Labour’s latest political ploy – to balance the books by taxing old age pensioners – is based on an unattractive and rather disgraceful line that has crept into our political discussion: that somehow the older generation are unfairly advantaged compared to the current younger one, an inter-generational gap.
The left thrive on the politics of division, of envy, of greed, and sometimes of hate. They are creating another divisive narrative around generations – pitting the wealth of grandparents against that of their grandchildren; father against son.
To some it may be beguiling, but it is invidious to opportunity, growth and success of young people and of our country as a whole.
Today Labour have been announcing yet more plans for another tax raid on older people. They now plan to tax pensioner’s homes with their mansion tax, their pensions by reducing pension tax relief, their heating and eye tests by introducing means testing.
As Labour’s spending promises grow, so does the list of taxes on the elderly. How long before they start cutting pensions altogether?
Yet it is easy to forget that this older generation had to raise their children when the lights went out, when Britain was all but bankrupt and when the dead went unburied.
This is the generation that turned that around. The older generation made their own destiny by voting for strong Conservative governments.
Those Conservative governments, as now, believed in opportunity and independence, in choice and success, in prosperity for the many. They didn’t believe that the best days were all behind us.
They didn’t believe that the way out of the country’s poverty and deep social, financial and political troubles was to keep taking on more and more debt, taxing, and ostracising the wealthy.
That was Labour’s solution then, and it is Labour’s solution now: tax the rich and the old, and take on more and more debt.
Our political history teaches us time and time again that the politics of division, greed, and over-indebtedness simply does not work. What works are the politics of opportunity, aspiration and rewarding hard work.
It is all too easy, looking at current property growth and the relative comfort of the pension regime, not to take account of the incredible vision and strong political will that made that possible for the many, and not the few, to make and share in the prosperity and success of our country.
It simply isn’t the case that ‘they’ became wealthy. Our country became wealthy – as an outperformer, an economic powerhouse across the globe – due to the hard work, productivity, innovation, creativity, vision and commitment of the British people.
Those Conservative governments were prepared to empower people to dream their dreams and follow their ambitions, to own their own home, be their own boss and set up a business, to become shareholders, to keep more of their money they earned, and the whole country, our entire economy, all of us benefitted.
I am in different generation – the Goldilocks generation – the one in the middle. We grew up when the lights went out, when the country was all but bankrupt and people were left unburied.
We didn’t benefit from the 1980s house price boom, we were at school. Many were council house kids but it was their parents who benefitted from the right to buy.
Many, like me, only saw the very end of the people’s shares revolution. I bought my first, and only, people’s shares in electricity at the very end of wealth sharing from the sale of the national assets. I saved up to buy a few shares from my Saturday job and sold them a few years later to put towards my wedding.
But my Goldilocks generation inherited something fantastic – a Britain to be proud of, with a good work ethic, hope, aspiration and opportunity that was created in the furnace of those Conservative years.
And when we saw first-hand the fallout of the last recession, the loss of many jobs and struggles for many families, it made us compassionate and committed to the importance of the safety net of the welfare state to give a helping hand and to provide opportunity for all.
For our Goldilocks generation, growing up in a country where the grocer’s girl and the boy from Brixton can become Conservative Prime Ministers was inspiring and wonderful. They were both the embodiment of what people from any background can achieve
And they drove through policies to support individuals and the country as a whole, helping them to become proud, prosperous, and successful, believing in themselves and in opportunity for all.
As we go into this election, we mustn’t be beguiled by the lure of cheap government debt and taking money off the pensioners. We must make the case, as we have done before, that belief in people achieving all they can, looking after others, promoting aspiration, prosperity and success is at the heart of being Conservative.
We can build on our record of success over the last five years, which saw yet again a Conservative led government turn the country back from the brink. Inter-generational jealousy isn’t the way to go; every-generational opportunity is.