Cameron’s double bluff on pensioner benefits.

Back in April of this year, David Cameron made an empassioned speech accusing Labour of lying about his position on benefits for pensioners, particularly the Winter Fuel Allowance, free television liscenses, pension credit and the free bus pass – he also pledged his full support for the policies!

We will keep the free television licence, we will keep the pension credit, we’ll keep the winter fuel allowance, we’ll keep the free bus pass. Those leaflets you have been getting from Labour, the letters you have been getting from Labour are pure and simple lies.

As far as I was aware, Cameron had not committed to these measures, but he didn’t say they’d be cut either (I didn’t expect him to, it’d be electoral suicide). However, on Sky News he gave an angry rant about “Labour’s lies”.

Now who couldn’t believe that, with all the anger, bluster and banging of the desk? Why surely it was obvious that Labour were wrong and Cameron really did care strongly about pensioners. The Labour lies had been exposed.

Fine, except we are not liars. The Telegraph reports today that the age at which the Winter Fuel Allowance can be claimed will be raised from 60 to 66. The Lib Dems are pushing for a higher age of 75, although this is unlikely to happen. In addition, the help received will be cut by £50 for the youngest qualifying and by £100 for the oldest.

And this all comes after Cameron made an empassioned promise to “keep what they [the future government] inherited?”

Whist I am aware that all too often payments are made to well off pensioners when they are more suited to the poorest (whom the policy was originally for, I might add). But surely it would be better to ensure that the payments are fair than to cut them altogether? The Winter Fuel Allowance has been vital for many pensioners who otherwise couldn’t heat their homes. And surely Cameron with his anger at Labour lies would protect it?

Of course I am expecting the usual parroted line about us “not understanding the scale of the deficit” and the “tough decisions” that have to be made. But there are ways of dealing with this that don’t involve cuts to one of the most vital benefits people depend on. Especially when the Tory leader has pledged to keep these very same benefits!

So how about an apology then? We weren’t lying, we expected this to happen. Maybe it’s time to heed the words of Neil Kinnock back in the Wilderness Years: “I warn you not to grow old” – very apt for now, I think.

If I had £550 million of government expenditure…

…you can bet your life that I would not be using it to promote my personal idea of idyllic family life in some sort of bizarre throwback to the 1950s. But then again, I am not a Tory.

Enough derision was poured on Cameron for promoting gimmicky crap such as this. I, as a committed feminist, athiest and lefty deplore such a gimmick on the following grounds:

1. The state has absolutely no right to dictate what it sees as the perfect family set up with economic gimmicks. People’s relationships and family set ups are not subject to favouritism or judgement by the tax system.

2. Surely the Tories can accept that this policy sends out a clear signal that marriage is better than any other type of relationship – even Cameron himself stated that he wanted to promote commitment “loud and proud.” This works on the assumption that marriage is the only form of commitment. I see that as highly judgemental.

3.In these times, surely there are far better things to direct government funding towards. This policy is frivolity we can ill afford.

Family policy should be directed at all of Britain’s families, not just the ones where the parents are married. The Tories are being a little bit elitist here in my opinion – does it really matter if the family unit is based on marriage or cohabitation? Surely the immediate concern is that the parents have stable jobs, a good quality of life and the children are getting the best education possible?

Try as I might, I cannot fathom how the Tory leader thinks that marriage needs to be promoted by the tax system. £550 million could be spent improving the lives of many, not just those who choose to be married. In fact, I believe that only 4 million married couples out of the 12.3 million marriages in the UK will actually benefit?

Commitment is so much more than an official ceremony, a ring, a legal agreement and tax breaks. But it shouldn’t be dictated by economic means.

David Davis – backbench troublemaker?

That David Davis – he’s becoming quite the troublemaker from his position on the Tory backbenches.

Yesterday, he made his opinions very clear in The Times regarding the announcement that medical records could be transferred and handled by Google under Tory plans. Given that Davis vested himself as the “Great Defender of Liberty” after his dramatic resignation and by-election win, he has suddenly become the independent voice of civil liberties, or so this article would suggest.

Some of his statements could be seen as a direct attack on David Cameron – if Cameron’s close links to Google are taken into context. Politics.co.uk reported yesterday that Davis has come from his quiet hiding place to become a prominent thorn in the side of Mr. Cameron. Only a few weeks ago, Davis was opening up the grammer schools debate once again – another Tory sore wound. In a recent speech to a meeting on grammer schools, he took a swipe (or what might be described more accurately as a right-hook) at Cameron’s Eton background, and the educational demographic of the shadow cabinet:

“In a thinly-veiled swipe at Eton-educated David Cameron, he told a meeting on grammar schools the only winners from the death of the selective education system were the public school boys who now “dominate” Britain.”

The previously lethal issue of grammer schools caused a long-running headache for the Tory leader in the early months of his leadership. Rather kind of Davis to drag up the issue again.

I wonder how this is going to go down in the Tory frontbench? There are hints that some consider Davis’s remarks to be an open declaration of war. Don’t get too excited – Davis is clearly provoking some kind of reaction, but I seriously doubt Cameron will allow himself to settle the old score with his one-time adversary. I doubt the Tory leader needs a war whilst he’s trying to win the next election, no matter how much provocation Davis attempts. If I happened to be Tory leader, I wouldn’t rise to the bait. Cameron could easily spin Davis’s attacks as deeply-engrained bitterness towards him since losing the 2005 leadership contest – if he wanted open warfare.

Any indication of verbal warfare or political punches is speculative at the moment. I just wait to see what Davis has to say about Tory public spending policy. It could either expose the hidden divisions in the Conservative Party, or show Davis as a bitter loser.

'Moral capitalism' – the Tory solution.

It would appear that the Conservative Party leader, David Cameron now has an idea for the crisis. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Mr. Cameron has announced to business leaders and financiers a commitment to “moral capitalism”.

I almost fell off my chair when I read this for the first time.

However, I will give Cameron a fair chance for once – at least he hasn’t resorted to Thatcherite dogma. I sincerely hope this is an indication that the Conservative Party are willing to at least temper their existing beliefs, now realising that the doctrine of the sainted mother has been thouroughly discredited.

Cameron describes extensively a commitment to reforming global markets and “calling for curbs on ‘global corporate juggernauts'”. He notes that:

“[But] we must also stand up to business when the things that people value are at risk […] So it’s time to place the market within a moral framework – even if that means standing up to companies who make life harder for parents and families.”

It is fascinating to hear a Conservative Party leader talking about “moral frameworks” and “standing up to companies”. A leader? 20 years ago, that would have amounted to blasphemy and denounced as the moanings of that troublesome one-nation bunch! In all seriousness, Cameron is right. There needs to be a moral framework – it’s called regulation!

But no. Before we get too excited, I seriously doubt that Cameron is calling for regulation. If this speech is indicative of his thinking, he is suggesting that we send out a weak code of conduct and hope for the best. The man is an optimist, I’ll give him that. But if he thinks a code of conduct along the lines of: “well, you’ve been really very stupid haven’t you? But here’s a code of conduct, look like you’re following it and we’ll leave you alone. Back to business!” is going to work, he’s rather wrong. This entire crisis has taught us that putting our trust in business irrespective of it’s size is the wrong approach entirely. What good is a poorly enforced code of conduct going to do?

There is another approach of course – which means changing the culture of the global markets, incorporating a moral business method. It’s certainly a utopian idea – after all, business and banks are in the persuit of profit, not morals! Adapting the market to a culture of moral profit persuit is to change the core ideology of capitalism. Good luck to Mr. Cameron if he wishes to take that on!

And annoyingly, he does allude to the sainted mother:

“Margaret Thatcher led an ownership revolution that gave millions a new stake in our economy.”

But it went wrong, Cameron.

As ever, it’s important to keep an extremely close eye on the Tories – I’m always fascinated to know what their answers are. This is not because of the competition per se, because it’s important to note where Labour and Conservative could potentially agree in order to come to a decent consensus about the crisis. This could easily be disguised Thatcherism for all I am aware! It’ll be interesting to see where they go from here.