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By Jo Phillips

By Jo Phillips

The Generation Game

Pitching older people against younger ones is callous, shortsighted and cynical. If the Tories have nothing to offer young people apart from a half baked national service scheme, they will eventually run out of voters...

Helen Mirren, Mick Jagger, David Attenborough, Michael Heseltine, Joanna Lumley. Not one of those would ever be described as a ‘pensioner’ despite being well over retirement age. So why do we think it’s OK to lump together everyone who’s eligible for a state pension and then define them solely by the benefits they’re entitled to? Clearly, the Tories seem to think that approach will secure them some support in the election and it is true that people over 65 are far more likely to vote and support the Conservatives than people under 40. Hence the focus on the promise of a ‘triple lock plus’ pension which according to analysis for the i newspaper could mean that people reliant on the full new state pension as their sole income might end up saving just £14.60 per year or 28p a week – in tax payments by 2028. The Institute of Fiscal Studies think-tank said the proposal was “another example of Conservatives proposing to undo their own tax policies.” Or, less politely, another sign of desperation in the same vein as bringing back National Service and banning ‘Mickey Mouse degree courses.

The National Service idea has been greeted with a mixture of ridicule and weariness – the latter because we’ve been down this route before with David Cameron (remember him launching a scheme with Michael Caine in 2010?) and Gordon Brown to name just two former Prime Ministers who wanted to harness the energy of young people for wider community benefit. Government funding for the National Citizen Service has been cut by more than two thirds since the last general election and at least one local authority, Kent County Council is scrapping support for running the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme in schools while youth services are being cut across the country, be they sport, arts or mental health schemes.

As for those pesky degrees – no one from the current government has been able to say what courses would be scrapped, nor how that would be decided but you can bet your life that the disproportionate number of Oxbridge educated politicians who might make such calls won’t be looking to scrap Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) which seems to be a common theme for those reaching high political office. Further education has been pared to the bone, limiting access to a wide range of subjects for many young people and the current apprenticeship system is a shambles, expensive for businesses and often aimed at older people, not those starting out in the world of work.

Pitching older people against younger ones is callous, shortsighted and cynical. If the Tories have nothing to offer young people apart from a half baked national service scheme, they will eventually run out of voters. And, what they, along with every other party fails to mention is the elephant in the room for so many older people – the staggering cost of care. Average weekly fees for a care home are around £1300 a week – the average pay for care workers is around  the minimum wage. Old and vulnerable people have become profitable commodities for care home owners while successive governments have continued to ignore or deal with this huge issue.  That would be truly brave of any party seeking votes and looking to a future beyond July 5th but never mind, I’m sure by next week the Tories will reveal their latest plan – a return to pre-decimalisation and bringing back the nightly shutdown of all TV channels, complete with the national anthem and the testcard.

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