Older voters are showing a distressing propensity to vote Leave, and so – hey presto! – we have a Sunday Telegraph article from David Cameron threatening them with economic ruin if they do.
So much so, in fact, that he warns of imposing some of it himself: “if we leave, the pensioner benefits would be under threat, and the Triple Lock could no longer be guaranteed in the long term,” he writes.
When studied closely, this form of words turns out to be not quite watertight. (For example, what does “the longer term” mean? And “could” isn’t the same as “would”.) We must assume drafting errors.
After all, the alternative explanation – that the Prime Minister believes older people are too stupid to study his piece closely – surely cannot be correct. Nor can he believe that they have forgetten what said only recently, any more than he thinks they won’t look closely at what he writes now.
For it is scarcely 12 weeks ago since he said that he might recommend leaving the EU himself – using the familiar form of words of “I rule nothing out”. It was the seventh time (at least) that either he or George Osborne had done so. There are thus only two conclusions to be drawn, both of them unacceptable to any rational person.
The first is that Cameron and Osborne weren’t telling the truth, either then or now or on both occasions. This would be so uncharacteristic of both of them that the possibility must be dismissed.
The second is that both were willing to wreak the very damage on pensioners’ incomes which the Prime Minister now warns against. But it cannot be that they were willing deliberately to plunge their people into misery in such a way.
The whole business is a deep mystery and I confess to being stumped. I might almost have thought, if I didn’t know better, that both are now so terrified of losing that they’re willing to try any gambit to win – however desperate.