Coffee House

Winter fuel payments, broken promises, and the EU referendum

1 February 2013

6:11 PM

1 February 2013

6:11 PM

Another day, another confusing briefing about public spending. Yesterday Downing Street got itself into a lather over defence spending. Today it’s pensioner benefits.

The Independent’s story that the Lib Dems would only consent to further welfare cuts in the 2015/16 spending review if the Tories were prepared to cut pensioner benefits came up at the Number 10 Lobby briefing this morning. The Downing St spokeswoman said:

‘We’ve done an awful lot to help pensioners but, clearly, speaking generally there are some difficult decisions to be made and the Treasury is leading on the spending review for 2015/16. The Prime Minister stands by what he set out in the Coalition Agreement.

‘What was in the Coalition Agreement is for this Parliament but decisions beyond this Parliament have yet to be made.’

[Alt-Text]


But shortly afterwards, the Number 10 Twitter account insisted that the benefits would be protected after all.

The Tories know that even if the pledge to protect those benefits was indeed a silly one, breaking it would have disastrous consequences for their popularity with pensioners, those ‘rottweilers on speed’, as Tony Blair called them. The Lib Dems’ experience with tuition fees has reinforced the importance of doggedly sticking to a silly promise until the next election.

I’ve written about why it was a silly promise that shouldn’t be repeated here, but that doesn’t mean the party should break it, and not just for the immediately obvious reason above. In 2015, the Conservatives will ask voters to trust them that they will get a referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union by the end of the first half of the forthcoming parliament. The Lisbon Treaty debacle means the party has, in the language of a chat show, trust issues. It was for this reason that so many backbenchers wanted legislation in this parliament guaranteeing the referendum in the next. But because the party will only produce draft legislation, it needs to do everything it can to reassure voters that a promise is a promise. That means not breaking other pledges on completely unrelated matters, even if they were made in a panic.


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Show comments
  • http://www.facebook.com/barbara.stevens.790 Barbara Stevens

    We have grave dangers here which not many journalists have commented on. Cameron has pledged spending foreign aid for the next 20 years, we now have it increased to 11 billion per year from today. He does not have a mandate to do this, he does not have the money, and is borrowing and spending more, than Gordon Brown. He is committing this country to spending money which we don’t know if we can keep up the committments. While other countries are decreasing their contributions, we suffer these increases. We have cuts in defence, benefits, the elderly, housing benefit, the list is endless. He shouts from the rooftops how he’s saving money, and it’s obvious why he’s saving it to give it away. While he pontificates on the world stage, the fool, expects the taxpayers to keep the faith with him and his party.
    The sooner the Tory party rids it’s self of this spender of our money, not only for them but for this country before he bankrupts us like Labour nearly did. We have people here begging in food banks as they fail to feed their children, no jobs, no hope fills the nation.
    We have more debt now than when Labour left office, we still have qangos, we still have the EU taking our money, we still have 55 million per year in health tourists, the list is endless, of this country being robbed of its money, and all MPs are complicit in doing it and allowing it to go on and on. May I suggest, WE STOP THE ROT – AND DUMP HE LOT -VOTE UKIP.

  • alexsandr

    we should scrap all pensioner benefits. WFA, free bus passes, free prescriptions etc. Increase the state pension and let them have a choice on how they do stuff. Far far less admin too.

  • Michael990

    “We’ve done an awful lot to help pensioners”.?? It’s not clear to me what has changed since the coalition arrived: the only thing that springs to mind is the change in the increment calculation to use the lower CPI measure rather than RPI. Which is not ‘help’.

  • Boudicca_Icenii

    Pay out massive sums in welfare to newly-arrived immigrants. Pay out massive sums in Child Benefit to the children of Eastern Europeans who have never even set foot in the country (if they even exist).
    Cut benefits to British citizens who have contributed to the UK economy all their working lives.
    Does the CONservative Party have a death-wish?

    • Wessex Man

      I am seriously beginning to think so, if not why on earth is Cameron running around African States promising military aid he hasn’t got, thers no logical answer, I thought the same thing with Gordon Brown.

  • Fergus Pickering

    Dear me, Isabel. This is all a bit left-leaning.

    • glurk

      Dont make the classic mistake of thinking the left have taken over all rights either to compassion or common sense Fergus!

      • glurk

        but all this stuff still has to be paid for

  • Daniel Maris

    David Cameron is finished as Prime Minister in the same way that Harold Wilson was finished after 1970. We are talking credibility here. Even if by some fluke DC were to become the next PM after 2015, what would it profit him? Would we suddenly think he knew how to run the economy? I doubt it.

    He’s finished as a credible force in British politics, along with George Osborne. They had their change and they completely blew it.

    • Fergus Pickering

      But the two Eds – in a disastrous government for bloody years – are the people we need now eh?

      • Wessex Man

        No let’s have a revolution!

  • global city

    Have you noticed how every type of ‘group’ has been shown to have been given some sort of derogatory monika by nulabour. They had contempt for just about everybody in the country, save for their designated ‘favoured status’ internatonalist groups. The old working class groups certainly didn’t escape the sneers though.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1146859589 Oli Burgess

    Could the spelling in the comments on this article get any worse….?
    I wouldn’t take any notice of them Isabel.

    • http://www.facebook.com/barbara.stevens.790 Barbara Stevens

      We can’t all be perfect, its the stress of living in the UK I bet for most, including me. Any how who cares!

  • alexsandr

    Pensioner benefits are going to become an issue VERY soon as the baby boomers start claiming them. Remember, aged 60 and we get free prescriptions. And that benefit will start kicking in for baby boomers in the next couple of years.
    And these guys are getting to be a littl older so the impact on the NHS will start to be felt.

    And some will be retiring soon, those that have enough private pension. That will affect tax receipts.
    This isnt years away,

    • HooksLaw

      There are a huge range of exemptions from prescriptions. Only a small percentage of people pay them.
      The state pension age for women is rising, and the overall pension age is rising to 67 and in due course the free prescriptions age limit will rise with it. this will minimise the impact of things like free bus passes as well over time

      It hardly makes sense for people to complain about young tax paying immigrants and at the same time wonder how we pay for old peoples prescriptions

      • Fergus Pickering

        !8% is the figure I think. 82% of people pay nothing for prescriptions. If everybody paid then a prescription would be about £1.20 wouldn’t it?.

        • alexsandr

          how does the prescription prepayment certificate count in those stats? People who have more than 2 items per month pay a flat fee per quarter or year. So the chemist dispenses them for ‘free’ tho the government gets revenue for them by another route.

      • http://www.facebook.com/gary.wintle1 Gary Wintle

        Abolish retirement. Problem solved.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

        “Only a small percentage of people pay them.” NOT TRUE….you are confusing the VOLUME of prescription drugs supplied with the Number of Individuals receiving prescriptions

      • alexsandr

        Oh. and free prescriptions kick in at 60. not pension age.

  • realfish

    ‘…The Lisbon Treaty debacle means the party has, in the language of a chat show, trust issues…’

    I must be a bit slow this evening, Isabel. I think you need to explain what you mean by that.

    • salieri

      Thank you for saying that. I was beginning to doubt my memory, or sanity.

      The readers of this blog are actually owed something more than an explanation, given the regularity with which this lazy canard is trotted out: see Russell above. The manifesto promised a referendum if, and only if, the Conservatives came to power while the Lisbon Treaty was still a treaty – i.e. before it had been both signed and ratified. They didn’t. It was signed in December 2007. In March 2008 they called for a referendum before ratification but their motion was defeated, by 63 votes. For a time it seemed that ratification might be delayed until the General Election, but the Czech Republic caved in in November 2009. David Cameron rightly said at the time that the country could now no more hold a referendum on the Treaty than a referendum on the sun rising in the morning. The Conservatives never promised to revoke it once it had become part of European law and could not possibly have done so. No-one has ever claimed that they did or could. Gordon Brown therefore ensured that this was a promise that could not be kept (despite his own shameful refusal even to sign alongside the other European leaders) and his despicable legacy now includes the commonly accepted lie that the Conservatives reneged on an unqualified guarantee to hold a referendum.

      If my understanding is wrong, will someone be so good as to refute it with the relevant facts?

      And at the same time, perhaps we could be reminded of the Liberal Democrats’ position at the time when that Conservative motion for a referendum was defeated by 63 votes. The LibDems then had 62 MPs. Their existing manifesto had committed them, unconditionally, to an in-out referendum before agreeing to any further treaty. So naturally they supported the motion, didn’t they? No. They were ordered to abstain by their new leader. And they were ordered to abstain because he knew perfectly well what the result of the referendum would be.

      “Broken promises”? I don’t have much faith in the present government but this makes me cross. It’s easy to talk about broken promises if the facts are treated so carelessly.

      • realfish

        Salieri, sleep easily, you are not going mad.

        In her piece, Hardman has repeated ‘the biggest lie in British politics’, just as her colleague Melissa Kite did last month (and followed it up on the Sky paper review a few nights later).

        I challenged Kite and the Specci to go away and find out what Cameron actually promised, but from her, silence. Nothing from Hardman either (I beginning to think that’s a typo and it should read Harman.)

        • Boudicca_Icenii

          Check out Cameron’s speech in 2009 “Fixing Broken Politics.”

          And then point out to me where, in the part about the EU and the Lisbon Treaty, he talks about his promise of a Referendum only applying if the treaty hadn’t been ratified.
          And don’t come back with waffle about how a ratified treaty can’t have a Referendum afterwards. Because that’s precisely what happened in 1972/1975.

          http://www.conservatives.com/News/Speeches/2009/05/David_Cameron_Fixing_Broken_Politics.aspx

          • salieri

            Two points, Boudicca, if I may. Firstly, you are conflating two different kinds of referenda. The only two that have been offered (in Britain) on the Common Market/EU were on the issue of in or out. The referendum offered by the Conservatives in 2009 would not have been a third such question in any event at all (though some believed it should): they only sought to ask the nation whether the Lisbon Treaty should be ratified, before it had been ratified by all member states.

            Secondly, how much more clarity would you want than the following:

            “We pledge that if the Lisbon Treaty is not in force

            in the event of the election of a Conservative

            Government this year or next, we will hold a

            referendum on it, urge its rejection, and – if

            successful – reverse Britain’s ratification.”
            (Conservative Party European Election Manifesto June 2009)
            ??

      • Daniel Maris

        No, Salieri, that doesn’t follow at all.

        If you oppose ratification of a treaty without a referendum, it is a legitimate expectation that you will offer people a referendum on the treaty (once ratified) if you are now the government, given that any sovereign nation has the right to abrogate a treaty obligation. Or does David Cameron think we are NOT a sovereign country? I’ve never heard him admit that. But to talk about EU treaties being like the sun rising suggests that he has a very low opinion of our sovereignty.

        • Fergus Pickering

          No it isn’t. Something doesn’t become so by you simply saying it. Once a treaty is ratified it is, you must admit, rather more difficult to break it, than it would be not to ratify it in the first place.

        • iviv44

          You are just making things up now. Salieri is completely correct in his analysis (and in fact Cameron’s position re: Lisbon is the only one that made practical sense at the time). Yes, the wording was too sophisticated for some and it might have been better to simplify it all down to a clearer catchphrase but the meaning was utterly clear and unambiguous to anyone who bothered to read through what he said in full.

  • Radford_NG

    All those male BULLDOGS of 71yrs.+spent at least two years serving their country; up to their necks in muck and bullets from Normandy and Ancio[if you please,Nancy,Lady Aster] to Palestine,Burma,Malaya and Korea.

  • andagain

    Remember, spending money on me is fine. It is only spending money on other people that is a waste.

  • Russell

    The normal rubbish and spin against the tories continues………

    Cameron said Defence spending would increase after 2015, and Gove has said spending on equipment will increase after 2015, so nothing to comment on except malicious spin (lies) from Labour, the BBC and Isobel.
    The Tories promised a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, IF Labour had not already signed the UK up to it, so nothing to comment on except malicious spin (lies)from Labour, the BBC and Isobel..
    The Tories promised not to scrap the winter fuel allowance, bus pass and cold weather payments,if they won the general election, and even though they didn’t win the election and are in a coalition government, have held that promise, so nothing to comment on except malicious spin (lies) from Labour, the BBC and Isobel.
    After 2015 the Tories will have a new manifesto.

    ,

    • HooksLaw

      Hardman again repeats the referendum lie. Pathetic. She is obviously after a job at the BBC which is clearly responding to the tory letter writing by spreading more smears.

      • http://www.facebook.com/gary.wintle1 Gary Wintle

        The winter bus pass and the absurd bus pass should be axed. They are unnecessary and a waste of taxpayer’s money.

        • Victor Southern

          Is there a winter bus pass?

          • CharlieleChump

            It’s like the other one but has a nice furry cover.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

      Gove has said spending on equipment will increase after 2015…………..really Gove ?

      • Russell

        Well spotted. I really meant Hammond, although Gove has also confirmed that Defence spending will increase after 2015.

    • CharlieleChump

      And a new leader

  • Michael Booth

    And in the picture above, is that The Grinch behind Cameron?

  • Michael Booth

    Just stop giving money hand over fist to the EU, to foreign aid, and stop engaging in ‘foreigh adventures’ aka war, and spend tax payer’s money on…tax payers. Don’t give yourselves a whopping pay rise just because Speaker Bercow thinks ‘you’re worth it.’ You are not.

    • HooksLaw

      Norway is not in the EU and it ‘hands over’ money to the EU as part of the single ,
      market. Grow up. The nation needs a foreign policy – that is as important to the economy as much as anything else.
      Germany was in recession in the 4Q and so to (conveniently after the election) was America.
      Explain how governments faced with a £160 billion deficit somehow invents growth

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

        Explain how a Government has ZERO growth and yet needs a £160 billion ANNUAL deficit to keep the economy running. The Us has run a War Economy since 2001 to stay afloat and Britain has used a Welfare Economy to sustain itself – but £160 billion PSBR generates ZERO growth

      • Boudicca_Icenii

        It could start by cutting fuel duty by about 20p a litre.

      • Michael Booth

        ‘Grow up’…. Ah, the ad hominem attack. Obviously you win ,,, clearly…

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1296945479 John McClane

        ‘Grow up’. Godwin’s law mk 2.

      • CharlieleChump

        Cut government, size and spending, not increase it, cut councils, size and spending, cut taxes, get out of the way with layer upon layer of regulation cut, cut employment tax, cut corporation tax, capital gains tax and let enterprising women and men with entrepreneurial instincts get on with it. Growth will come.

        • CharlieleChump

          Oh and cut VAT – 20% taking the piss and fuel duty (HTBoudicca_Icenii)

      • Smithersjones2013

        How many times are you going to repeat the same pathetic post? Nobody is talking about Norway except you. Its like you’re some demented Norwegian Blue parrot sat on Cameron’s shoulder.

        Try saying ‘Pieces of eight’ for a while and give us all a break

        And to answer your question .

        Explain how governments faced with a £160 billion deficit somehow invents growth

        It doesn’t force up energy costs across the board through some dubious pseudo scientific ideological zealotry.

        It doesn’t increase its debt by something like 40% in five years and raise taxes to sustain an obese, dysfunctional and profligate public sector.

        It doesn’t pour additional billions into foreign nations making them more competitive whilst our own business is struggling to grow.

        It doesn’t pander to the whims of foreign institutions and courts who have no feel for our society or culture and have theior own best interests and not ours at heart.

        It doesn’t waste it’s time on unnecessary social and political interference.

        It doesn’t praise the efforts of foreign workers and allow uninhibited immigration (ensuring a constant seepage of the national wealth abroad) from anywhere.

        What it does is focus all its and the nations resources on creating growth. It pumps whatever funding it can (ideally through tax cuts) into business enterprise. It slashes regulation wherever it can and it keeps foreign influences and competitiors at bay by whatever means necessary.

        Basically it becomes the government of the UK instead of being just another bunch of snivelling political parasites!

        • Bluesman

          Encore, encore!

  • http://twitter.com/alaneastwood1 alan eastwood

    Who trusts this Prime Minister on anything?

    • HooksLaw

      Hard to know what promises cameron has broken. Certainly not one on the Lisbon Treaty.
      We even now have a policy to give the nation a referendum on the EU.

      I guess its all in your fevered imagination.

      • gladiolys

        “Hard to know what promises Cameron has broken.”

        “We will stop the top-down reorganisation of the NHS.”

        New NHS bill passed in March 2012 and becomes law this April. How’s that for a broken promise?

      • George_Arseborne

        How comes people easily forget when obeying hookslaw? What happened to cast iron guarantee? Oh sorry we went into coalition . Anyway forget about 2017. Ge knows well that he will not be the Prime Minister. Period!!!!!

        • francbanc

          showing your ignorance again. Even the the Deputy Leader of UKIP argued recently with the Chairman of the Conservative Party that it was in the manifesto, until he was blue in the face. The world’s gone mad.

      • Boudicca_Icenii

        We can’t have a Referndum on the Lisbon Treaty but we will not let matters rest there.
        Indeedy not …… Cameron has transferred more powers to the EU since 2010 and meekly signed on the dotted line so that Euro Bailouts could be made legal retroactively, without even ASKING for any concessions in return.

      • Smithersjones2013

        Hard to know what promises Cameron has broken

        The Conservative Party
        The Liberal Democratic Party
        and Coalition Government for a start……

    • Fergus Pickering

      Whereas we trusted the last two with our lives.

  • http://twitter.com/PhilKean1 @PhilKean1

    So, the clever-dick cutters are out in force looking to save pennies

    – because Cameron and Osborne have not ONLY failed to repair Labour’s damage and grow the economy, but their incompetence and timidity has caused it to shrink.

    So you think promising to retain pensioner benefits was a silly promise? I take it you mean it was silly to allow pensioners who have worked hard, paid their taxes and saved for their retirements – to retain their meagre tax kick-backs – but that those who planned to rely ONLY on the state should keep theirs?

    The logical conclusion for all this self-defeating penalising the responsible and disincentivisation is that more and more people will assume that being responsible and hard-working just doesn’t pay.
    .

    • HooksLaw

      Who is to blame for the German French and American economies contracting? Who is to blame for the Eurozone economy contracting.
      And of course we see the onward march of numbers in work and continuing fall of unemployed.

      The current state of the economy merely reflects what a false state it was in before the election, held afloat on a sea of labour borrowing.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

        No kept afloat on PRIVATE SECTOR CREDIT EXPANSION by PRIVATE SECTOR BANKS. BANKS create CREDIT

      • http://twitter.com/PhilKean1 @PhilKean1

        We are responsible for our own economic performance, which should be judged by our own standards – NOT foreign ones.

      • Wessex Man

        you mean Gordon didn’t save the world, you fibber you Hooky.

    • http://www.facebook.com/gary.wintle1 Gary Wintle

      Why do you assume all pensioners are responsible? Some of them are feckless parasites. Your post reeks of ageism.

      • http://twitter.com/PhilKean1 @PhilKean1

        Where have I suggested that? Conservatism is about rewarding responsibility and discouraging irresponsibility. This current bunch who ply their wares under the Tory banner would do well to learn this.
        .

  • 4045

    Someone needs to stand up for the vast majority of pensioners who do not qualify for means tested benefits. Hopefully Clegg & Co will be history after the 2015 election. Goodness knows who will be fit to lead the country as prime minister at that time. Cameron and Milliband are both incompetant. What about Jacob Rees Mogg?

  • http://twitter.com/Tory_lee30 lee taylor

    Oh Isabel, another day and another load of nonesense.

    There is nothing in that spokewoman’s statement that specifically says that they even might break that promise. In fact she purposely stated that she was just speaking in general terms.
    You may fool others with this deliberate misquoting but you won’t fool me.

    • HooksLaw

      The Spectator is like any other news organisation, desperate to ferment controversy. No news? Well invent it.

  • LB

    So lets see. You take the money for pensions. You only pay out 20p in the Pound, and now you want to cut it even more?

    So what is it? Pay all the tax and get nothing back?

    Yep, its fraud.

  • SmithersJones2013

    Its the second rule of politics:

    You can’t trust the Tories over Europe

    • HooksLaw

      First rule of blogs – no end of claptrap from nutjobs

      • Michael Booth

        More ad hominems? My my…

      • Wessex Man

        Yes Hooky you prove the point on that one alright.

      • Smithersjones2013

        You’ve been looking in the mirror again now haven’t you? You shouldn’t be so self effacing.and hard on yourself (even if it is a very accurate self anlysis).

  • JohnBSheff

    Disappoints me how the Tories shoot themselves in the foot daily! the latest being council tax for those on benefits especially those on disability & sickness. Another turn around yesterday was on qualification for the new DLA payment in April, I wonder if anyone knows what they the party is doing any longer!

    • http://twitter.com/Tory_lee30 lee taylor

      Just for your info disability benefits were ringfenced in those countil tax benefit changes,
      Furthermore that report’s author is a Labour activist and councillor so highly unlikely to be impartial.

      • JohnBSheff

        If correct why did both TV & media not check facts? I know many who are now really concerned.

        • http://twitter.com/Tory_lee30 lee taylor

          Since when have the media been interested in facts?

          • JohnBSheff

            Fair comment, but why has no one from the party or government made a correction to allay many fears?

            • http://twitter.com/Tory_lee30 lee taylor

              Because it’s upto the councils to decide what they do outside the ringfence so it would be difficult for anyone other than themselves to know what’s happening.
              Besides if you don’t like what the council does you can always kick them out at elections.

              • HooksLaw

                You are very patient. A saint.

              • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100004981542519 Tom Tom

                Rubbish – Rule of Thirds makes it impossible

                • Victor Southern

                  Far from accurate Tom. The Rule of Thirds is not of universal application and even if it were control of councils could change [and they frequently do] on those occasions.

      • gladiolys

        No – DLA does NOT protect you from changes to council tax benefit (only pensioners are protected), but DLA does protect you from the benefits cap and changes to housing benefit (re it being lowered if you have unoccupied bedrooms).

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