Beware of cynical politicians courting the pensioner vote

Prime Minister David Cameron speaks with Saga Magazine readers.

Prime Minister David Cameron speaks with Saga Magazine readers. - Credit: PA

Health warning: The following column is highly likely to get a few people hot under the collar. You have been warned! Here goes...light blue touchpaper and retreat to safe distance... Now, where’s that tin hat?

Is there anything more simultaneously cynical and patronising than a politician chasing the “grey vote?”

This week we had the Prime Minister heading to the seaside in Sussex to tell some Saga members that if he is re-elected in May, he will ensure they continue to get all the state hand-outs they’ve become used to, however comfortably off they are.

How can this be right?

Don’t get me wrong, everyone deserves to get a decent pension and to be able to live their retirement in comfort and security.

But for the government to assume that everyone over the age of 60 needs free bus journeys or everyone over the age of 75 needs a free television licence is bonkers!

It’s incredibly patronising because it shows that the government’s default position is that all pensioners are poor. I have news for Messrs Cameron, Miliband, Clegg et al: not all pensioners are as poor as church mice.

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Our Surviving Winter campaign has shown that many who don’t need their winter fuel allowance are very happy to see it go to a good home.

I do know many people struggle to make ends meet in retirement – but many are also in severe poverty when they are of working age as well.

And I also know some very well-off retired people driving smart new cars, spending their retirement at the golf club, travelling the world, and generally having the time of their lives.

Good luck to them! I don’t begrudge them their security for a second – but I do resent the fact that my taxes are going to pay for their bus passes, their television licences, and their winter fuel allowances.

It would be far better if these benefits were given to those people who really need them, including those of pensionable age who are struggling financially. And I do know that a lot of older people fall into that category.

But logically, if people are so poor that they can’t afford the bus fare or their television they should get it whether they’re 40, 60, or 80 – it should not just be handed to them because they have passed a milestone.

So why does the government continue to shower the elderly with these goodies despite all the pressures on the public purse?

The answer is pure and simple. The older you are the more likely to vote you are. I’m convinced it was nothing more than a thoroughly cynical attempt to buy the votes of one sector of the population who will turn out.

What would he have offered had younger people been the most enthusiastic voters? Free video games? Free phone apps? Free rail journeys to and from uni?