Yesterday was a big day in politics, a day when UKIP became irrelevant to local government and conservatism reasserted itself in the shires. It was a busy day for me and I found myself writing a piece for a periodical which exactly articulated my frustration with trying to implement Government policy while “politics” insist that I pay attention to it instead.
For what it’s worth, here is my rant which I hope resonates with some people who read this blog (with apologies to Colin and my many committed political friends!)
I had my long promised meeting with the Pensions Minister Richard Harrington, a few minutes after the Prime Minister had called a snap election. The Minister wasn’t a little bit phased claiming he could put pensions before politics, perhaps this is because he is widely expected to be moving to Biz provided both he and the Conservatives win.
It was interesting to see what was happening with the civil servants who were sitting in on our meeting. The two questions I heard them discussing were whether the then Pensions Bill could get royal assent and what to do about the 767 page long Finance Bill (which at that point had not even started its first reading).
In the event the Pensions Bill has been enacted and the Finance Bill was mutilated and will, by the time you read this, enable the country to function – albeit without many of the bells and whistles that have been lost.
I have been involved with politics more of late, perhaps a function of my growing old. I met Larry the Cat
on a visit to Downing Street and his pre-occupation with what was going on in the Foreign Office next door was explained by the loss of fur on his back- apparently he had been in another tussle with Palmerston.
This is a preamble to answering the question posed by this article’s title. I think that many of us are currently beyond politics, certainly beyond worrying about them. They are immutable, we have to accept the cards that come our way and win what we can with them.
I am currently involved in writing a response to the consultation on the Pension Scheme levy, the auto-enrolment review, various consultations on pension transfers and a response to the Pension Green Paper. I am talking with the FCA about Independent Governance Committees and definitions of value for money, the DWP about including hidden costs in the charge cap and the Pensions Regulator about what we should be doing about personal service workers,
My day job is to help small employers choose a workplace pension and slightly larger ones establish whether what they pay contributions into, is fit for purpose. In all this, my work is shaped by Government policy and the whims of politicians. In business terms, the calling of a general election on June 8th is an unwelcome distraction. Don’t the Government realise that this coincides with one of the peaks in auto-enrolment staging?
Do they not stop and think, when snapping elections, that much of our strategic planning was based on no new taxes, no changes in NI and no new Government before 2020?
In reality, the next election is a racing certainty to produce another Tory Government- but this time on steroids. All the certainties are off. Pension taxation reform had been kicked into the long-grass till 2020 – it’s back on the table. The triple-lock on the state pension had been put in a triple locked draw till the next decade. We’d got used to a Government that nudged us, rather than hitting us over the head with Geo-political hammers.
What this election business does is return us to the brutality of politics we have not witnessed since the days of Mrs Thatcher. Frankly, Mrs May can fix pensions and payroll in her gimlet eye and shout “off with their heads” – and it wouldn’t surprise me.
The Autumn Statement had given a prospect of a calm Brexit backwater, but no more. All bets seem to be off and my scribblings on the various Government papers I’ve been asked to comment on, seem quite feeble in this brave new world of pre-Brexit power politics.
And what of you? Do you feel, as I feel, baffled and ready to creep behind the nearest manifesto – for a little cover and forty winks? Would you like to wake up on the morning of June 9th and be told what kind of Government you’ve just had presented you?
I suspect the answer is “yes”. I suspect that deep down you would be quite happy to walk away from this whole political melee and get back to a bit of book-keeping, a bit of payroll and maybe a bit of pensions.
Well it isn’t going to happen. Whether we like it or not, we are in for another month of ear-crunching debates, of jammed letter-boxes and spammed in-box.
I would love to finish on a positive note, but someone has taken my keyboard away. I wish you luck till we are beyond politics and can speak again – after June 8th.