Donal is Chief Executive of the Young Briton’s Foundation and a Director at 18 Doughty Street.
In the politically correct and expedient rush to appease Guardianistas, environmental extremists, health fascists and equal opportunities zealots, Conservative Party strategists have forgotten the most important group in society who truly deserve – and would benefit most from – compassionate conservatism: the elderly.
The Daily Mail reports that Ivan Lewis, a health minister, has admitted that the elderly are being starved in care homes and hospitals. The inhumane treatment of the elderly in care homes, and by society at large, is one of the great scandals of recent years.
Despite a decade in power when taxes have risen to punitive levels and government spending has spiraled, Gordon Brown has conspicuously failed to make adequate provision for the elderly who are particularly hard hit by seemingly endless council tax and utility bill increases. And yet little is being said or done by the Conservative Party to focus on this crisis.
It is certainly a far lower profile, for example, than the Party’s
environmental policies and yet the inadequate provision for the elderly
is of more immediate concern to every family in Britain
For conservatives, making proper provision for the elderly is not just
electorally appealing (albeit the elderly are more likely to vote, and
they are more likely to be conservatives).
It is also morally right to look after the generation that defeated
Nazism and those who made sacrifices in raising their own children when
life was far harder than it is now. Frankly we have much to learn from
our Indian, Muslim and Jewish compatriots: our secular Western values
have only managed to see more and more elderly people denied true
dignity and comfort in their old age and they deserve more than this.
Free television licences and bus passes are all well and good but such
gimmicks are, by themselves, wholly inadequate and insulting.
Complicated tax credits and expecting the elderly to deal with
unfeeling bureaucrats are also stupid.
Whereas those of us of working age know that the state pension will not
be sufficient for our own retirement. those who are currently retired
(or approaching retirement) are surely not seriously to be expected to
continue working until they drop.
The mark of a civilised society is how it looks after its most
vulnerable. Judged against that standard, Britain is not civilised.
While compassionate conservatives accept the role of the state in
providing for those who are genuinely in need (note the word
"genuinely", the welfare state spends too much time and money focussing
on idle young men and women who cannot be "bovvered" to work and far
too little time and money focussing on the elderly who should not be
expected, or who are genuinely unable, to work).
The elderly are not an inconvenient burden and they should not be seen
as such. Proverbs 23:22 sees Solomon exhorting his son to "hearken unto
thy Father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is
old". Similarly one of the Ten Commandments – "honour thy father and
thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy
God giveth thee" (Exodus 20:12).
I appreciate that focussing on the elderly – when David Cameron is
focussing on rebranding the Conservative Party so that it targets the
younger generation in a 2007 version of "Cool Britannia" – may not be
immediately appealing. Nonetheless it would be moral bankruptcy of the
worst kind for an incoming Conservative government not to do much, much
more for the elderly who have done so much for all of us.