Pensioners alone were responsible for blocking Scottish Independence in 2014, and pensioners were the only group that supported Brexit by any substantial majority. I know there are exceptions, but broadly it is inarguably true that pensioners caused Brexit and blocked Indy. So I am struggling not to relish the schadenfreude at the Tory manifesto shafting pensioners. I do realise this is an unworthy thought; it is a temptation against which I am struggling, manfully. The truth is, of course, that many pensioners are among the most vulnerable in our society, and that their undoubted tendency as a group to harbour outdated and unpleasant views out of kilter with the rest of society, is in part due to a tendency by wider society to exclude pensioners.
The Tories calculate that the pensioners will loyally vote Tory anyway. They may be right. Pensioners are also the group most susceptible to dog whistle racism, and the anti-immigration nonsense the Tories are proposing will play well with pensioners. The largest payer of penal charges on employers who hire foreign workers will be the NHS, so it is difficult to see how that helps. Employers in general prefer to employ local workers where they can. Security of employment status, an employee with established social support, absence of language and communications difficulties. There are plenty of reasons for employers to prefer local employees. They employ others only when there is good reason to do so; attempting to penalise that is daft. It does not appear that the manifesto is going to contain any other practical proposals for reducing immigration, just the aspiration; which is probably a lie.
I worry about reintroducing the stigma of means-testing to free school meals and to winter fuel payments for pensioners. At my school, we knew who got free school meals in our class, and children can be cruel. My parents and my grandparents would never, for reasons of pride, apply for any benefit other than those like the basic pension which came automatically. I suspect they are not alone. There is no reason in logic to means test the winter fuel allowance and not means test the basic state pension, of which it was a de facto part.
Sorry for such a stream of consciousness blog entry – election campaigns don’t always lend themselves to properly gestated thought.