We got scared

voting slip When the pencil was in my hand and I stared at those boxes, I must admit that I was scared. Not that it stopped me from voting for the party that I believed in, but because of the responsibility of participating in a political process so much bigger than me. I have had the same feeling since I was a teenager. We all get scared, but it’s the job of a conservative Government to keep us that way. Big bro Dave is the headboy and though he had a few days where he was a little more animated than head boys usually get, he and his house captains have done their job of convincing us that the knowns are better than the unknowns and the unknowns are pretty scary. And Milliband and Clegg didn’t do enough to convince us we were as safe with them, especially in Scotland, where the SNP – in practice a fiscally centrist party dressed up as “tax and spend”, got it right. They were not only safe, they had a vision. Farage had a vision, which is why he got a lot of people voting for him, it was a genuinely working class vision which appealed to a lot of chippy achievers, like my missus. So when I had that pencil in my hand, there was a little devil behind me ear, prodding me.

“Come on Henry, you’re a public schoolboy, you’ve got property , you earn a lot, come with me , uncle Dave, I’ll look after you, I’ll preserve your privilege”.

For anyone who is or aspires to be a higher rate tax payer the conservatives are the party of self-interest. They are not the party of enlightened self-interest, they are the party of the status quo (as their names suggest). Cameron’s incarnation of the conservative party has nothing to do with the radical politics of Thatcherism (which are represented by Farage). Though Cameron adopted Thatcherite policies- in particular the right to buy, Cameron’s appeal is aspirational.

“With a bit of luck and with our policies, your children can be educated as you like, live in the house that you like and afford private healthcare – we’ll take care of the rest”.

So the hard- working families with joint incomes above £50k do nicely, while Uncle Dave plugs his deficit with cuts (yet to be announced) in welfare. Those cuts won’t hurt, because you won’t know they’ve happened till too late, cutting your capacity to pay for yourself in later life, allowing local councils to be blamed for sky-high council tax that buys nothing (but to plug the holes in local government pensions), persisting with a state pension policy that is deceitful (the NI fund is likely to be bust in 2020) . This is the Tory way of making us comfortable. I suppose I should be happy. But I’m not. I’m really sad that the politicians that were addressing the future are politicians no more- Steve Webb and Gregg McClymont. If life was fair, they would be in the Lords informing whatever wet-nosed Tory we get to run pension policy on what is and isn’t going on.

Five years ago , I spent the days after the election watching in wonder as the doors opened for Steve Webb. The narrow loss of seat by Nigel Waterson, the flirtation with Labour , the coalition and finally the announcement that Webb would do the job.

This time around will be very different. Pension people will need to start afresh with  David Gawke . With Willets and Hoban no more, there is a dearth of experience on pensions within the 332 Tory MPs but at least In Gawke we have a political heavyweight with a track record of getting the better of offshore tax hooligans.

The paragraph above was written in the brief period when the FT had advised David Gawke was our new pension minister- I preserve it for for posterity

A few hours after updating the blog with the news on Gawke   I am even more gob-smacked as Ros Altmann flounces out of the consumer champion role straight in as Pension Minister. Looks like someone lined up for that job didn’t quite hold his seat.

I can’t say I’m happy to lose Steve, but Ros has been a great friend to our Pension Playpen and I’m pleased for her and pensions. She’s gong to have to deal with a few loose ends, but there is sufficient momentum in auto-enrolment for that project to continue. With her there is future for collective DC but I suspect that the carnage that will be visited upon us, when some of the craziness arising from pension freedoms unwinds , will have no immediate end.

There is a price for being fearful, fear comes at the expense of progress. voting slip

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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3 Responses to We got scared

  1. Ruth Gilbert says:

    How about Steve Webb doing Pensions Minister from House of Lords then? Maybe you know know someone who can sort it….

  2. Ruth Gilbert says:

    Well, I’m not the first to suggest it…Ian McKenna has started that very petition available for all of you who agree with Henry (who here wouldn’t?) at

    Any of you who are Facebookers might be willing to flag this on SteveWebb’s Facebook page where his fans have been lamenting his loss.

  3. David says:

    Families with joint incomes above £50,000 do nicely?

    I’m sorry Henry but £50,000 joint income doesn’t go that far in the days of £250,000 average house prices or £1000pcm+ rentals for those a bit under 40 years of age or younger.

    Neither the Conservatives or Labour are willing to see our future generation prosper, instead they are burdening them with higher debt, both personal and public liabilities, to perpetuate the comfortable life of the older generation.

    And we wonder why the younger generation isn’t interested in pensions? They can’t afford them today, and won’t be able to in the future either given the medium to long term outlook is economic doldrums.
    No interest on savings to boost long term growth, no inflation to deflate their younger year debts (home mortgages), and salary rises static.

    Aside from putting pension saving burden on employers with AE, which is essentially taking away potential salary growth and paying it into near zero return savings accounts or long-term zero return ETFs (FTSE100 after inflation has gone nowhere for decades), how is the future bright for pensions, except those about to take them in the next few years?

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