When wishing to commit some unpalatable act on the electorate, politicians will try to turn one section of the public against another. Divide and rule.
Thatcher did it, very successfully in the 1980s to push through her agenda of decimating Britain’s industrial and manufacturing heritage, or “smashing union power” as her followers preferred to style it.
And we are witnessing this same cynical tactic again now. We face an autumn and winter of industrial disputes in our schools, town halls and other public services as The Coalition seeks to hike teachers’, nurses’ and civil servants’ pension contributions to refill the Treasury coffers.
Those in the private sector are being told: “Look, your taxes are subsiding these people’s luxurious pension.”
They back up this ill-evidenced twaddle by comparing public sector pensions to the pensions paid to millions of ordinary workers outside the state sector. Envy, never a pretty emotion, is stoked till white-hot.
But whom do we have to blame for the paucity of pension provision in the private sector? Step forward Tony Blair, his Chancellor Gordon Brown and the Tory Government they followed with such self-satisfied glee.
One of Mr Brown’s first steps in Government was to raid pension funds, stripping away their tax credit status in an effective ‘stealth tax’ reportedly worth £100bn which he and his cronies then blew on all manner of pet projects.
Prior to this grasping step, which now appears as short-sighted as it was underhand, Tories failed to prevent businesses taking ‘payment holidays’ from paying into their pension funds. Bosses and politicians alike hoped the funds would continue to swell as the stock market and property values ballooned out of all proportion. As we know the wheels came off.
Rather than forcing the bosses to make up the shortfall both Tories and Labour have allowed firms simply to close the schemes, wrecking the financial prospects of thousands if not millions.
In a caring society we should be seeking to ensure all pensioners get a fair deal, not seeking to bring everyone down to the level of the poorest.