Joe Armitage is a Conservative activist and works for a Conservative MP.
The dependency that politicians have on the grey vote is disincentivising young people to involve themselves in politics, entrenching generations into a political vacuum and leading to the advancement of disadvantageous policy for our country. The majority of legislation is drawn up with older people in mind, whether that be on welfare, housing, immigration or our public healthcare service.
On welfare, for example, all three main political parties mould the debate around those out of work and the amount paid to top up the incomes of those in work. No impetus is put on the benefits of those of pensionable age – the idea of withdrawing free TV licences, Winter Fuel Allowances or state pensions from wealthy pensioners doesn’t compute with our policy makers.
And on housing, the idea to make the spare room subsidy applicable to the elderly was not even floated – yet there are huge numbers of single old people living in state-owned houses with enough bedrooms for a B&B!
When a politician deviates from his party’s line, and suggests a serious think about some of the universal entitlements that pensioners receive, the ranks close, and voices start to cry” “but we’ve paid in all our lives for this.” Well, I’m afraid that is one of the greatest myths of our welfare state – there is no magical golden pot with your name on it waiting for you at Her Majesty’s Treasury.
When Beveridge designed the welfare state, life expectancy was considerably lower than it is now, meaning that the average person lived for four years in retirement; it’s now well over a decade. The impact of this is that around two thirds of money spent on the welfare state goes to pensioners – yet all cuts are aimed at the young. Most of those cuts, by the way, are right, but if any poltiical party is serious about saving a sizable amount of money, it needs to start looking at the lion’s share.
It now seems clear that the future of our politics remains squarely focused on the needs and wants of our senior citizens. All polls suggest that the young are far more in favour of immigration and our membership of the EU than the old, but immigration seems to be the top priority for a disproportionately high number of elderly people – just look at the average age of delegates at a UKIP conference.
The truth is that we need immigration to keep the NHS and social care services that our elderly depend on running. EEA immigrants alone have made a net contribution of £22bn between 2001 and 2011 and a seventh of all businesses are started by immigrants. To put that into perspective, the total amount the Government spends on Jobseekers Allowance for EEA immigrants is around £100m. They’re not stealing your jobs; they’re actually creating others. If we keep pandering to the grey vote and make no consideration for future generations, the main political parties are going to keep self-harming our country in an attempt to stop people voting for UKIP – a party that wants to stop the world and get off.
There are millions of untapped voters. Only around 40 per cent of 18-24 year olds bothered to vote at the last general election. Well above 60 per cent of those aged over 65 did; you can therefore understand why politicians slavishly attempt to satisfy them. We can change that, however. The political parties need to start engaging younger voters and explain that, in the next two decades, they will be supporting a country with six million people over the age of 80 – and the obvious but little spoken about financial ramifications of that are very bleak if the status quo continues. It is nothing but psephological laziness to allow grey voters to dominate all policy decisions. If politicians stopped kicking the can down the road and appealed to heads instead of hearts, our generation might get a state funded retirement too.