guy-fawkes-pageThis little blog is entirely non-political, but with an announcement by Alex Wild of the Taxpayers Alliance that was seemingly underlined by former defence minister Liam Fox, I’m wondering if it’s time to form a new Guy Fawkes Party or at least send around some of the boys from the Rhondda to have a word …

At a fringe meeting of the Conservative Party in Manchester yesterday, Alex Wild said that pensioner’s benefits should be cut and the best time to do it is straight after an election, because the pensioners affected would either be dead by then or would have forgotten which government did it.

He’s right about the first point.  Cutting winter fuel allowance when it’s known that thousands  of pensioners have to choose between ‘heating or eating’ and that thousands die during the cold months would certainly mean that fewer would be around for the next election.  And the others?  He said. ‘If you did it now, chances are that in 2020 someone who has had their winter fuel cut might be thinking, ‘Oh I can’t remember, was it this government or was it the last one? I’m not quite sure.’

How disparaging is that?  George McNamara, head of policy at Alzheimer’s Society, said the comments were ‘flippant, ill-considered and offensive, particularly to the millions of UK pensioners who are either living with dementia or caring for a loved one with the condition.’

Dot Gibson, general secretary of the National Pensioners’ Convention described Wild’s remarks as the ‘most awful ageist nonsense I’ve heard in a long time.  He also suggested that younger people would support making their grandparents worse off. That’s all part of this phoney generation war that they and others like to promote.

‘Families care about each other, and grandparents often help out their grandchildren where they can. Contrary to what he suggested, Mr Wild can be sure pensioners won’t be forgetting this in a hurry.’

After furious reactions on social media Mr Wild said he was ‘sorry’ for the ‘off the cuff’ remarks. He said they were, ‘crass and offensive.’   Yes indeed, but if these thoughts hadn’t been in his mind they would not been uttered.  (See Matthew 12:34)

Also at the conference last night, Liam Fox said that now was the time for the government to make further cuts to pensioner benefits. He told the audience: “This is the time to fix the roof. We have a broken opposition. We have just won a general election and we need now to take the tough decisions we believe are right.’

This comes just after reports of cancer patients over the age of 75 not receiving treatment from the NHS in some areas.  And social care budgets cut to the bone. This generation of older people has been betrayed, according to Prof John Ashton, when he took over the presidency of the Faculty of Public Health, in January 2013.  He said a ‘debt of honour’ was due to elderly people who, despite being bankrupt after World War II, set up the welfare state. Instead they are being betrayed by a system that cannot afford to look after them.  Or doesn’t even value them, it seems.

As Dot Gibson said, Wild and Fox shouldn’t be so sure.  Pensioners are not likely to forget their statements, or the attitudes they reveal. Come the next election the ‘dead or forgetting’ remarks could be their ‘Jennifer’s ear’.  Remember that?




Louise Morse

Louise Morse MA (CBT) is media and external relations manager for the Pilgrims’ Friend Society. She is a writer and speaker, and author of books on issues of old age, including dementia, published by Lion Monarch and SPCK. She is a cognitive behavioural therapist, and her Masters’ dissertation examined the effects of caring for a loved one with dementia on close relatives.

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