A week before polling day Jeremy Corbyn promised to “deal with” the £100billion debt built up from student loans.
Now that the election is over Labour has said it’s just an ambition.
First Angela Rayner, the party’s education spokeswoman, said there were “no plans” to write off the money.
Labour’s position is to pretend that nothing has changed
Then on Wednesday shadow cabinet member Sarah Champion said it won’t be “possible” to find the money because the Treasury would never let the party carry out such an expensive pledge. Shameless, indeed.
But if you think that’s bad, well, you ain’t seen nothing. Because there is no better illustration of the utter shamelessness with which Labour conducts its affairs than the party’s response to Wednesday’s news that, in short, we are going to have to work longer before drawing a state pension.
Earlier this year the Government received a report it had commissioned from John Cridland, a former directorgeneral of the employers’ organisation the CBI. He had been asked to examine whether, when and how the state pension age should be raised.
Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party promises are now crumbling
The original schedule was for the Government to respond to Mr Cridland’s recommendations by May 7 but the election put paid to that deadline and instead the response was given on Wednesday. So it is bizarre of Labour’s pension spokeswoman Debbie Abrahams to claim that the announcement came out of the blue.
Far from coming out of nowhere it was overdue by more than two months.
Her response to the substance of the statement by the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions David Gauke was still more bizarre: Ms Abrahams described it as “astonishing”.
Mr Gauke confirmed that the rise in the pension age to 68 will be brought forward from the originally planned date of 2044 to one between 2037 and 2039. Note my use of the word “confirmed” because all Mr Gauke was doing was simply accepting the recommendations of the report.
Only someone who hadn’t looked at the report could describe the announcement as astonishing.
Even given the low calibre of Labour’s frontbench it is hard to believe that Ms Abrahams was unaware of Mr Cridland’s proposals. So one has to conclude that Ms Abrahams was feigning astonishment for political effect.
Even that attempt to play politics with pensions isn’t the worst of it because the real issue is Labour’s attitude to dealing with the issue itself.
The truth is that we are living longer and the existing sums do not add up. But instead of grappling with such difficult decisions Labour’s response is to attack the Tories and pretend there is no difficult choice to be made.
David Gauke confirmed that the rise in the pension age to 68 will be brought forward
Labour’s position is to pretend that nothing has changed and that we can carry on exactly as before. Yet the evidence is clear.
The fact we are living longer and the way pensions are funded from money paid in taxes by the working population means that the original plan was simply unaffordable.
As Mr Gauke put it: “As life expectancy continues to rise and the number of people in receipt of state pension increases we need to ensure that we have a fair and sustainable system that is reflective of modern life and protected for future generations.”
The change means that people born between April 6, 1970, and April 5, 1978, will now have to work a year longer. As a result the taxpayer stands to save £74billion by 2045/46 and instead of spending 6.5 per cent of GDP on the state pension by 2039/40 it will now be reduced to 6.1 per cent.
Ms Abrahams, however, claimed that because there has been a slight reduction in the rate of increase of life expectancy in the past few years we should scrap any plans to examine the affordability of pensions.
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It is difficult to know where to start with such obvious nonsense.
The trend has been clear for more than a century: life expectancy has gone up and up. In 1948 the average 65-yearold could expect to live another 13.5 years. Now that figure is 22.8 years.
This is a good thing, surely, but it has consequences, one of which is that the pension bill is growing.
Since money isn’t limitless, today’s children and those yet to be born would have to pay ever higher taxes to afford the pension bill if existing plans had not changed.
Any sensible government would take action to avoid a huge tax bill for our descendants which would quickly become unsustainable.
That is what is now happening based on an independent outside report using the work of actuaries and experts.
Ms Abrahams instead suggests that because there has recently been a small and exceptional hiccup in that rate of growth in life expectancy, the Government should do nothing.
The reason of course is so that she can attack the Tories, even blaming this change on “austerity”.
This is both pathetic and shameless. Labour is ahead in the polls and has realistic hopes of forming the next government.
But as this episode shows the Corbynite hard-Left, which now controls the party, is incapable of treating voters like adults and engaging in serious political debate. Don’t say we haven’t been warned.