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.