May 30, 2017
The Conservative manifesto assault on pensioners bore all the hallmarks of Thatcherism – without the competence. Even the U-turn on the “dementia tax” will do little to win back pensioners who’ve been thrown under the bus – the one with £350m a day for the NHS emblazoned on the side – once too often.
Theresa May’s intervention was designed to mollify us oldies, but it did nothing of the sort. There was nothing that made me feel more secure in my home than I had before the whole sorry mess had started.
That the Tories would come after their most loyal supporters wasn’t a shock to me. We’re vulnerable and compliant and, in the past at least, voted Tory out of habit. Even with the extortionate charges for residential care and the drive to force people into buying their hip replacement surgery, pensioners were still set to vote Tory. But the election’s triple whammy – scrapping the triple lock guarantee on our pensions, attacking the winter fuel allowance, and the social care plans that mean vulnerable pensioners could be made homeless – has changed that.
This attack came in a context in which pensioners are increasingly scapegoated. The headlines would have us believe that it’s “bed-blockers” making the NHS grind to a halt. Not Tory cuts. There’s a constant, nasty subtext that, in times of austerity, old people are living too long which is damned inconvenient because we’re expensive to maintain.
The fact that May thought she could get away with this flagrant attack on her most steadfast supporters shows just how out of touch she is. But blaming the vulnerable is a strategy that has worked for the Tories. Deflecting the financial crash away from financial institutions and political failings, and on to the poor, the sick and the old, has allowed the Tories to justify austerity, to say: “It’s not bankers’ bonuses we should be cutting back, it’s the welfare state.”
The elderly, disabled and mentally ill are portrayed in much of the media as shirkers and spongers, so it’s no wonder we’re seen as easy prey.
Pitting the elderly against the young has been a growing and divisive tactic. Our protected state pensions and our dominance in the housing market are cited as causing the financial misery of the younger generation. We have our great big madeira cake and we’re jolly well going to eat it.
The reality is quite different; 1.9 million pensioners live below the poverty line, one in four people over 65 struggle to survive to the end of each month, the waiting list time for elective surgery is anything up to a year, and now, should we need nursing home care, our own homes will be sold to pay for it. Old people are not the cause of the problems of today’s younger generation, they are scapegoats for a social care system that has been made bankrupt by reckless cuts and Tory incompetence.
May’s dementia tax betrayed the underbelly of the nasty party. It has not only abandoned but attacked a generation of citizens, many of whom lived through the second world war and the dire austerity that followed. She would rather steal from her loyal pensioners than ask her friends in the city to pay their fair share. The curtain has been lifted, and we see May as she really is – a reverse Robin Hood, stealing from the palms of the poor to line the pockets of the rich.
This gigantic own goal will be followed by days of grovelling promises to “look after” older people. I may be old but I’m not stupid. Who on earth would trust anything Theresa May now says? I’ve lived through many an election but never in my life have I seen a U-turn on a manifesto pledge before an election has even been won. Incompetence on this scale is unprecedented. If Theresa May can’t get this right, how can we possibly trust her to handle complex Brexit negotiations?
If we want a strong and stable leader, someone who will protect our pensions and homes, someone who offers our grandchildren a future of hope instead of fear and debt, there’s only one contender – Jeremy Corbyn. In light of the Tories’ misery manifesto, I doubt I’ll be the only OAP voting for the Labour party, under the principled stewardship of their leader on 8 June.