IT was the German anti-Nazi activist, Pastor Martin Niemöller, who said: ‘In Germany they first came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me — and by that time no one was left to speak up.’
Although of course Cameron and Osborne are not fascists – they are just normal right-wing Thatcherite Tories – one gets the Niemöller feeling about their tactic, as we learn after the Budget, that as well as organising for trade unionists to get their wages, pensions and jobs cut, and for women, children and the disabled being put under general assault, there is an additional, hidden target – the elderly.
Osborne blames the super-cold winter month of December for the current collapse in production.
It is a fact that without their winter fuel payments many more pensioners would have died.
This has not stopped the government organising to cut £100 from the pensioners winter fuel allowance, at a time when gas and electricity bills are rising, without revealing the new cut in its Budget statement.
Yesterday the Treasury confirmed that the over 60s will lose the additional payments, which were introduced in 2008, to help heat their homes while domestic fuel bills are rising.
The payments have been renewed in every Budget since, because of high oil prices. The elderly have been able to claim £250 towards winter fuel bills, while those aged 80 or over could claim £400. This year the payments will be reduced to £200 and £300 per household.
This is despite the fact that the cost of domestic fuel bills has risen 38 per cent since 2008! The average dual fuel bill, which includes gas and electricity, is £1,132.
After the experience of the super-cold December 2010, pensioners will receive less next winter than they did last winter!
Ros Altmann, director-general of Saga, commented yesterday: ‘This will come as a real shock for many pensioners, particularly as this government promised to protect this benefit. Now part of this payment is disappearing, without any real explanation as to why. It seems wrong, and many pensioners will struggle to pay energy bills as a result.’
But the coalition has not finished grappling with worsening the standard of living of pensioners.
Millions of employees are to see their retirement pushed back at least 12 months, every two years, after George Osborne announced plans to link the pension age to rising longevity.
In a move intended to shorten the time that workers spend in retirement, and thus cut the expenditure on pensions, the Chancellor did announce a mechanism to raise the state retirement age automatically in line with life expectancy. The pension age is already due to increase to 66 by 2020.
Ministers are, however, worried that one in five people alive today will celebrate their 100th birthday, and are convinced that their pension rights must be smashed.
Osborne has said it would no longer be ‘affordable’ to provide an adequate state pension when people could retire at the relatively young age of 65 or earlier.
He said that in future regular, independent reviews should establish longevity rates, which would then be used to decide the state pension age.
Retirement for millions of public sector employees is due to be linked to this floating pensionable age, which can only be cheated by an early death.
It has been worked out that longevity is rising at a rate of seven months every year, meaning that, under the proposal, employees in their twenties, thirties and forties could find themselves working beyond their 75th or even 80th birthday. The elderly on state pensions are to be punished for not dying early.
The bankers and the rich will still retire at 50 or 55.
This Saturday, over a million will march against Cameron, Osborne and Clegg’s savage onslaught on the people of the UK. This march must be the organiser of the forces to carry out an early general strike to bring down the coalition and bring in a workers government to put an end to capitalism.