 per cent in their annual rise (which was 5.2 per cent last year – well above average pay increases). They get a Christmas bonus. They get winter fuel payments whether they need them or not. Free TV licence.
Meanwhile, youth services are cut hard. Student tuition fees are tripled. The number of young adults out of work skyrockets and they are faced with crippling sanctions on their Jobseekers’ Allowance if they don’t comply with slave-labour Workfare schemes. The Universal Credit will cap the amount of benefit they receive to keep them in poverty. The Localism Bill will bring in county-based council tax relief schemes instead of Council Tax Benefit, which will push low-earners (traditionally the young) out of their homes to look for accommodation in less-desirable areas.
The government can get away with this because young people don’t vote – so they are no threat.
Of course, we’ve all heard the naysayers banging on that there’s no point in voting because it won’t change anything; whatever happens, you’ll end up with a politician representing you. We’ve all heard that sort of tripe. Their point – that politicians are no different from each other; that they’re all in it to line their own pockets, may seem valid. But just look at the evidence of the last century in Britain alone and you will see that it is not true.
Was Aneurin Bevan lining his own pockets when he set up the NHS? Of course not – but Andrew Lansley and many other MPs are lining theirs by breaking it up. And that’s just the obvious example.
So, young people of the UK – and in that I count anybody from 18 up to retirement age – it’s time to start thinking seriously about your situation.
Do you really want to be a Conservative politician’s helpless pawn? Do you want to be consigned to poverty, to a life of endlessly being shifted from one inadequate set of digs to another? From one Workfare placement to another?
Or will you take charge of your own political life and make it clear that you won’t be pushed around like that?
There are more of you than there are pensioners. You can choose a government that is fair; that actually wants to help you. Remember, the government that formed the NHS did it when there was supposed to be “no money left”, and in a time of far worse proportionate debt. And it wasn’t a Tory government. Or a Liberal Democrat one.
So get your votes out.