Are Pensions Political?   
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Are Pensions Political?   
Ken Savage of The Greater London pensioners Association

The mumblings of discontent and anger are growing at pace with what a real man of the people wrote some 40 odd years ago - 'The Rolling of the Thunder'. What an MP and what a resounding condemnation of the policies of this present government there would be if we had his like in Parliament today.

It has to come after 18 years of what was termed Thatcherism and 9 years of another misleading terminology 'New Labour'!

Both of these periods, in the modem day history of the people's demands and campaigning for justice in their social welfare, have taken government policy direction towards greater hardship for the mass of the people, young and old. But it has brought about a growing, popular, significant movement and demand for a fundamental change.

That movement comes from many sections, the trade unions for an end to the restrictions   imposed   by  the     last conservative government on their right to protect and advance the rights and conditions of their members - the many thousands in need of a home whose desperate situation  has been aggravated and worsened by the selling off of local authority housing  stock,  - wholesale sackings of health service workers across the country, affecting the elderly and others in need of hospital care - the closure of thousands of Post Offices across the country - care homes sold off by the thousand denying the older folk and the disabled living alone their dire need of attention and care, and the growing understanding that the country can afford a decent higher state pension for all in retirement without the demeaning means test.

The loudest united rumblings from millions of people of all ages are heard in protest against the cost of life and the billions of pounds wasted in war against the people of Afghanistan and Iraq.

All this claims our Prime Minister is the modernising need of the day, who claimed at a conference of public sector unions in June that it is "bizarre" and "reactionary" to insist that the public sector should not be in private hands.

Not so Mr Blair, the reverse is the age old proven case, corporate involvement in public services has in the past, is now, and will in the future inevitably lead to and result in growing wealth pickings for the private sector at the expense of the people.

Our Prime Minister plans to hand more areas of the National Health Service to private companies, these are areas vital to the care of the older people and others who are also vulnerable.

It is your plans and your whole obsession with privatisation that is "bizarre" Mr Blair.

At the Kings Cross County Show in Coram Fields a lady bought a copy of this newsletter, signed the petition to keep the NHS public and to those standing around she said the government white paper on pension reform offers - - - - all for today's pensioners. That is the understanding of millions of pensioners who possibly express their feelings and anger in a little milder form.

Joe Harris Secretary of the NPC is absolutely correct when he says that you cannot have a meaningful reform of the pension system if you choose to totally ignore the needs of today's pensioners, and that is precisely the situation of those in retirement today.

Blair has chosen what he says is looking forward in the light of new global developments and the generation, our generation,   which   made   a   major contribution in laying the foundation for the wealth that this Britain enjoys today, have no place in his plans, we are termed the 'forgotten generation', questioned as to our meagre savings and means before given a piddling hand-out in the hope of keeping us quite and passively accepting our lot.

This ego bloated Prime Minister has chosen to ignore the plight and situation of the most vulnerable people in his rotten obsession with power, privatisation and wars of aggression. And how well he has served the nation's private sector, a 16% hype in profit to a staggering ?58 million for Stagecoach, and that's not all, their additional bus operating profits added to its rail grab gives them a return of ?156 million .

Then we pensioners must spare a thought for those 5 gentlemen executives, of what was once the public's Thames Water, busily digging up London's roads, they share ?20 million a year as their profits from our water bills rose 31% the water leaks across London were plugged by less than 2%. More than 4,000 people have received threatening letters from this classic example of profiteering warning them that they face fines of ?1,000 for breaking the hose-pipe ban.   Are these the men that the past Secretary of the GMB, John Edmonds, referred to as "greedy bastards"? Or are we to see them m Blair's forward looking light, whose prime concern is to serve the needs of the people'7

Just two thought provoking examples of Blair's forward looking -plans, and his Chancellor also has forward looking plans, he has announced a further expansion of ?26 billion of PFI (Private Finance Initiative) on some 200 public sector projects in his budget this year. This all adds up to a massive drain on the economic, social and health needs of us all. Pensioners today and tomorrow.

The London Pensioners Movement must continue to campaign as a united force for pensioner?s rights and justice, on Pensions, Health Care as the two most concerning issues and of course the many questions which   affect   different   sections   of pensioners. That is the role of the London Pensioners    Organisations,   but   our campaigning efforts would be weakened if we failed to understand the connection between our aims and the broader national policy direction of this or any other government.

The campaigning aims and demands of the pensioners organised movement is so often too narrow, carried out in isolation, tending to weaken some of our arguments which holds back the growth of the organised movement.   Our role has to take on a broader perspective linking all issues and questions of national concern for the pensioner and millions of others.  I can sense some people saying our pensioners movement must not get drawn into politics. The costly wars m Iraq and Afghanistan, the holding back of ?36 billion in the National Insurance Fund, the infiltration of the private sector handed our NHS in the guise of PFI. and the obscene profiteering from our once publicly owned services. Are these questions not political?   Of course they are and they have a direct bearing on the social and economic welfare of pensioners and millions of others throughout the country.

In the light of this policy direction from Westminster it should be of no surprise that in the government's white paper response to the long awaited Turner Report on Pension Reform, pensioners of today were taken on board in the political scene and totally ignored by the government of Mr Tony Blair.

The NPC white paper alternative response endorsed by the 2,000 or more nationwide delegates at the Blackpool Parliament is and must be to the fore in our immediate campaigning demands, it can be obtained from the GLPA or the NPC direct.

No Mr Blair the pensioners are not "bizarre"     or "reactionary" on voicing their just demands for a full liveable pension in retirement.   It is the policy direction of your government that fully deserves such an accusation.

Ken Savage