An Unworthy Thought 91

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many pensioners are among the most vulnerable in our society, and that their undoubted tendency as a group to harbour outdated and unpleasant views out of kilter with the rest of society, is in part due to a tendency by wider society to exclude pensioners.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.

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91 thoughts on “An Unworthy Thought

  • Deepgreenpuddock

    Hmmmm! I have a strong hunch that this blog is populated by many pensioners.

    • craig Post author

      I suspect so too. I am not far off from being one myself! But I am afraid to say that those who inhabit this blog are indeed exceptional.

      • Rose

        Quick thinking there Craig!
        That’s the trouble about lumping everybody together under headings. I am aware of the tendencies you describe in the demographic group I belong to. But blind spots and prejudice are in us all – including some of your regulars here, who I guess are half my age. Keep scribblin’ and happy birfday. x

  • nevermind

    Pensions do not come automatically anymore, you have to apply for them, you just wait until your time comes Craig, its a minefield of websites and repeat questions, rigmarole and complexity.

    BTW. should any of you be in the Wild man in Norwich tomorrow night, there’ll be a free birthday drink for you. No rush…..

    • Rose

      Sorry – just re-read your comment NV – it sounds as if birthday wishes are due to you not Craig. Anyway have a good one.

    • Muscleguy

      It was at least 15 years years ago but a nice man from the Revenue did seek out my aged Mother in far New Zealand and insist she was entitled a British pension, earned when she was a young nurse at Great Ormond Street and then in Manchester. It amounted to little more than £10 a month and as such was paid in lump sum every 6 months. I expect she is still in receipt of it, though I doubt she knows and my sister handles all the money now the dementia has hit hard.

      But she did not contact them, they contacted her, probably from a passport renewal.

      • JOML

        Does “anymore” not suggest Nevermind was talking about the current process, not historical cases? So, unless your examples are current, there’s no need for Nevermind to comment.
        Habbabkuk (cf his post at 14h26) to comment, please. ?

      • glenn

        Muscleguy: Got a question about an arm injury I did myself a little while back… ok to consult you?

          • glenn_uk

            OK – cheers!

            I dropped a motorbike (heavy bugger too, an FJR1300) on its left side. Parked in the garage, I repositioned it and – as luck would have it – a ladder placed sideways along the ground flicked up the side-stand, leaving the bike free to go straight to the ground as I went to step off (to the left).

            I was holding the left handlebar all the way down, and obviously it was an unsupportable weight. The wrench to my left arm was considerable, trying to arrest the fall, and the damage appears at the centre of the opposite side of my elbow, where those tendons appear to join the upper and lower arm.

            After leaving it for about nine months with no improvement at all, a physio suggested curling small weights, twirling a heavy stick with the left hand left, right, and left again, and also using a long elastic band (twirled around the first two fingers, palm up, trapped under left foot) to extend it upwards.

            This I’ve been doing 3 times a day, 17 reps of each, for the past three months. Huge improvement, already I’m up to 4KG, initially 1KG was very painful.

            Now – the question is, when is it safe to play guitar again? Tried a few times over the past year, each time left my arm totally crippled for about a week.

            As mentioned, I’m up to 4KG, and played for about 30 mins, ached like buggery next day… but am I doing much more harm than good, and should put the guitar away (classic) for another frustratingly long while?

            Naturally, not playing guitar is annoying, but starting on it again would be really silly if it causes damage.

            Appreciate any advice!

          • Alcyone

            1 I shall speak with a guitarist friend tomorrow and revert
            2 Assume your physio is based on x-ray/scan review
            3 Consider an elbow support band while exercising or playing guitar
            4 Try Piroxicam gel under doctor’s prescription
            5 Buy an Ayurved oil called Vatarin–try ebay/Amazon – twice a day, right after warm bath or at least at bedtime with damp heat/hot water bottle thereafter. #4 in between times–do not overuse
            6 Do not overstrain under any circumstances
            7 Consider update imaging/compare if possible to review present status and past healing
            8 How much weight can you manage with right arm similar exercise? (ensure rest days)
            9 Tune your guitar
            10 Listen to Pat Metheny
            11 Take all the love you can: lay back and enjoy the ride, once a week (avoid all DIY)

          • Alcyone

            Just to add glenn:

            My guitarist friend says if it aches don’t play–the only rule to follow. From others’ experience he knows it can take a long, even a very long time to heal.

            All physio should be done under doctor’s (preferably specialist–ortho?)supervision as physios are not doctors, it is important to know where the balance lies. The oil I mentioned earlier has genuine therapeutic qualities though can take time to work at a deeper level, stay positive and consistent. I am seeking professional advice on your behalf.

            Diet wise avoid everything fermented, including yoghurt, cheese, wine, vinegar, alcohol etc–zero! Go easy on sour foods like citrus, tomatoes, sour fruits etc.

            One reason for prolonged healing could be your night work, as the body is designed to heal and regenerate at night. Sleep environment/hygiene is important. If you’re having difficulty, speak with your doctor about melatonin.

          • glenn_uk

            Alcyone – Much appreciated, you’ve obviously put some thought into this. Very kind of you.

            Sounds like still no playing guitar for a while… I mentioned classic (rather than electric) because that requires a bit more tension on the frets. You can get away with a fair bit of approximation with electrics, but the classic is totally unforgiving. Good idea about the elbow support band – never thought of that – will check in them chemist for one.

            No x-ray or scan, it was just diagnosed by description of the accident which caused it, and examining it’s current state and what causes grief now.

            Prior to this, I’d expect to be able to curl 25KG at a push (but wouldn’t do so all day for the fun of it).

            Actually (and I appreciate the concern), I do sleep fine – always get 7-8 hours undisturbed sleep, which is quite lucky. That’s the benefit of having a clear conscience I guess 🙂 Did pick up melatonin on the continent – you can just walk into a chemist and buy it in countries there.

            All this advice is good, and I’ll look into that oil. Cheers again.

          • Alcyone

            Hey glenn good to see you and you’re very welcome.

            Sorry for the bad news on the guitar–i can perfectly sympathise because a very close relative–couldn’t be closer is a passionate electric guitarist…you may want to consider switching. (If so we’ll give you the best advice for the new guitar to buy!)

            Health and music are two of my passions, amongst a couple of others. I’m not surprised we share that in common.

            Now back to business: please definitely get an x-ray–you need to be able to see and measure. Also, definitely defer to a specialist–an orthopaedic consultant.

            The Piroxicam gel is very effective too–your gp should be able to give you that without negotiation. Consider a few sessions of ultrasound treatment. There is also something called intra-muscular-stimulation; talk through with the consultant.

            In summary, sounds like you need to get back to base a little bit and go from here. I wish I could send you the oil, I have plenty of it–think of a convenient way and we might close that loop! Very glad to hear about your sleep and agree with your sentiments.

            Every good wish!

  • Cyril Wheat

    I am a pensioner and certainly not one that you describe. However, you ointment is well made.

  • John Thomson

    Totally agree, as usual, I remember my mother, 86 when she died in 1994, talking about fears of means testing when she was young. May doing her manifesto speech, strong & stable count 4 so far. And “ordinary working people” popping up a few times. Oh my gawd she’s trying to emulate Thatcher but not quite got it.
    Anyway great blog Craig & so true.
    At this time Burns last lines of To a Mouse come to mind ,
    But och! I backward cast my e’e,
    On prospects drear!
    An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
    I guess an’ fear!

  • David Rawlings

    Craig, I almost without exception, really enjoy your posts. But You go down in my estimation with this one. It employs exactly the same prejudice, and ignorant logic as used by racists. And it is just as evil and just as insulting. Older people are individuals, each entitled to use their votes as they see fit. How dare you lump them together, and to then accuse them of being somehow ignorant, easily led and irresponsible. If we are to simply lump pensioners together, which is illogical, then they as a group are arguably the most responsible group of voters in so far as they have the largest turnout at elections. Taking a superior view of your own rights,views, intellect and opinions over those of another group pretty well defines the essence of racism, which you of all people should avoid. Feeling superior, being confident and well educated undoubtedly give you and lots of your followers a wonderful feeling of self satisfaction, but these are not the only criteria which entitle people to participate in our Society. There is a great deal of wisdom and worldly experience amongst elderly people which you and many others simply seem willing dismiss out of hand. Apologise!

    • craig Post author


      of course pensioners are individuals, and of course there are exceptions to the rule. But they are the only demographic that voted for Brexit by a large majority, and the only group that voted against Scottish independence. Those things are simply true.

      • Geejay

        …and where’s your evidence that we “are the group mostsusceptible to dog whistle racism”. This really beneath contempt, unless you can prove it.

        • Ian

          We all have a free choice here……we can make our own age group our primary loyalty and become offended on their behalf or we can look at society as a whole and respond as individuals to events, votes and trends. You seem to be choosing to be offended on behalf of your generation so it looks like supporting them is your primary loyalty.

          Do you think the Tories have shifted to the right in order to capture the UKIP vote? I do. I think this can be evidenced by manifesto comparisons over the last decade. The generational poll data consistently shows that around 75% of people 65+ say they will vote Tory. So I think it is a fair to say that these right wing policies tend to have general appeal to significant proportion of the senior generation.

          Is the term ‘dog whistle racist’ too strong? Maybe yes, maybe no, but as an example of ‘othering people of different nationalities’ I do admit to being utterly shocked when Amber Rudd spoke at the 2016 Tory conference about getting lists of foreign workers from employers. This proposal was hurriedly put back in the box due to the public reaction – I think they realised we weren’t ready for it….YET. I find the fact that someone in government could even think this quite chilling. The underlying attitude (within the Home Office) continues with the ugly deportations of ‘foreigners’ and the difficulties being created for people who have lived productively and happily in the UK for decades.

          I doubt you are okay with this – I suspect you deplore it just as much as I do. That’s why the views and voting habits of older people which are helping to sustain this nastiness need to be challenged. But if you want to stick with your generation come what may….fine. However getting offended and telling others off for even raising the issue doesn’t cut it. I have huge admiration for the minority among the senior generation (about 25% it seems) who stand against the majority opinions of their peers. They, in my opinion, are crucial people in whatever lies ahead, because there is more chance that they might persuade others in their generational group to join them.

          • Geejay

            I think you have made a lot of unwarranted assumptions on my behalf. Yes, I agree the Tories are taking over the UKIP vote, but to then extrapolate and say that their (retired) voters are therefore of a racist inclination (I assume that’s what’s meant by “susceptible to dog whistle racism”) is going beyond the evidence and confusing correlation (being old and voting Tory) with causation (being a racist). Personally, I cannot understand why anyone would vote Tory, but it’s too easy to act as an amateur psychologist and assign all sorts of motivations for which one has no evidence.

            To put it simply, I don’t think demonising or vilifying any group (apart from Tory MPS, MSP’s, of course) gets us anywhere. We need to reach out to that part of the population which is inclined to vote No. FTAOD I don’t feel part of any group, or need to support any group, other than the broad church that wants Scottish Independence.

          • Ian

            On re-reading I agree with your comment on ‘unwarranted assumptions’.

            You draw a careful and strict line between correlation and causation. I accept that you are technically correct, but I don’t think that it is all that helpful to keep this high level of required proof – this humanity & politics not logic. It is like saying don’t deconstruct, don’t surmise or suppose about anything you don’t have direct evidence for. I think instead we do have some indications to work with…..UK politics drifts to the right, Tories morph into UKIP, many older Scots find new appeal in Tory policies. At the very least this suggests that as a group proportionally less are put off by the right-wing anti-immigration rhetoric. At my worst, I grumble about my own parents and parents in law who read the Daily Mail for the puzzles and all voted no/brexit (and I suspect now will be first time Tory voters) and I get annoyed that someone in their late eighties with dementia is still voting. But in my better moments, I see them as victims of dark and manipulative way media is owed and operated in the UK and how a love of puzzles became the hook to lure all four into a mental trap. Dog whistle racists….nope……willing victims…..yes probably.

            In the end, I’m think we are probably closer to agreeing than that first exchange indicated. Good to talk and apologies for putting you in a pigeon-hole.

      • David Rawlings

        Yes that’s true, but it is just like quoting averages to make a specific argument, it is a fact without meaning! Young people have a very poor voting record, (and you might just as well blame them as a group for Brexit) and whilst it is a good idea to encourage them to vote, it is not a good idea to condemn them as a group. How would you have reacted to someone criticising a racial group because some polling organisation discovered and published that a large proportion of them had voted contrary to what they believed was the “responsible” position?

    • Geejay

      Well said, David. I too usually have a huge respect for Craig’s views and analysis, but I think he’ll be repenting some of this at leisure. As for means testing the State Pension that was paid for by contributions and promised by successive governments. Some of us made voluntary contributions or additional contributions under the scheme. To decide on means testing retrospectively is the sort of thing neoliberal billionaire company owners do. As I remember the winter fuel allowance was a bribe from Gordon Brown in 1997 and nothing to do with the State Pension, which compared to other EU countries is derisory.

      • craig Post author


        I am against means testing the pension. By saying that it makes no sense to means test the winter allowance when the basic pension is not means tested, I meant neither should be, not both, I think the following anecdote makes that plain.

        • Geejay

          Point taken. I see the Winter Fuel Allowance as a subsidy for the energy companies. Instead of sorting out the energy market, e.g. by renationalisation, the great tinkerer, rather than upset the billionaire oligarchs to whom New Labour were cosying up thought this little wheeze would be a great vote winner.

    • Johnny boy

      Over time society changes, moving to the left, we shall say for simplicity. As people become older, more self reliant, more comfortable with themselves they take less ideas from society, so relative to society they move to the right. Furthermore, in political terms they may still associate with forms of thought they accepted as their political ideas were forming, hence the dog whistle.

      Of course there is wisdom and wordly experience in the elderly, but these are not neccessarily applied when it comes to assessing a current political situation, especially when the media landscape has changed so drasticly.

  • John Spencer-Davis

    I frequently apply for Attendance Allowance on behalf of my clients, a benefit available only to those 65 or over. It is not at all uncommon to hear them say that they have never asked for a penny from the state, and sometimes I need considerable persuasive skills to get them to apply – and sometimes they never do. They can be very proud, which is not necessarily a bad thing. I generally persuade them by asking if they have paid taxes in their lifetime, which invariably they have, and pointing out that it is time for the state to give them something back for their hard work.

    Incidentally, it is not a means tested benefit. People often fear means testing because the state can then come in and look at all their finances, which is not necessarily something they are happy about.

    I must say that I have only once or twice encountered explicit racism among my client group, which is generally pensioners and the elderly. The thing that most elderly people I have met have been concerned about is language. If they are unable to understand someone, if the person cannot speak English well, that is what makes them unhappy about dealing with the person. Colour or race forms no part of it.

    • Geejay

      Exactly so, one of the scandals of the so-called welfare state is the billions that go unclaimed – for the reasons you mention, plus the complexity and intimidating nature of the process and the government (of all colours) does little to simplify and proactively address the problem.

      • John Spencer-Davis

        Oh, you’re right there. The three most embarrassing questions on the Attendance Allowance form are placed at the beginning of the care needs section. That is not by accident. It’s a horrible, horrible form to fill in – and PIP is worse.

        When looking at these new proposals to seize the assets of people who have paid taxes all their lives and now need looking after, it is worth bearing in mind that unpaid carers have been estimated to save the state around £130 billion per year.

        • MJ

          “It’s a horrible, horrible form to fill in – and PIP is worse”

          Yup. I’ve had to fill in both on behalf of helpless relatives and they made me cry.

  • Stu

    I am a long way from being a pensioner but the changes being proposed are terrible and must be challenged despite the temptation many people feel to slip into a simplistic binary polarisation as demonstrated by Craig.

    What we have here is a system where individuals run up a care bill to private providers who have no incentive to control prices. The bill will then be taken directly from estates and used to settle this bill. It’s a direct transfer from individuals to social care companies owned by the super rich. It is completely regressive and offers no pooling of risk.

    There is also no doubt that will used as cover for another reduction on genuine inheritance tax meaning that the burden falls hardest on those near the median and will probably be a huge give-away to those who inherit large estates with multiple assets. The social effects of this will no doubt cause greater resentment and move the expectation of what care anyone should be entitled to regardless of wealth further to the right.

  • Manda

    Pensioners are apparently the solid Tory base but the young have to also take responsibility… they don’t bother vote! Much of Labours campaigning is rightly focussed on getting young people to vote and hopefully vote Labour.

    “I worry about reintroducing the stigma of means-testing to free school meals and to winter fuel payments for pensioners.”

    Means testing also brings huge administration costs that these days will be contracted out to profit making private companies with targets to reduce claims, further depressing take up.. Universality in the welfare system is a core Labour value for precisely the reasons you mention, social stigma and many not claiming because of it and pride but also grounded in the belief that we are all equal. it is a defining principle of a civilized society in my view.

    The proposed Tory ‘death tax’, clawing private property to government after death to repay care bill is also a property grab. Millions of private homes will likely end up in private rental property portfolios and of course private companies will be contracted to administer the policy adding more costs paid for by citizens ending up in a decreasing number of private pockets as these property empires consolidate over time. I hear the echo of Feudal Manor estates 21C style.

    • Stu

      Surely the means testing of the winter payment would be done simply through the tax system

      Essentially if you have an income of X amount per annum you don’t get it?

      • Manda

        Perhaps that is what Tories have in mind for the winter fuel allowance cut. I don’t think they have released any details and some of the changes/cuts are subject to post win consultations, no doubt also costing millions…

      • Manda

        From a Skwawkbox interview with NPC (National Pensioners Convention).

        “On top of that it gets even worse. The Tories are going to scrap the pensions triple-lock, making all pensioners suffer – and the changes to the winter fuel allowance will affect around 9 million pensioners. The vast majority are going to lose it – only those on the means-tested pension credit will continue to receive it.”

        Interestingly, another NPC quote from the interview gives a perspective on the pensioner vote.

        “Pensioners do switch their vote. In 1997 the majority of pensioners voted Labour. In 2015 most voted Tory.

        In the referendum, most in the 55-75 age-range voted leave, but among the over-75s most voted remain. Pensioners are not a homogenous group and they do change their vote.”

  • Iain

    David R, I think you are a little harsh on Craig. As an older person myself, I think it is fair to suggest that many in my age bracket are set in their ways and more resistant to change – worried that change might make things worse for them. This is understandable and could make many more conservative in their choices.

    • David Rawlings

      Yes, I agree, Iain, but there’s no crime to being set in your ways, or resistant to change. It’s a valid choice. But I’m sure you’d agree that change isn’t always for the better and is very often for the worse! Also, people are still entitled to be Conservatives! They are also not to be blamed and ridiculed for their sincerely held views, nor for being misled by the mainstream media, nor by our elected representatives, who ought to be trustworthy. The vote in favour of Brexit may well have been influenced by some older voters more conservative attitudes. So what? But if this is true, then it was as much due to the excess of their willingness to engage the democratic system over that of their younger compatriots. Where throughout my life I, and most of my generation afforded my elders a large measure of respect, I fear we are seeing, or have seen, a sea change, and that there increasing numbers of people who resent older people and indeed have contempt for them. This is every bit as obnoxious and evil as racism, and my concern is that this post by Craig could worsen things. I do hope that I am wrong!

  • Stu

    ” Employers in general prefer to employ local workers where they can.”

    This is an interesting statement which i’d say is patently untrue.

    The benefits of immigrant labour to employers is clear. You have employees from countries with less history of trade unionism who compare terms and conditions to those available in their home countries rather than the UK. You have employees who in many cases are willing to put their lives on hold for a few years to constantly work and build up savings which they get the benefit of when they return to a lower cost country or send directly in remittances to support multiple family members. You have employees who are happy to live in basic accommodation in areas with few amenities. You have employees with no social support network which often makes it impossible to quit, go on strike or take legal action against an employer.

  • Eileen Brown

    Replace the word pensioners with the words black people.

    Does this sound like racism? Thought so.

    • craig Post author

      It would not be racist at all, Eileen. To say “Labour people are more likely to vote Labour” is perfectly true, and not a racist observation.

      So is it a perfectly true observation that “pensioners are ore likely to vote Conservative”, “pensioners are more likely to oppose Independence” “pensioners are more likely to support Brexit”. All of those are demonstrably true. It is silly political correctness to stop people saying it. I am not saying, in fact I explicitly don’t say, all pensioners are the same.

    • Ian

      This equivalence is weak.
      Black people had their continent stolen and were enslaved.
      Because I’m not black, I’m not able to get offended by you.
      But you have just made a cheap silly point in an effort to shut down a valid debate just because you don’t like it.

  • K Crosby

    You’re wrong that pensioners are the most racist group, it’s the petit bourgeoisie that has that dubious honour. A pensioner acquaintance also begs to point out that she and all her pensioner friends are socalist feminists, even the women.

    • craig Post author

      Nonsense. There is an overwhelming amount of opinion poll evidence that shows that pensioners are the age group most opposed to immigration. Indeed I have never seen a poll on the subject that does not say that. It happens also that, contrary to your ideologically driven romanticism, the idea that racism is a middle class thing is the opposite of the truth.

      • David Rawlings

        Craig, whilst I have no concerns myself about immigration, I really can’t accept your argument that any person who IS opposed to some or all immigration is by definition “racist”. You are confusing xenophobia with racism. Racism is a relatively modern word for what used to be called racial prejudice. Whereas the latter implied ignorance, the former implies active hatefulness. A racist is someone who believes that because of his race, he is actually superior to someone of another race. It is illogical, and it is hateful. But many immigrants of today are of the same race as ourselves but are simply of a different nationality. How can being against them coming to this country always be considered racist?

        I don’t want to defend the views of those who are against the EUs freedom of movement regulations for one moment! But people are entitled to hold views other than those of your own, and should be allowed to express them. Implying racism where it is not appropriate to do so weakens rather than strengthens the accusation where it is justified.

        Though you don’t seem able to accept the criticism, I agree with Eileen that your post is “ageist”!

      • K Crosby

        The working class is the least racist group as measured by the proportion of “mixed marriages” which are made by working class people. The petit bourgeoisie isn’t the middle class it’s the lower middle class and beyond argument is the most racist, fascist and nazi class in society. Not every pensioner is petit bourgeois.

  • Tricky

    If people are so thick to believe all this Tory bs don’t they deserve what they get?

    • Manda

      In my darkest moments that sentiment crosses my mind. Then I remember the propaganda onslaught people are under 24/7.

      • Tricky

        Propaganda is one thing but anyone can see that the NHS is on its last legs and privatisation just pushes costs up. I won’t go on.

      • K Crosby

        I felt like that after the fake election of 1987 but then I remembered that it wasn’t a reflection of public opinion but the result of the fascist FPTP system and cheered up. Do not repine, abstain instead.

    • Shatnersrug

      The trouble is tricky, we get it too, my partner and I are wondering now if we should make plans to move away from the uk.

      The nastiness that has taken hold of this country is deeply unpleasant, its self satisfied, arrogant, selfish, willfully ignorant. I believe the course we’ve started we will only be shocked after something very bad has happened. I’m beginning to believe that all countries go through this type of stupidness, it befell Germany in the 30s and it’s here now. I can see no efforts to avert it so, I suggest making contingency plans

      • Habbabkuk

        If you do emigrate, Shatters old boy, make sure it’s not to one of the many countries in which inheritance tax is levied as from the first euro of your estate. As opposed to the UK ( which gives a very generous exemption of, I believe , around £375.000 with the possibility of transfer of up to another £375.000 from the spouse’s exemption allowance). Also avoid those countries which levy inheritance tax between spouses.

  • Stu

    Photo ID to vote is the biggest disgrace of this manifesto and an issue which Craig can hopefully highlight.

    I am often critical of Craig’s economic analysis but he is an excellent advocate on human rights and corruption. You would be doing all those who want to live in a genuine democracy a great favour if you take up this issue.

    • Habbabkuk

      I’ve not caught up with this photo ID thing you mention but in principle it sounds like a splendid idea. Just as was the introduction of plastic card driving licences bearing a photo of the holder.

      In fact, the govt should bring in compulsory IDs, which might (or perhaps should) be carried on the person at all times. This is the position in all the major Western European liberal democracies and I should be interested to hear from you why you consider that such an introduction would constitute a move away from democracy.

  • B Jaworski

    Apart from all other considerations, means testing is inefficient. Much simpler to extend benefits universally and recover the extra expenditure through taxation.

    • bevin

      Agreed. How often does the wheel, of progressive taxation, have to be rediscovered before it is fixed onto the fiscal system?

  • Dave Price

    “The Tories calculate that the pensioners will loyally vote Tory anyway”.

    I too wondered if they were making Mandelson’s “they have nowhere else to go” calculation. That turned out badly for Labour, so here’s hoping.

    • Sharp Ears

      I heard this morning that May has been advised by Ed Miliband’s adviser Lord Glasman which I found hard to believe but it is confirmed by the FT here.
      ‘ May’s manifesto chief held talks with former Miliband aide
      Maurice Glasman Number 10 meeting underscores Tory wooing of Labour vote

      Tory officials confirmed Mr Timothy met Lord Glasman and discussed a wide range of policy issues, but that the talks took place after Mrs May had decided her energy policy. “It was two thinkers getting together over a cup of tea,” said one.

      Philip Hammond, chancellor, opposed the price cap and has been locked in talks with the interventionist Mr Timothy to try to maintain a traditional Conservative free market approach in the Tory manifesto.

      Lord Glasman, ennobled on Mr Miliband’s recommendation in 2011, argued for policies that embraced working class voters’ concerns about immigration, the EU and globalisation, saying that New Labour was “recklessly naive about finance capital and the City of London”.

      Lord Glasman’s policy prescriptions — including a temporary halt to immigration — proved too robust for Mr Miliband and the two became distant after the peer accused the former party leader of lacking direction.

      The Labour peer and Mr Timothy declined to comment, but those close to the discussions said they had focused on “polling and politics”.’

      Glasman is not very active in the HoL. His register of interests.

      Reader in Political Theory, London Metropolitan University
      Occasional broadcasting and journalism
      Royalties from academic monographs
      Visiting Lecturer, Oxford University and Queen Mary’s College London

      Governor, Simon Marks Primary School, Hackney, London N16,_Baron_Glasman
      He coined the term ‘Blue Labour’.

      • bevin

        “May has been advised by Ed Miliband’s adviser Lord Glasman..”
        This is the first real service that Glasman has ever performed for the Labour Party. I can only hope that he has further opportunities to share his tone deaf insights and idiotic tactics with the Tories. Now all the Tories need to earn five solid years of rest is to get some advice from John Podesta and the DNC.

  • Habbabkuk

    “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.”

    I agree with much of that – especially the worries about stigma in means-testing and what you say about pride (although I suspect that the latter is less of a factor these days than at the time of our parents and grandparents). However, means-testing can be – and has already in a number of cases – applied in a non-stigmatising manner and it should surely not be beyond the wit of man to devise further arrangments to this effect.

    But can you tease out why the winter fuel allowance is a “de facto” part of the basic state pension? Only because it is paid as of right to people of state pension age…or what?

    More generally, given developments since the introduction of fixed rate universal state pensions in the late 1940s (eg, the spread of occupational pensions, etc…), could a case not be made for saying that a degressivity of certain state benefits as a function of income should apply in a context where income tax is progressive?

    You will also recall that in the days where universal maintenance grants for students were graduated degressively as function of parents’ income with a (symbolic) minimum of £50; this was seen as perfectly acceptable.

    • Stu

      The effect of getting rid of universal benefits will be to create a culture where there is massive resentment of those means tested benefits.

      The social care proposal for example will almost certainly lead to resent from the families of home owners about the levels of care received by non home owners.

      • Habbabkuk

        “The effect of getting rid of universal benefits will be to create a culture where there is massive resentment of those means tested benefits”

        That is certainly a risk – the awareness of which were in the mnds of Beveridge and policy makers when founding the welfare state.

        On the other hand it may be that education and the changed times would lessen that risk.

        You should remember that a good part of the resentment of many against council house tenants arose not out of the fact of council housing per se but out of the knowledge that many tenants were in fact doing well enough to be able toafford to buy (which, had they done so, would have freed up council housing for those on low(er) incomes.

        • Stu

          The economies of scale allowed by council housing and the fact that tenants repay the cost of their homes multiple times should have allowed that enough council houses could be built for all who want them regardless of income. It should not be an option just for pool people but an option for people who do not want to become home owners or become heavily indebted to banks.

          The reason that the right went to war against the concept of council houses is that housing insecurity is the primary method of ensuring that the rich hold the whip hand over the majority. The massive windfall of a culture where mortgages are the norm and house prices spiral ever upwards is merely the cherry on the cake.

          • Stu

            Council housing was built because the housing market failed.

            The market has failed again.

          • Sharp Ears

            …..and the new houses are ticky tacky. That is according to Ms Allsopp who helped to create the housing boom by way of Ch 4’s Location, Location and the buy to let phenomenon helped by the BBC and their Homes Under the Hammer.

            ‘Don’t waste your money on ‘shoddy’ new builds’: Kirstie Allsopp warns buyers not to be fooled by ‘misleading’ claims about the ‘hidden costs’ of old houses
            •Kirstie Allsopp claimed some houses built from the late 1980s are poor quality
            •TV presenter added that they more prone to flooding and built for short term
            •New build group said those in older homes likely to spend £51,000 on repairs
            •This angered her but Home Builders Federation praised ‘benefits’ of new builds

  • Zina Preston

    I am usually quite in agreement with your thoughts, however I cannot agree with the sentiments in this one. I am a pensioner and know lots of other pensioners, and not one of us voted leave and not one of us votes Tory or has ever voted Tory. We are mostly baby boomers who have witnessed the destruction of our society by the Tories. I resent being lumped in with the others, sorry.

  • Pat Crawford

    It is not true, Craig.

    Bigoted people who align their football loyalty with the Union Flag voted NO.

    Civil servants in fear of their careers voted NO.

    Members of military families voted NO. I live in Helensburgh near the MOD Base. Most employees and their families voted NO.

    Racists voted NO

    Unions instructed their membership to vote NO.

    I am a college lecturer in Computing. In a staffroom of ten, I am a lone voice for YES.

    Feel free to pop into the SNP hub in Helensburgh . You will find that many of the envelope stuffers are pensioners or,in my case,WASPI Women who should be pensioners.

    I am a staunch fan of your personal and political corage but, on this occasion, your thought is indeed unworthy, Craig.

    • Stu

      Only three unions officially supported No.

      The Firefighters, Communication Workers and a small steel workers union.

  • Paula Wilcox

    I have just been trying to calculate how many people in two particular age groups voted Leave to check the accuracy of the view that it was pensioners who swung Brexit. Clearly it seems that way on a percentage basis but looking at actual numbers of people it seems not. (2011 census)
    In 50-64 age group in U.K. are c. 11 1// million people of whom 56% voted Leave or 6 million 440 thousand.
    In 64 plus age group in U.K. There are c. 10 million people of whom 61% voted Leave or 6 million 100 thousand Voted Leave.
    I am no statistician so please correct me if wrong but as a Remainer pensioner (just) I It seems harsh to be blamed for Brexit!

  • philw


    You say ” pensioners were the only group that supported Brexit by any substantial majority.” This is not true. 55-64 year-olds (your group) supported it to almost exactly the same degree. Of course there is not a snappy title for this group. I suggest ‘pre-pensioners’. Given that attacks on pensioners will hit pre-pensioners harder than current pensioners, I suppose there is more reason for schadenfreude.

    And again, BREXIT was supported by the poorest social groups (64 -36 by C2, and DE). So I expect you can get even more schadenfreude from the Tories kicking the poor, who I suppose are also more susceptible to ‘dog-whistle racism’ than you ABs.

  • Michael McNulty

    People need to grow a thicker skin. I voted Brexit because I want the same kind of independence for Britain which Craig wants for Scotland but for which he says Brits are Little Englander racists. He’s not got it quite right. Big deal. Get over it.

  • Steve

    Craig I truly enjoy your observations but I think I can say that I am one of the 65+ who bucks the statistics with regards to leaving Europe and voting Tory.
    It is anathema to me to do either.
    First because I had the good fortune to work in Europe after graduating, and second because I was born in a the year of establishment of the welfare state.
    I benefitted from both.
    Europe opened my eyes to a more open, and fairer society, than seemed could ever be possible under the dreadfully controlling British establishment.
    The welfare state gave me a good standard of education (I went to a secondary school), and I had excellent, free health care, all of which these rotten, greedy, self interested Tories are desperately trying to destroy by demoralising the dedicated people who are the teachers, doctors and nurses, and by attempting to privatise the lot.
    I am the same radical in my sixties as in my twenties, thank goodness!

  • Sharp Ears

    What was the significance of the location chosen – a disused carpet factory in Halifax, once the biggest in the world? Definitely there was a Dickensian feel to the oeuvre.

    Perhaps to remind us of the workhouse in which we will all be residing some time hence, or Marshalsea, the debtors’ prison?

  • J

    For clarity sake how is this data available? And is any data available for the percentage of turn out per age group?

  • Billibalisic

    I fear means testing of the fuel allowance could be set at a ridiculous level like if you are in receipt of a private pension or stakeholder index linked. Probably only people on state pension will get the fuel allowance, cuts to state pension in future will make the loss of the fuel allowance look like peanuts.

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