Coffee House

David Cameron dodges questions on pensioner benefits

5 January 2014

6:59 PM

5 January 2014

6:59 PM

One of the most significant things about David Cameron’s Sunday Times interview today was something he didn’t say. The Prime Minister made maintaining the triple lock for pensions for the next Parliament ‘the first plank of the next general election manifesto’, but he didn’t make any ‘read-my-lips’ promises about anything else related to those of pensionable age. Why not? Did this mean the Conservatives are going to drop their support for universal pensioner benefits such as the winter fuel payment and free bus passes? His interview on Marr suggested that this could well happen. Here is the transcript of the relevant exchange:

Andrew Marr: While we’re talking about life on benefits what about wealthier pensioners being able to pick up benefits for free television licences, free travel, winter fuel and so forth. Is that going to carry on forever?

David Cameron: Well I made a very clear promise before the last election that if I became Prime Minister I would keep in this Parliament…

AM: In this Parliament…

DC: I made a very clear promise. We’ve kept that promise. Incidentally I think it’s important to keep these promises, you know I’ve made promises.

AM: Will you make this promise again?

DC: We will set our plans at the next election in our manifesto. But I think, it is you know, just to make the point, you know, I made promises like delivering on our aid promises. We kept that promise.


This is important. The PM hasn’t rowed back from his May 2010 promise, partly because he has seen the damage sustained by Nick Clegg as a result of breaking a promise. This is why he took such pains today to emphasise that the Conservatives have stuck to their pledge. But since Labour announced that it would have to look at whether universal benefits are fair, Cameron doesn’t have the same fear of a political attack that he had in 2010: on this issue, Labour has made things much easier for the Conservatives.

But where Labour won’t make it easy for Cameron is on tax cuts. Michael Dugher was quick to release an aggressive response to the section of the interview on tax, saying ‘rather than helping hard-working families, David Cameron is again choosing to stand up for just a privileged few at the top’. What Cameron actually said was that his priority would be tax cuts for the lowest paid but that ‘we’ve set taxes to raise the revenue. That’s how you – you should set taxes to raise revenue, not to make a political point’. He is right: tax is a means of raising money for the operation of government, not a moral force that somehow civilises groups you don’t like. But Labour will clearly use the Prime Minister’s desire to lower the top rate as one of its key general election campaign attacks. The question is whether Cameron is better able to articulate why tax cuts at all levels are important than he was when the 50p rate was scrapped in the 2012 ‘omnishambles’ budget.

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.

Show comments
  • McClane

    I don’t know why Cameron was talking to the Sunday Times. It’s subscription only and behind a firewall. So he was probably talking to 2 people max.

    I don’t know why Cameron was on the Marr show. Max audience is 2 million. Not enough to move those UKIP voters in the marginals..

    Isabel Hardman needs to get out of Westminster, the Spectator, and do some real reporting.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    The NI old age pension still discriminates against British pensioners retired abroad, particularly in Commonwealth countries. Make with the increases, Slippery Dave. And private pension providers are nothing short of white collar criminals with HMG playing the role of godfather. It`s nothing short of a national scandal.
    Jack, Japan Alps

  • Richard N

    ‘Cast-iron’ Cameron knows that anyone with half a brain doesn’t trust any promise, or ‘pledge’, or ‘guarantee’ that he gives.

    He’s flailing around like the fool he is, having acquired damn all new votes as a result of his rush to the centre ground (which was already occupied by the two other parties), and having lost legions of traditional Tory supporters to UKIP.

    Polls show clearly that he and his crony capitalist, EU puppet clique are so loathed by these Tory ‘defectors’ that nothing short of an EU referendum at / before the next General Election will bring them back. So though he’s dumped his ‘green crap’ to lurch back towards traditional Tory territory, he knows that nothing he promises is believed by the Tory defectors – without whose return to vote Tory he is toast.

    He can’t go against the EU, who enabled him to become party leader, and to thereby join all other EU national leaders as an EU puppet; and as if that isn’t enough, in return for the millions from his big business donors to Tory coffers, he promised that he will stay in the EU, no matter what.

    So basically, he’s screwed either which way – and cannot possibly achieve a majority, and is most unlikely to be even able to cobble together even a coalition.

    I think everyone is massively underestimating the votes that UKIP will get at the next GE: I would predict they will get at least 30% – yes, mock as you will – and will be the king-maker after the next general election.

    • the viceroy’s gin

      Well said. I’d quibble about the alleged Cameroonian dumping of the “green crap”, as that’s mostly a stray quip rather than any firm policy. The Cameroons are still economy-destroying envirowhacko nutters, just like all of LibLabCon.

      I might also question your 30% prediction, as UKIP would need quite a bit of outside help to get there. LibLabCon and the numpties in Brussels are capable of providing that help, but they’re wily operators and will likely hunker down as necessary, to avoid helping the UKIPs of the world.

      I’d say double figures to UKIP is inevitable, 15% is a good reasonable goal, and +20% would be an attainable stretch goal, something they should develop a plan for, to be implemented only if things are strongly swinging their way. A 30% showing wouldn’t need a plan. It would have been created by (likely disastrous) events, and it’d be more the case of responsible folk jumping over to UKIP, in response to the disaster.

  • Daniel Maris

    Glad to see the latest Ashford poll has Cameron’s Tories trailing Labour by 9 points and UKIP on a whopping 16% (twice the Lib Dems).

    It’s what Cameron deserves for 39 U Turns, importing 2.5 million migrants during his period in office, and his reduction in living standards by something like 15%.

    Well done!

    • the viceroy’s gin

      …not to mention, he’s a global warmingist windmilling envirowhacko nutter.

  • Colonel Mustard

    “I made a very clear promise. We’ve kept that promise. Incidentally I think it’s important to keep these promises, you know I’ve made promises.”

    Hmm. Examination of your coalition agreement promises on civil liberties suggests your promises are not worth much and very selectively honoured. And what about that promise about the nanny state, Mr Firewall Technology From China, to “sweep it all away”?

    You have, however, done much that you didn’t promise at all.

    • Tim Reed

      ‘Bonfire of the Quangos’

      Still waiting…

      • ReefKnot

        Never even saw any smoke. A huge disappointment . And to think I actually believed something would happen. I won’t be conned again, that’s for sure.

        • Tim Reed


  • Smithersjones2013

    I must admit I missed Cameron. I was too captivated by the orgy of lobotomised bimbonic idiocy that was playing out on Sky News. There were these three media dummies (one a verminous propaganda creature from Gordon Brown’ s cesspit under Downing Street) trolled out by Murnaghan to do a hatchet job on UKIP given Ashcroft had disclosed polling evidence that UKIP could be taking up to two million votes off the Tories from 2010.

    Of course none of them spotted the headline of Cameron on target to poll second lowest Tory election vote in the modern era but then none were bright enough to even have the slightest grasp of the real consequences of such polling. Instead they trotted out superficial establishment party propaganda which bore little or no relevance to the importance of the Ashcroft work. It was pure Tokyo Rose. In political terms it was classic Blairite Theatre straight off the set of ‘The Thick Of It”
    (thick being the optimum word). Like clock-work toys Murnaghan wound them up and off they tottered.

    So much so it has possibly revealed a new phenomenon. “Negative IQ” (the individual attracts a negative score should they undergo formal IQ testing) which is caused by excessive exposure to the perpetual dishonesty and delusion of the Westminster Freakshow. I do hope they get help in the near future to mitigate the effects of such extended exposure.

  • pigou_a

    Cameron has cut spending on the Winter Fuel Payment by more than any other benefit. Therefore, like Clegg, Cameron is a liar. You would do your readers a favour by pointing this out rather than simply repeating Cameron’s lies.

    Spending on Winter Fuel Payments in 2009/10 was £2.98bn. Spending in 2015/16 is forecast to be 2.05bn, a cut of 31%.

    So Cameron’s cut spending on the Winter Fuel Payment by a third. In what way has he kept his promise?

    See Table 2b in the DWP benefit expenditure tables:

  • manonthebus

    The 2015 Election Manifesto is not for David Cameron to set. He has a Conservative Party that will want to be involved in such decisions. Its way too early for broadcasters to start badgering the Prime Minister or any Party Leader on what will be in their manifestos. Really, I think these senior politicians should stay away from BBC programmes like the Andrew Marr Show. It’s basically drivel dressed up as current affairs.

  • PT

    With the Tories so keen to completely f*ck over the working poor (and even middle earners) in terms of housing, is any tax adjustments are pure political posturing. Cameron and Osborne are quite content to see house prices and rent go through the roof and crush those on average or less incomes.

    • 2trueblue

      And for 13yrs what did Liebore actually to leave us all in such good nick?

  • Holly

    They won’t need the TV licence when it’s scrapped as outdated.
    Get your fingers clicking on that though Izzy.
    Maybe one day you journo’s will stop bunching so many stuff together in a long drawn out question, and ask a question about each thing individually, allowing the interviewee to answer of course.

    Taking away something that gets retired people out, like the bus pass, or helps stop the vulnerable freezing, like the fuel allowance, are harder to get rid of than the TV Licence, which I reckon will be gone by 2025.

    So maybe the WFA & the bus pass will stay, but Cameron was unable to give any detail, because the TV Licence was lumped in the same question.

  • Alexsandr

    all pensioner benefits should be scrapped and rolled into the cash pension. then pensioners can make their own decision on what they buy. like use a car or train rather than a bus, use netflix rather than watch tv etc

    • HookesLaw

      I would tend to agree, but on the other hand some benefits are targeted at the needy. Plus some are paid when needed, like fuel benefit.
      But is this not what the govt intend with the future £140 per wk flat rate pension?

      • Alexsandr

        i dont think the £140 pension would eliminate WFA etc.
        the WFA is paid too early. Most big bills come in feb. Its really an xmas bribe. and the £10 xmas bonus is still paid.

      • Makroon

        The sleuth Hardman thinks she has discovered a key “truth”.
        Of course Cameron wants to abolish the WFA, bus passes, free TV licenses etc. it’s what the twin geniuses Letwin and Willetts have been telling him for three years.
        However, come the election, Labour will start a big campaign about Cameron “planning to kill the universal benefits” panicking the middle class. Then the “wizard of Oz” will “help” Dave to realise that without a “cast-iron guarantee” not to cut, his goose is cooked.

        • the viceroy’s gin

          …and then, you Cameroons will fall in-line and vote for the socialist muppets.

  • In2minds

    A ton of stuff on what he did not say, gosh that’s desperate, that
    really is!

  • Faceless Bureaucrat

    Since Cameron and the Tories will not be in Government after the 2015 GE, none of his pronouncements mean anything. They are no more relevant than his ‘Cast Iron Guarantee’ of a meaningful EU Referendum in 2017. All meaningless twaddle…

    • HookesLaw

      Good of you to remind us that if Cameron does not win the election there will be no Euro referendum. There will be do doubt a commitment to a 2017 referendum in the 2015 manifesto. Your attempts to belittle a referendum in 2017 show how worried you are that there will be one. Amazing how when the kippers get what they allege they want they start running scared.

      • Smithersjones2013

        What do you mean “if” Cameron doesn’t win the next election? Have you not seen Ashcroft’s poll. Dipshit Dave is on course to poll 8.55 million votes (based on 2010 turnout) in 2015.

        That’s a worse performance than Michael Howard in 2005 and the worst performance by any Tory Prime Minister since 1929. Of course if turnout is worse he could out perform William Hague as well. Won’t that be humiliating!

        • Alexsandr

          thats the problem with the tories splitting the UKIP vote…

          • Smithersjones2013

            It’s less of a problem than you might think because something like 1 million of that 8.55 million voted Libdem in 2010.

            As it goes the figures suggest that UKIP could have an additional 2 million former Tory voters voting for them in 2015. Add to that voters from other parties and people who have not been voting and its possible UKIP could quadruple their 2010 vote. That would be some achievement!

            • Alexsandr

              what is more interesting is the amount those votes are concentrated in a few seats. Because it is concentrations like that that convert into actual seats in FPTP. Its how the limp dems do it -concentrate in a few target areas.

              • Smithersjones2013

                Indeed which is why I find it fascinating that the Tories are conspiring to alienate the whole of Kent.

                Who was it welcoming the Romas in? None other than Rochester and Stroud MP Mark Reckless (how apt). Then you have Gove refusing the expansion of Sevenoaks Grammar and Sandys jumping ship. You couldn’t make it up!

                Hopefully my own sad Europhiliac MP Damian Green (and former useless Immigration minister) will open his worthless gob and make another speech about how he loves the EU.

              • Chris lancashire

                Yes indeed, they might get as many as two seats.

                • Smithersjones2013

                  Well that would be more than any other new minor party in England for more than fifty years (and two more than Cameroon doormats were predicting less than a year ago)..

                  No small achievement

                  Meanwhile how small is Cameron’s member(ship) going to shrink to if the Ashcroft poll is anywhere near accurate and and Cameron’s vote shrinks to 8.55 million? 200 seats or even as low 190? How humiliating would that be?

                • telemachus

                  They will be good for 175
                  400 Labour
                  Then the rest

                • Chris lancashire

                  I know, exciting isn’t it? It could be twice as many as the Greens last time.
                  And as for Cameron, well, those pinko, neo-socialists are really going to get it in the neck aren’t they?
                  Oh, er, they’re going to be replaced by red, real socialists.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  …you’re acting like there’s some sort of distinction between these socialist LibLabCon clones.

          • dalai guevara

            ok ok you win.
            they split your vote not you theirs….
            then what?

            • the viceroy’s gin

              …you’ll jabber incoherently and post irrelevant links to socialist numpty gibberish?

              • dalai guevara

                Links? Like to ONS data or to illustrate the reality of respective current account balances across the globe? Or perhaps links to pamphlets on the latest CCGT power station design/domestic heating technology?
                No, I get it, what really bothers the ex-nukes man is that the socialists can do energy more cheaply before tax than any free market ever could…Yes, links like that.

                • the viceroy’s gin

                  …you’ll post encrypted gibberish from the socialist numpty handbook?

      • Daniel Maris

        You aren’t really telling me that Cameron will really let the UK leave the EU. He’d rather drink battery acid.

        Firstly, he will be completely dishonest about whatever meaningless package of concessions he “negotiates” with his EU partners (i.e. cobbles together).

        Secondly, he will twist the wording of the referendum.

        Thirdly, he will put the weight of the government behind opposing an EU exit.

        Lastly, if there is a no vote, then there will be further negotiation and a second referendum.

    • Fergus Pickering

      Who will be in Government. Give us your bet. Mine is on Cameron.

      • Faceless Bureaucrat

        Seriously? – a strong possibility of a Lab/Lib Dem

        UKIP will strip so many votes from the Tories that it will cost them around 20 seats in 2015. Ashcroft reckoned UKIP ‘protest votes’ cost the Tories around 10 Seats in the 2010 GE – enough Seats to cost Dave an outright working majority and forcing him into Coalition with Clegg.

        But UKIP are much stronger on the ground now than they were
        in 2010 and may well take a couple of seats outright (watch Thanet South & South Suffolk as potential UKIP gains). Plus large numbers of Countryside Alliance ‘footsoldiers’ who campaigned for Cameron in 2010 in the misguided belief that he would revisit the Hunting Ban (another ‘Cast Iron Guarantee’?) are swinging behind UKIP after finding out Dave does not deliver on promises (who knew?).

        The Tory brand has been desperately weakened by Cameron’s
        lacklustre leadership on things such as EU Directives and Constituency Boundaries (another reason the Tories will lose in 2015) and as such, formally staunch Conservative Voters will be voting with their heart for once in 2015.

      • the viceroy’s gin

        The line of takers for your Cameroonian bet would stretch to the horizon, lad.

  • HookesLaw

    ‘Why not’ ? Beacuse the election is over a year away. Why do you have to over dramatise everything. Who is going to make wide ranging committments this far from an election. Is not the retention of the triple lock enough for now?