Friday 3 May 2013

Your most 'umble and obedient servant...

I BELIEVE you can judge a government's values by how it treats the groups most likely to vote for it.
The last Labour government spoke endlessly about looking to restore the link between the level of welfare payments for any particular age group and the likelihood of people in that age group voting, but when it came to it, foolsihly did nothing. Within weeks of walking into the DWP we introduced the "triple lock" to provide a proper mechanism by which we increase welfare payments to core voters.
We believe this was the right thing to do for people who have spent their lives doing the right thing – turning up to vote for whoever gives them the most generous handouts. Now there is a debate about whether regular voters should continue to receive benefits like the winter fuel payment, free bus passes and TV licences.
The vast majority of our core voters are relaxing at home without a care in the world apart from putting a cross on a bit of paper every year or two. For many, retirement is about careful budgeting and trying to persuade their families to help out. So their votes are relatively cheap to buy and I'm amazed that Labour weren't more keenly aware of this. Again, how government responds to this is a mark of their priorities - like being re-elected.
It is that desire to buy votes as cheaply as possible which was behind the Prime Minister's pledge to protect universal voter benefits for the lifetime of this parliament and that's what we're doing. I make no apology for it.
For some, the winter fuel payment is not a necessity. The free bus pass an unexpected and welcome extra. But for others these represent valuable lifelines. Ensuring the heating is turned up in winter so that they stay alive to vote for us again the next spring. Making it easier to get to the polling station. For people who would vote for us even without the winter fuel payment and want to return it, then they can do that.
But as I made clear on the Today programme this week, I am not asking nor demanding anyone to do this. The policy has not changed. Pensioners have contributed our hold on power throughout their working life and they deserve a kick back in retirement. This government can be proud of having done this simple electoral calculation, of what it has done and continues to do for our core supporters. This is a measure of what we think is important, not only as government, but as a group of self-serving insiders.
And if you behave nicely, who knows? Maybe one day you'll start receiving interest on your savings again.
Your most 'umble and obedient servant

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