Bolshy Pensioners Need Respect

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Thank you, Hugh Lowe, (Letters, September SR) for your intelligent and informative insights into the pension debate.

You quite rightly point out how British pensioners have always been treated as second class citizens. Here I would like to give a few statistics in order to back up your views.

In 1908 when state pensions were first paid in Britain the amount paid was equivalent to 25 percent of the national average wage. This has been eroded over the years to 14.7 percent of the average wage. Put simply, this means that our society now values pensioners even less than 95 years ago.

What a condemnation of Britain. We are supposed to have the fourth strongest economy in the world, yet government after government says it cannot provide a living pension.

Now, I hope my readers are sitting comfortably before I reveal this next statistic - I don't want anyone to sue me because their relative died laughing. The national average wage is now £535 a week. Don't say I didn't warn you. This is an official government statistic. Looks like the famous book How to Lie with Statistics was right. But I believe that pensioners should accept this figure and demand that the government makes the same provision as it did in 1908. This would bring the single pension up to £131.25 - a big improvement on the present pension.

Secondly, Mr Lowe, you are absolutely right about the differences between Britain and the other western European countries, and also about the reasons for this. It has to be acknowledged that pension provision is under attack across Europe.

However, British pensioners are the most vulnerable to these attacks as they are already paid far smaller pensions in respect of the GDP of the country. Again I give a few statistics to ponder: British pensions are now worth 5.4 percent of GDP - in France the figure is 12 percent, in the Netherlands and Germany 13 percent and Austria 14.4 percent. It doesn't take an Einstein to work out how badly British pensioners are treated.

Finally, Mr Lowe, I've always been a Bolshy worker so I see no reason why I shouldn't become a Bolshy pensioner. With this in mind I am now on the Manchester TUC Pensioners' Committee. I have also attended the last two Pensioners' Parliaments in Blackpool and was on the march in London. Unfortunately the TUC leadership appeared to be half-hearted about this demonstration.

We must now fight for Respect in pensioner groups. It is the only political party that fully backs the National Pensioners' Convention Manifesto. We should be pointing this out to all pensioner groups and must fight for Respect speakers on all the main platforms at next year's Pensioners' Parliament.

John P Johnston
Burnley