One of the moments that made my mind up about my politics was standing in a hall listening to the Tom Robinson Band singing “better decide which side you’re on”. It contains the lyric
If left is right then right is wrong, the ship goes down before too long
As a 16 year old , this should have been energising but I was mystified. It was 1977 and I had just done my O levels, I didn’t want to be wrong or right, I just wanted to live my life. So I walked away from binary politics and have remained on the fence (centre left) the rest of my days. The ship never did go down and it won’t go down now.
The anti-growth alliance
I get the same sinking feeling listening to Liz Truss today as I did Tom Robinson back in the day. I am no fan of her way of doing things and because I am not I am “wrong” – a part of the anti-growth alliance.
I now feel excluded from whatever the growth agenda is. So far the growth agenda has seen over £200bn wiped out of productive assets in UK pension schemes and sent to banks so that contracts for difference on gilt edged securities can be settled at the discounted prices created by the “new era” agenda for growth.
I find myself encouraging people to save when a combination of rising household bills and increased mortgage payments has shrunk the net disposable income for saving. The collective saving into workplace DC plans should be generating the demand for investment products to fire up this “new era” of growth, but I see little confidence among DC providers to put in peril their business models for investment in the British economy, not now – not under this mis-rule.
The CIPP – getting change in place
Today I should have been in Newport with the CIPP, celebrating one of the great unsung success stories, the work of payroll in making the savings revolution into workplace pensions happen. I cannot go because the RMT and ASLEF have called strikes and because I sold my car to travel by train. I thank the CIPP for their invitation and wish them a great two days.
Payroll is a sector of the economy we hear little about, but which delivers through powerful women, while others talk , payroll gets on with things. It is going to have to deliver the fiscal policies of the mini-budget and subsequent micro-budgets which have followed in its wake.
First Actuarial – growing the economy through pensions
Instead of spending time with the women of the CIPP , I will be able to attend the First Actuarial client conference at the RSA this afternoon. This is a great consolation. First Actuarial is a pension consultancy that has long argued that pension schemes should invest in growth assets and provide pensions rather than a path to buy-out. Many of their clients run open defined benefit schemes or participated in multi-employer schemes such as TPT , LGPS and the great unfunded pension schemes directly supported by the tax-payer.
I expect that like me , consultants like Hilary Salt and Derek Benstead find themselves in the “anti-growth alliance”.
Delivering growth without disrupting livelihoods
What is so frustrating about binary politics is it ignores the possibility that those with a different viewpoint may be capable of delivering the good you believe you will achieve.
Those pension schemes that stood against the consensus and did not “de-risk” using LDI, were deemed non-standard and would not have been fast-tracked to self-sufficiency and then buy-out under the proposed DB funding code. Instead, they would have been put under the equivalent of special measures by a regulator determined to introduce a “one size fits all strategy for weaker and smaller pension schemes.
Well the first shall be last and the last shall be first. Those schemes that stayed open and did not lockdown with LDI are now in the sunny uplands with the prospect of improving member benefits through better factors, and reducing the strain on employers through reduced cash calls at future valuations. They are also in the happy position of increasing allocation to growth assets rather than having to sell off the family silver to meet margin calls.
So I will celebrate First Actuarial and firms like them, that dared to be different through the dark years of quantitative easing when we swapped the opportunity for growth for the fiscal straightjacket of austerity – remember that?
And of course not everyone at First Actuarial is a Hilary Salt or a Derek Benstead, many have political views that are radically different from those of the Red Actuaries! But I have sat at board meetings with them all and seen them working effectively together to accommodate the needs and requirements of a variety of schemes – including many that demanded LDI as part of their investment strategy.
The success of any business is to meet the needs of customers and to provide them with efficient execution of their strategies, it is not to include and exclude on an ideological basis. As with business – so with politics. The idea of a “one nation conservative” is acceptable to me – there was and is a version of conservatism that I can align to, one that brings people together.
But that is not the version that is now on show. What we see with this “anti-growth alliance” nonsense is akin to Tom Robinson’s “left is right , right is wrong” nonsense. You don’t have to be wet to be in the middle, you can be passionate and stay quite dry. Thankfully , those who are guided by good sense rather than ideology, are the winners in business and in politics.
I’m adding ‘fake news’ and ‘the swamp’ to my UK government bullshit bingo card, in anticipation.